Photo by Tracy Riggs/The Alabama Baptist

Beloved evangelist Hill honored with legacy award

As voices singing “It Is Well With My Soul” filled the sanctuary of First Baptist Church Decatur and the song ended with applause, beloved Alabama Baptist evangelist Junior Hill sat on stage in a wingback chair, eyes closed, pointing upward.

Before preaching at the evening session of the Alabama Baptist Pastors Conference on Nov. 15, the 85-year-old Hill was honored with the inaugural Fred Wolfe Lifetime Pastoral Ministry Award.

“I feel very inadequate for any kind of recognition like that,” said Hill, who is approaching his 70th year in ministry. “I’m just a backwoods preacher; I don’t know much, but I love Jesus.”

Robert Mullins, pastor of Crossroads Community Church in Elmore and Pastors Conference president-elect, said God prompted conference leaders to honor “a rare breed — the pastor to pastors.” They named the award in honor of Fred Wolfe, a longtime Alabama Baptist pastor who died in January.

Honoring ‘a pastor to pastors’

“Bro. Fred, as he was affectionately called, was an incredible man of God,” Mullins said. “He was a leader, visionary, evangelist, equipper and certainly a pastor to pastors.”

The award will be given annually to a pastor who has invested through mentoring, discipling and encouraging other men of God.

Photo by Tracy Riggs/The Alabama Baptist

“This is a legacy award of faithfulness to the Lord, to the ministry and to the work of the pastor,” Mullins said.

As Hill came to the stage to accept the award, video testimonies about him from Baptist leaders around the state played on the screen.

Though the award was a surprise, the sanctuary was packed with pastors and others who had come to hear Hill preach. What they experienced was exactly what those who have known him over the years would expect — humor and soft-spoken encouragement.

“It’s hard to be a man of God in this day in which we live,” he said. “I want to just try to encourage you tonight so that you won’t be downtrodden when somebody hurts you. I want to remind you that you’re going to be hurt. … You’re not going to have a ministry without hurt.”

Hard-earned assurance

Hill shared about how as a young seminarian in New Orleans, he served as pastor of a church in Mississippi that fired him without telling him. He found out when he and his wife drove there on Saturday and stopped in town for a haircut and the barber broke the news. They had to drive the 200 miles back to New Orleans without enough money for gas.

In the days that followed, as he drove his beat-up old car around country roads looking for a church that would hire a fired pastor, he told God he wouldn’t quit, even though he had no idea how he was going to support his family.

“I want to tell you something very wonderful,” he said. “Along the way, I came to understand that those who are faithful to God may have lots of troubles, but they will never be forsaken.”

As he wrapped up his message, he thanked pastors for their ministry even when it’s tough.

“I just want to tell you I love you and I praise God for every one of you, and I pray His best upon you that He’ll use you in a special way,” Hill said. “I’m honored that you took the time to make this presentation which has humbled me beyond words.”

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