The Story of Gilead...
Gilead Ministries was founded in January of 1999 as a result of Bill Sparks’ ministry to 27 cancer patients that were not members of his church. He visited them and helped them with simple chores and errands as a way to become a practical illustration of God’s love for them. During that time he interacted with hospice and other medical providers who were treating the patients. Seeing a need for a chaplain or pastor in the lives of these individuals and realizing that a hospice chaplain would not become involved until the cancer patient entered the last stages of their disease, Bill decided to see if there would be a need for a “pre-hospice” type of ministry.
Bill resigned as the pastor of his church where he had served 13 years as youth, associate and later senior pastor to begin Gilead Ministries. The initial vision was to see if there was a way to provide for his family while ministering to these patients, most of whom did not have a church connection. His goal was to see if he could visit and provide services for at least 30-45 patients.
The ministry grew faster than the financing with 60 +/- referrals the first year. With this reality, Bill had to make some adjustments to his plan. He decided that since there wasn’t enough income to allow him to actually visit all the patients, he would model his ministry after “Outreach of Hope” operated by Dave and Jan Dravecky. He began sending cards and making phone calls to each patient who had been sent his way. In addition, Dave’s encouragement outreach program began sending each patient that agreed to receive one, a kit full of goodies, books and other resource materials. That relationship between Gilead and OOH, now Endurance, continues to this day with 10-20 kits mailed per year.
After the second year, patients referred/served reached over 100 and now Gilead is ministering to 2,900+ patients and their families in 43 states with its core ministry of cards and phone calls.
From 1999 to 2003 Bill worked as a sheriff’s department chaplain and with the coroner’s office to make ends meet.
In January of 2003, he was able to begin Gilead full time. The ministry has grown in its impact and scope since that time.
Each year Gilead cleans yards, houses, builds ramps, makes rice bags, delivers gift bags, finishes projects for a hospice patients and provides student labor, gifts from volunteers or visitation to an average of 50-60 families per month.
More than 200 "Telephone Reassurance" calls are made each month with over 1,200 Christmas calls made at the end of each year.
Gilead continues to add 300-400 new referrals per year, bringing a message of hope and encouragement to many who have none.
Since its beginning in 1999 all 27 of the patients Bill connected with before starting Gilead have died. Some accepted Christ as Savior, some did not. That did not deter him from loving them till the end and ministering to their families after their death.
All of the families have stayed in contact in one way or another since those early days of ministry. Gilead continues to use between 200 and 300 volunteers per year and is honored to be sharing the journey with cancer and long term illness patients and their families still today!