George Hamilton says he gets “fussed at” a lot at church, because they tell him he’s a hero, and he tells them he just doesn’t feel that way.
Hamilton, who turned 100 in April, is a World War II veteran. But he said what he knows about himself is this — he’s blessed. He’s blessed to be alive, blessed to know the Lord, blessed to be at Bethel Baptist Church in Pleasant Grove and blessed to spend every day doing everything he can to bring God glory.
He first met Jesus in 1950, five years after the war ended. He’d enlisted in the Navy in 1942 when he was 19.
“I served in the North Pacific around the Aleutian Islands,” Hamilton, who served aboard the USS King, said. “Our ultimate deal was we were the protection for the West Coast.”
It turns out their biggest enemy was the weather, he said. “It was cold. The wind was 100 miles an hour sometimes, and if the waves were 8 to 10 feet tall, it was a calm sea. But we were young. It didn’t bother us.”
Hamilton stayed until the war was over, and when he came back, he met someone who changed his life, a young woman named Lynda who was working in the office building where he went to apply for a job. He didn’t speak to her, but he told someone he was going to marry her.
He found out later she had seen him and said the same thing.
‘Best move ever’
“We had a long engagement — we got married on the 12th date,” he joked. “Best move I ever made.”
Hamilton loved her, but she also led him to Jesus.
“She was a Christian and a member of Wylam Baptist Church, and she would ask me to go. She didn’t push me, but she would pray for me,” he said. “That lasted about three years, and then I accepted the Lord as my Savior in 1950.”
He served faithfully for decades as a deacon and Royal Ambassadors director and in other roles. Lynda died in 2000, and in 2004 when he was in his early 80s, he heard a sermon that changed his life. The sermon talked about relinquishing control to God, the truth that Jesus can’t be Savior of someone’s life and not also be Lord of his or her whole life.
Upon hearing that, he knew his whole life needed to be about Jesus, wherever he went and whatever he did.
“The last 18 years have been the most productive years of my life,” Hamilton said. “I have been so blessed, double blessed since then.”
It hasn’t been without hardship. In 2011, just after he turned 89, a tornado blew his house away. But he wasn’t too worried about it. He was just thankful he was away visiting his son when it happened. And he got to work helping his church, which was serving as a care station for the storm-ravaged community.
“The Lord has done nothing but bless me,” Hamilton said. “I just want to keep serving.”
His pastor, Eric Taylor, can vouch for that. He said there aren’t enough pages to contain all the ways Hamilton has served God and blessed his church family and community as a result.
“He just rotated off our active deacon list at 99,” Taylor said. “He is one of the most faithful church members, one of the most faithful servants.”
He helps teach Vacation Bible School and with the church’s golf tournament to raise money for missions. For years, Hamilton traveled to Nicaragua on missions trips, up until he was 95.
And when he traveled to Hawaii in December on a Pearl Harbor memorial trip, he saw it as a missions trip, Taylor said.
“He said, ‘I don’t know if they’ll let me or not, but I’m going to ask them if I can pray in a couple of places over there,’” Taylor said. “And he did — he led prayer for the group a couple of times.”
Taylor said Hamilton is a humble person, but he recognizes that he has a “little bit of celebrity in him” as a 100 year old and as a WWII veteran. He leverages that for God’s glory, Taylor said. “He turns every conversation into a gospel conversation. He is a living, breathing example of what a disciple of Jesus Christ is supposed to be and do.”
At the end of May, Hamilton will travel again on a memorial trip, this time to Normandy for the D-Day anniversary. He said his main goal while he’s there is to talk with people and find out if they know Jesus.
‘Heart for the Lord’
Taylor said Hamilton frequently says he just wants to bring God glory with everything he does.
“He has a heart for people to know the Lord. That is who he is, that is not something he puts on,” Taylor said. “The older he gets, the more he realizes the desire of his heart is to help people know Jesus and to point them to Him.”
Hamilton also is a “great man of prayer” and studies the Bible constantly, Taylor said. Last year at 99, he attended evangelism training with Taylor so he could learn how to share his faith even better.
Taylor said he just radiates joy.
“I’ve never seen anyone get so excited about when the Lord shows him something in his quiet time and Bible reading, it’s almost childlike giddiness to get to share that with people. It’s so much fun to watch,” Taylor said. “It’s as fresh today in this season of his faith as it was when he was a new believer. He told us recently, ‘If I knew 100 would be this much fun, I would’ve done it 25 years ago.’”