From the Army to Bible College & Back – Chaplain Bill Robinson

Author: Boise Bible College
Published on: August 27, 2020

The professors were amazing instructors and mentors who enabled him to “dig my well deep, so I didn’t suck mud in the dry times.”

In 1999, Army Staff Sergeant William (Bill) Robinson was about to leave his post at Fort Lewis, WA, for Special Forces (Green Beret) training at Fort Bragg, NC. Six days before his departure, he heard a sermon by Dr. Charles Crane at South Lakeshore Christian Church in Tacoma. Crane expounded on the need for preachers in the Northwest and how churches were closing their doors because they couldn’t find a minister. The sermon moved Bill, but what could he do? He was about to leave for Green Beret training!

SLCC minister Monte Leighton invited him out for lunch after the service. Having a lot to do, Bill declined. But Marv Bullock, a church elder, joined the effort, and soon Bill agreed. Dr. Crane joined them, and Bill learned he was president of Boise Bible College. The small talk ended quickly, and the reason for the lunch came out: they thought Bill should go to BBC.

While Bill appreciated them seeing the potential in him, he said he was about to become a Special Forces medic; that’s how God was going to use him. Besides, he had a family (he married his high school sweetheart, Jenny in 1988 and has one son, Derek) and didn’t have the GI bill to pay for school. There was no way he could go to college; Bill was sure he had adequately explained why.

As Bill relates it, “Dr. Crane chimed in with, ‘I’ll give you the President’s Scholarship,’ and Marv added, ‘And I’ll pay the rest.’” Bill was nearly brought to tears and said, “But you don’t even know me!” It was a pivotal moment in his life. But he was still convinced Special Forces, not preaching, was in his future. He proposed that God would make the call. If he made it through the training, he’d be a Green Beret; if not, he’d go to BBC. They all said they’d pray he didn’t make it. Marv Bullock recalls meeting Bill well. He was impressed with the man. On the way home that Sunday afternoon, Marv, who was about to retire, casually mentioned to his wife, “I may have to work a couple more years to pay for my commitment to Bill!”

Bill goes on, “Two days before graduation, I washed out and came home to Ft Lewis, a bit upset with God.” Monte asked if he was ready for Bible college. Bill started to backpedal; after all, he had a good job, healthcare, and a family. Where would he live, and how was he supposed to be released from the Army after he had just re-enlisted?

Bill says he was having quite a Calvinist-Arminian debate in his life during this time, as it seemed “God-incidences” kept happening. His unit had just gotten a new chaplain, who told him a way to get out of the Army. His son was autistic, and Monte found a school that specialized in his condition, who was looking for live-in staff and was willing to let him go to school. Suddenly he had a job, a place to live, and healthcare- and a way out of the Army. He arrived soon at Boise Bible College.

His BBC experience was the greatest of his life. The professors were amazing instructors and mentors who enabled him to “dig my well deep, so I didn’t suck mud in the dry times.” Dale Cornett, Chuck Faber, John Whittaker, John Greenlee, and Steve Crane were influential mentors. He received the Bob Maxwell Medal of Honor Scholarship, which, as a former 3rd Infantry Division soldier, meant a lot to him. (Bill has returned to campus to award the Medal of Honor Scholarship to other worthy young men.)

Life After Boise Bible College

Bill was driving to school when he heard on the radio about the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center. He says, “By the time I got to school, we were at war, and I knew what I had to do: go back to the Army, as fast as I could, as a chaplain.”

After graduation in 2002 with a BS in Ministry, he headed for Lincoln Christian Seminary, where he obtained his M.Div. in Christian Apologetics. He says seminary was basically a repeat of what he’d learned at BBC. Lincoln allowed him to restructure some classes to go deeper in his theological training.

After graduation from Lincoln, he was back in the 3rd Infantry Division, this time as a chaplain, the summer of 2006. He was ever so grateful for the way BBC had fanned the flames of his faith. He was sent to Iraq for a grueling 15-month tour, followed by two year-long tours in Afghanistan. He sums up, “My love for Christ and bedrock theological training from BBC allowed me to literally walk through the valley of the shadow of death and fear no evil.”

Sixteen years later, Bill is a Major and still serves as a chaplain in the 3rd Infantry Division, now in Georgia. He considers it a privilege to live with his flock, walk in their shoes, and do it without a weapon.

Running to a bunker with rockets raining down all around makes a person think about eternity. Makeshift baptisms on the battlefield are unforgettable. Holding a service at historical sites like Abraham’s house in Ur of the Chaldees was more meaningful than Easter sunrise services. Bill desires to pass on lessons learned in these and many other situations to other soldiers, who are now mostly younger than he is. He’s thankful to walk beside his guys every day and says,

“The Gospel message and the bonds of combat have allowed me to reach some of the rockiest soil you can imagine. Living the worst of times has allowed the best of ministry opportunities, and they come every day.”

Bill shares that Boise Bible College was instrumental in helping fill his cup to overflowing so he could give to others. He is thankful for the gracious support of Dr. Crane, Marv Bullock, Monte Leighton, and the staff and faculty of BBC, and can never say thank you enough.