In 2013, BGEA’s global My Hope ministry was brought to the United States for the first time. My Hope is a simple way to share Jesus through short, evangelistic films and one-on-one relationships. Three years after its introduction to the U.S., BGEA followed up with one New Hampshire man who was impacted by a film called The Cross.
After eight years in the Army, including a stint in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, Bill Butler was diagnosed with a minor form of post-traumatic stress disorder.
The 49-year-old said it wasn’t an issue, so he went on with his life, first getting a job as a rookie officer with the Kingston Police Department in New Hampshire. He moved 15 minutes down the road to the Atkinson department a few years later in 2008.
Then, he said, “The nature of the job started getting to me.”
By 2013, his wife, Elizabeth, noticed him becoming anxious and depressed. It was also around that time that his mother back in Massachusetts was sick and dying.
He’d gone to church off and on, but Elizabeth—who had attended some church services with Bill years earlier for holidays—encouraged him to make it a regular thing.
“I understood Jesus intellectually, but He seemed distant to me,” Bill said. “My whole world seemed to be crashing down.”
He started looking for a church online and came across NorthRidge, not far from where he lives. He was intrigued by a church that holds services in a school and decided to give it a shot.
The Cross is a short, evangelistic film released in 2013 as part of BGEA’s My Hope outreach.
“The video is very powerful,” Bill said.
Bill most related to Lacey’s story.
“I felt what she felt, that depression she was going through. … It just kind of hit me then, I need Christ in my life because He’s the only one who’s going to help me through this.”
Bill spoke to the pastor afterwards, Pastor Mike Mills, and started attending the church regularly. A couple of months into his churchgoing, he wasn’t going alone.
Elizabeth was raised Jewish, attending Hebrew school as a child, but began tagging along with her husband on Sundays.
She instantly connected with the pastor, whose mother also grew up Jewish. Pastor Mills gave Elizabeth a copy of his mother’s book about how she eloped with a man and became not only a Christian but a preacher’s wife.
The book, as well as the church, had a big impact on Elizabeth who in the summer of 2014 decided to follow Jesus.
Once Bill and Elizabeth understood more about baptism, the couple was baptized together in August.
“It has definitely changed my outlook on life,” Bill said about his faith in Christ. While in Iraq, and later as a police officer, he said, “I would only see negative in the world.”
“Being a cop and dealing with the people I dealt with, you begin to think that everyone’s a criminal,” he went on. He wondered how God could allow such devastation and chaos, but said he now understands that God doesn’t cause evil—man does.
“As a police officer, dealing with the worst of the worst, I began to view myself as superior and better than the … lowlifes,” he said. “When I found Christ, I realized my life was just as much a mess. … I was a hypocrite and just as much a sinner as everyone else.”
Bill said he’s now a recovering alcoholic and that he and Elizabeth are “more understanding of each other and more loving.”
He’s also making an effort to reach his fellow first responders with his story.
“Police officers and firefighters are hard nuts to crack,” he admits, especially in New England where Christianity isn’t that popular to begin with.
Yet he’s had opportunities to plant seeds in their lives and is currently reaching out to his neighbor’s son, a firefighter who’s going through similar things he did.
“Up to two years ago, I had a cynical and negative outlook on the world,” Bill said. “I have hope and life now, where before I didn’t.”
Another Story from NorthRidge Church
Bill isn’t the only one to be impacted by a My Hope film shown at NorthRidge. Earlier this month, Pastor Mills showed his congregation the newest film called Decisions. The short film is about being at a crossroads in life and follows the stories of a skeptic, a struggling teen and a woman who’s hidden a secret for decades.
One person in church the day he showed the film was a teenager who in the past has resisted the Gospel and called himself an atheist. As the young man watched the film, the Holy Spirit moved in his heart. It was on his way home that his father led him in asking Jesus into his life.