Bill Hamel, former president of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA), passed away last week. As you may know, the EFCA is a national member of The Immigration Alliance (TIA) and their ministry, Immigrant Hope, is a valued partner of TIA. Bill was a cherished friend, mentor, and co-laborer to many involved in immigration ministry. (I hope you had the great opportunity to meet him or hear him speak!)
In reflecting on Bill’s life, there is much to remember and celebrate. Bill’s leadership and vision within the EFCA fortunately spilled over and impacted the foundation and growth of TIA as well as many other organizations. God’s handiwork was brought forth through Bill and is woven deeply into the past, present, and future framework of TIA. TIA is immensely thankful for Bill and his commitment to our Lord and Savior!
In closing, I am including below a message that was sent to members of Immigrant Hope earlier this week which helped me to better understand just how important immigration ministry was to Bill and –most assuredly- how important Bill was to immigration ministry.
RE: Passing of Bill Hamel
Rev. William J. Hamel, former EFCA President and founding board member of Immigrant Hope, passed away on Wednesday.
Bill was one of the most influential figures in the establishment and early development of Immigrant Hope. As EFCA President, he established All People Ministries, the department that includes justice, compassion and reconciliation ministries like Immigrant Hope. Bill was a life-long advocate for justice and civil rights. He led the denomination to make significant, sacrificial investments in All People Ministries, including hiring and funding ethnic leaders, protecting staff and budgets during cuts, promoting creative and controversial programs like Immigrant Hope and EFCAGATEWAY, and staunchly defending them in public and private settings. For Bill, addressing injustice through the church was a moral imperative, a missional priority, a strategic necessity and a legacy keystone.
Bill served as the President of the Immigrant Hope board of directors from its founding until 2016, and remained a board member until his death. He was our most effective advocate in the early years of Immigrant Hope. Under his leadership, the EFCA developed and launched Immigrant Hope, committing significant financial and staff resources to the project. Bill introduced Immigrant Hope at the EFCA national conference, headlined the launch banquet for Immigrant Hope – Brooklyn, and spoke at the first IPI classes. He leveraged his influence with organizations like World Relief and the National Association of Evangelicals to give Immigrant Hope early credibility. When he retired from the EFCA Presidency in 2015, the only national ministry role he retained was his participation with Immigrant Hope. Even when he was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in July, he asked to remain involved until the end.
Bill was also a friend and mentor to us and many other Immigrant Hope leaders. He took time to encourage, teach and correct us, to understand our passions and pain, and to create an environment that would allow us to thrive in our calling. He contributed to our growth as leaders, Christians and people. We will miss him.
Our hope is that Bill will be remembered as an innovator and champion in the field of justice ministry, and specifically immigration ministry. He has asked that his memorial fund go toward All People Ministries (more information will follow). In the meantime, we would welcome notes from those of you who were personally touched by Bill’s life and ministry.
President and Founder, Immigrant Hope
Director, Immigrant Hope