In January 1999, after 13 years of minstry as a youth, associate and senior pastor, Bill Sparks resigned his duties at Calvary Community Church to begin Gilead Ministries.
The idea came as he was able to visit with and minister to 27 cancer patients. Most of which were not able to attend, and a third of them never darkened the doors of his church.
He did a little of everything...prescription pick-up, transportation, moving furniture, and even holding "pans" of all kinds for the friends he made through his visits.
Through his ministry to these patients, Bill saw a need for a pre-hospice chaplaincy.
Bill noticed that hospice cahplains filled a crucial role for families when they were in the heat of the battle in the last few days of a patients life.
What chaplains did not get much a of a chance to do, was te be involved with the families except on a limted and short term basis. A good hospice chaplain made the most of this time.
Bill didn't think he would make a good hospice chaplain since he felt his ministry was to people who he had built a relationship with.
Traditionsl hospice chaplaincy work only allowed a short period of time to get to know the patient and the family.
By working with someone pre-hospice, and potentially when they are first diagnosed, he felt it allowed a bigger window of opportunity to build a true friendship, which lends itself to discussions about life and faith.
Initially, Bill wanted to see if he could visit and provide services for at least 30-45 patients.
However, the ministry quickly outgrew Bill’s expectations with about 60 referrals within the first year.
By 2000, Gilead served over 100 patients. Bill eventually decided to resign as pastor at his church to work for Gilead full time in 2003.
Bill modeled his ministry after Dave and Jan Dravecky’s organization Outreach of Hope, now called Endurance, by making phone calls and sending cards to patients.
The two organizations still maintain close ties, and Dave continues to send 5-10 kits of goodies a year to patients.
Today, Gilead volunteers clean yards and houses, build ramps, make rice bags, deliver gift bags and finish projects for hospice patients. Annually, Gilead Ministries members minister to over 3,500 patients and their families in 48 states.
Volunteers primarily pray and write cards of encouragement to meet the needs of patients and families affected by cancer and other illnesses. In addition, they also help around the office. To learn more, visit our volunteer page.