GIBSON CITY — Bradford “Wayne” King spent 39 years ministering in Israel with his wife, Carol, including 37 in Jesus’ hometown of Nazareth.
Their work in the ministry didn’t stop when they retired to her family home in rural Fisher in 2003.
“As long as they were able, they wanted to devote their lives to Jesus and the gospel, particularly as it related to children,” said the Rev. Paul Thomason of the Gibson City Bible Church. “Coming off of the field was tough for them, especially for Wayne.”
The Kings came to the Middle Eastern country in 1964 and ministered to the local Arab community as part of the Child Evangelism Fellowship Inc. team. After returning to the U.S., they presided over the children’s church ministry for several years at the Gibson City church.
Mr. King, 82, died Sept. 13 at the Heritage Manor Nursing Home in Gibson City. Services are scheduled Saturday at the Gibson City Bible Church.
His head gear was unique
He was known for years for his kafiyeh, which, with his bushy beard, helped him to fit in while in Israel. Carol King said it also served a practical application — covering his bald head and helping him not to get sick as often.
In later years, however, he frequently wore a stocking cap.
Mr. King had been suffering from dementia for the last six years.
“His memory faded,” she said. “He didn’t remember much about Israel any more. He still knew me and his sons when they came. His sense of humor every once in a while peeked out again.”
In Israel, Mr. King was known as “Abudanny,” (father of Danny) — which his eldest son, Daniel, said he always knew his father by.
“Abudanny was well known all over Israel,” Danny said. “If I went into a shop and the owner discovered that I was Abudanny’s son I would instantly be treated like a friend.”
He said his father was “the hardest-working person” he had ever met — whether it be digging a ditch or teaching people about “how Jesus could change their lives. He gave 100 percent.”
Daniel, who called his father “a visionary,” said he changed many lives. He said while his father spoke three languages and could easily converse using any of them in Israel, Daniel often had to translate to the checkout person at Walmart for his father.
Carol King said she was able to take care of her husband until the Monday before his death when he fell and needed more care than she could provide.
In his last days, she said Mr. King was “ready to go.”
Was ready to ‘go home’
“His last words on Thursday were, ‘I want to go home.’ I knew he meant home to heaven,” she said.
Mrs. King said she has been overwhelmed with emails from people in Israel who learned about her husband’s passing.
“I had no idea of the ripples that went out with our lives,” she said. “I have had over 100 emails in the last few days.”
One of those whom he touched was Fadi Ramadan, who was born the same year (1966) when the Kings moved to Nazareth.
“Fadi came to know the Lord through one of our training classes,” Carol King said. “He just grew up with us. He went through training and has been the national director of Child Evangelism Fellowship in Israel.”
Ramadan said a memorial service for Mr. King will be held Sept. 29 at Evangelical Baptist Church in Nazareth.
“He was my teacher,” Ramadan said. “He trained me in ministry and taught me in life. He sent me to study Bible school for three years in France so I can return and head the work in Israel.”
Ramadan said Mr. King treated him better than his four children.
“He considered me his fifth son. He invested his life in me so I would invest in others, young and old.
“Anywhere you go in Nazareth Mr. King would be well remembered among both Christian and Muslim Arabs. ...”
The Kings were in Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, and they were there when Scud missiles were shot into Israel during the Persian Gulf War. Mr. King had several near misses, just passing locations before terrorist bombs went off.
Thomason said Israel was never far from Mr. King’s mind or heart.
“He not only looked for opportunities with children, Wayne also sought out people who had ties back in Israel,” Thomason said. “He was a man of faith and prayer. I am looking forward to the opportunity to celebrate his life and the ministries in which he was involved.”
Didn’t know Arabs lived there
Although the Kings originally moved to Israel to minister to the children of Christian believers, Mr. King said in a 2010 Rantoul Press interview that he never imagined he would also be ministering to the Arab population.
“I didn’t even knew Arabs lived over there,” he said.
He said while many evangelical Christians believe Israel and the Jews can do no wrong, the Kings discovered the Jews at times have treated Arabs harshly.
After Israel became a nation in 1948, many Arabs living there lost their homes and were trucked or forced to walk to new locations.
Said Mr. King: “Americans have a hard time stereotyping people. We should be careful when we go into other countries. We don’t think we’re arrogant, but we are.”
The Kings found the Arabs as a people are misunderstood and said the Arabs with whom they ministered were special.
Daniel King said he believes the Kings’ neighborhood saw the hand of providence protect Mr. King during an argument between residents. When rocks were thrown and much yelling ensued, Mr. King came running in an attempt to keep the peace.
“My dad rushed into the middle of flying rocks and was able to stop the fighting,” Daniel said. “After they all returned to their homes, some of the neighbors came to our house to find out if dad was OK and if he had been to the hospital.”
Mr. King didn’t know what they were talking about, but the neighbors insisted “that they had seen a large rock hit him in the back. He had not felt a thing. His angels had been working overtime, and God protected him — I like to think like a force field that deflected the rocks,” Daniel said.
In addition to his widow and eldest son, Mr. King is survived by three other sons — David, Jonathan and James.