A Bronx pastor who earned a Purple Heart Award serving in Vietnam received the President’s Volunteer Service Award on Friday night for his decades of ministry aiding persecuted Christians and others impacted in war zones worldwide.
Pastor Bill Devlin, who serves as co-pastor of Infinity Bible Church in South Bronx and runs the ministries REDEEM! and Widows and Orphans, was an honoree at a gala banquet in The Hilton Hotel in Melville, Long Island, New York. The President’s White House Council on Service and Civic Participation administered the award ceremony.
The award honors individuals whose service impacts their communities and inspires others to take action.
Devlin told The Christian Post he is “grateful to God” for the award, which came more than half a century after he first abandoned his ways as a “God-hating atheist” and came to Christ.
“I was a radical God-hating atheist, and when I was hitchhiking on the San Diego Freeway on June 23, 1971, a Jesus freak shared the Good News of Jesus and the Gospel with me,” he recalled. “And that night, I received Jesus into my heart and life.”
“I immediately started in ministry as a young Christian,” he added. “And a week after I was converted to Christ, … I volunteered to go into the military, to the United States Navy.”
Devlin served in Vietnam until he was “shot up” after a bomb landed on his ship, which was located off the coast at the time. While he “initially refused the Purple Heart” because he still had all his limbs intact, Devlin’s commanding officer insisted that he accept the honor.
Following his service in Vietnam, Devlin spent a quarter century in Christian ministry in the U.S., got married and had five children. He and his wife, Nancy, have been married for over 44 years.
The 70-year-old has made headlines over the years for his willingness to travel the globe to stand in solidarity and provide practical aid to Christians persecuted for their faith.
Devlin was nominated for the award by Nate Butler of the Righteous Church of God in Washington, D.C., whom he described as a “dear friend.”
After learning of his nomination, Devlin was instructed to provide a “brief synopsis” of his volunteer efforts and discuss why he should receive the award. He said none of the employees at his volunteer ministries receive a salary or benefits.
“We are all volunteers, which is probably unique in the nonprofit and ministry world,” he noted.
His ministries receive funding from 46 churches of “every different flavor or color,” providing payments ranging from $10 to $100 a month.
Devlin outlined the story behind the formation of REDEEM!, which helps persecuted Christians around the world.
“While I was doing ministry in Philadelphia some 22 years ago, I was invited to Islamabad, Pakistan,” he said.
At that time, Devlin had not traveled overseas in more than 25 years. He first received the invitation to go to Pakistan in January 2001 from his Pakistan-born friend Victor Gill at a “dinner of the Pakistani community in Philadelphia.”
“It was me and probably 25 Pakistani leaders in Philadelphia, and they said, … ‘You’ve got to go to Pakistan. We need you to see what’s going on and you need to hear the cry of the persecuted Church and persecuted Christians in Pakistan.'”
Devlin said, “hearing an hour of stories and seeing people who bore the marks of persecution” with “scars on their back” from where they had been “whipped or beaten” prompted him to announce at the meeting, “I will go.”
With Gill, Devlin traveled through seven cities in eight days.
“I just heard and met with story after story of persecuted Christian believers in Pakistan, and my eyes were opened,” he said.
A couple of years later, Devlin was invited to Sudan to see the persecution of Christians there.