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Catching Up With Billy Gifford


Billy “shares experiences” at the discipleship class.

Billy “shares experiences” at the discipleship class.

Revisiting The Promising Young Man Now Pursuing “God’s Plans”

By Cindy Ziervogel

THEN: In November 2007 I introduced the Fort Bend community to 17-year-old Billy Gifford in my “Campus Spotlight” column. Billy was a Kempner High School senior who had just been appointed to the position of president of the Texas Association of Student Councils, a massive organization representing 1,300 junior and senior high schools at the time. The group’s purpose, then and today, is to develop leadership abilities in students and uphold high standards for local councils.

With that role came opportunity for Billy to hone his skills in leadership, organization and communication. But most importantly he was ramping up his lifelong quest to set good examples and help those in need. Seems he’s already well on his way.

 

NOW: Now 26 years of age, Billy — yes he still goes by Billy and not Bill or William — uses those skills in his professional and personal life. As important as it was to him back then, it’s even more important to grown-up Billy to lead by example today.

The platform for the student council was “Do what’s right; set good examples; and no place for haters.”

“In high school I thought this platform was good for me and others to follow,” Billy said. “Post high school it has worked for me personally. I believe if I practice what I preach then people will follow.”

For a couple of years after earning his BS degree at Texas A&M University, Billy has been working as a mechanical engineer designing electrical connectors for an oil and gas technologies company. And while he points out that most engineers are focused on the technical side of things (he can do that too by the way), Billy said he has the ability to communicate confidently and clearly.

“It’s something that has carried over from high school,” he said. “I can tell that my experiences and ability to give presentations at work or activities at church has helped from student council. I’m not nervous,” he said.

Besides his top-notch communication skills, Billy’s leadership and organizational skills have also served him well.

“I wear a lot of hats at work but I tend to find myself leaning toward project management. I’m a natural organizer,” he said.

While Billy seems to have a promising career climbing the corporate ladder, he has other plans. He calls it “God’s plans.” Billy’s passion for spiritual and religious leadership trumps all else. In fact, Billy said while he was taking those tough engineering classes, he wasn’t even sure he would ever use his degree. But by his sophomore year things changed.

“God got ahold of my heart and redirected the course of my life. I was living for myself, even though outwardly it looked pretty good and respectable. Now I was going to live for what God would have for my life and felt strongly that He was leading me to go overseas — specifically to build His church,” he said.

“But by His grace and wisdom he kept me in school and I was able to get my degree, which I now believe might play a crucial part in what He was calling me to then. So I stayed at my studies and patiently waited until I felt like it was time to go.”

Billy spent most of the first year after graduation doing mission work. First in Pemba, Mozambique, where he joined up with a mission organization that had already begun starting orphanages, helping the education and health care systems, and “planting” churches. Billy said he and others added help by going to rural villages and sharing the Gospel to plant churches. Local pastors took over the work after they left.

While Billy was in Mozambique, he made friends with a group of mission workers who had already started work in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). So by the time he returned from three months in Mozambique, Billy said he felt like God was leading him to go next to the DRC. He spent another three months there followed by work in Mtwapa, Kenya with the same organization. This time he helped with a newly built home for young girls who were rescued out of child prostitution. His job was to encourage them through discipleship. After a couple of weeks in Kenya, he said he felt like God had called him back to Houston to find a job.

Billy soon began work as a mechanical engineer. “But my heart was still about going overseas,” he said. “I was praying and seeking guidance when I got a call from my pastor in College Station about taking a discipleship class.”

When Billy completed the class, the leader of the school asked him if he would help lead a class. One of the requirements was that Billy had to have a full-time job. So he continued to live in College Station, teaching the class two evenings a week while traveling to Houston for his job.

The class of 25 meets twice a week at Antioch Community Church. “I walk with them and share experiences,” said Billy. “We explore, ‘What does it look like to follow Jesus and what does it look like in today’s world.’ ”

One of the last things Billy did as a student in the discipleship program was to take a mission trip with his class to the Middle East. He was so moved by the people who live there that now everything in his life is aimed at returning to plant and lead a church.

“My hope is to bring restoration and peace in the midst of all the chaos and destruction the Middle East is facing.”

The short side of it is that he wants to get there quickly, but he knows that he first has to go through extensive training, research and planning.

“I don’t want to be unwise and just jump out there and hope I figure it out,” he said. “But I believe God might be calling me there.”

Billy Gifford preps the discipleship class in College Station on how to communicate effectively.


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