He who wins souls is wise.
It’s a Southern thing, y’all. We like our double first names.
I’ve got my Aunt Margie Nell and my Aunt Lloydell. We all know Billy Bob, Jerry Jeff, and Peggy Sue.
And then there’s Billy Ray.
In the world of Dry Creek Camp, there will always only be one Billy Ray.
We seldom used his full name, Billy Ray Franks. Most often, it was Bro. Billy Ray and always said with a sign of respect. Of course, at Dry Creek Camp, it was always Billy Ray and Ramona. They were a DeQuincy couple who directed Dry Creek’s Preteen Camps for a generation. They were, and are, family at Dry Creek.
Billy Ray was quiet. Even shy. You had to lean in to hear him.
But when he spoke, we all listened.
Billy Ray Franks died this week. I said my goodbye last week.
Billy Ray Franks was many things, but most of all, he was a soul winner.
Here are my favorite three stories about this unforgettable man:
- He was a faithful witness at Vista Refining in Westlake. He once told of sharing with a reluctant co-worker. Billy Ray quoted Jesus in Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice, I will come in.” The man wasn’t interested in Jesus. A few weeks later, he changed his mind and told Billy Ray: “After you witnessed to me, I couldn’t get that verse about Jesus standing at the door off my mind. Every time I went through a door at the plant, that verse popped into my mind. I planned my whole day avoiding doorways and you.” The man added with a smile, “But I couldn’t avoid Jesus. Thank you for sharing.”
- Once on a trip to Natchitoches, Billy Ray and Ramona were stopped by road construction on La. 117. The road flagger came over and a conversation ensued. Billy Ray asked the young man if he was saved. The flagger’s mouth dropped as he pointed up the road. “Man, five minutes ago, a bolt of lightning nearly struck me up there. You tell me what I need to do to be saved.”
- Billy Ray was part of a group of men who faithfully visited Phelps Prison near DeQuincy. Once, while sharing with an inmate, Billy Ray got tongue-tied and had trouble remembering a verse, then got flustered. When he stumbled to the invitation for the inmate to receive Christ, the man excitedly asked Christ into his life. Billy Ray’s witnessing partner shook his head. “I’ve heard you witness for years and never seen you get that messed up, and then the fellow just jumped at your invitation.”
Billy Ray, smiling his shy smile, shrugged. “It just shows it’s not about us. It’s about God’s power and the Gospel.”
Thanks Billy Ray for showing us how it’s done.
I don’t know all about how folks arrive in Heaven.
I’d like to think that a crowd was waiting this week.
They were chanting, “Billy Ray. Billy Ray.”
That crowd had one thing in common. They were in Heaven because of a faithful witness who took Jesus’ command “to make disciples” seriously.
A shy thin country boy from the Sabine swamp who went through life being known simply as Billy Ray.