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52 Godly Men : Men of Today Teaching the Men of Tomorrow » My Journey » Week 8: Teaching and Benching

Week 8: Teaching and Benching

Bill Stockham

If my Dad had told me that I would be meeting with a man who:

  1. is an ex-marine
  2. used to have a really bad temper
  3. could at one time bench press 425 pounds

I would have turned tail and ran. However, because God worked a miracle in his life, I actually had a very pleasant day with Bill Stockham.

He teaches a computer class at a school for kids who aren’t doing well school-wise or social-wise.  The first thing I noticed when I walked through the door was a sign which very clearly stated that “guns are prohibited and anyone who brings a gun to school will be prosecuted,” and I wondered what I was getting into. But seeing as Bill owns a pair of biceps the size of the Titanic, I figured I was fine. The first thing he did was to show me around the school and all the classrooms.  Then after the tour, he took me to his classroom.  There we sat down in his office and talked about prayer.

Prayer is a very powerful thing, and even though there is no ‘wrong’ way to pray, there are certain things that can greatly enhance your prayer life. For starters, it is a good idea to keep a prayer journal, and record prayer requests and answers. Also, you have to listen to God as well; how would you feel if your Dad never spoke to you?  Bill said that he kept a prayer journal for three years, and he filled 10 pages. Then someone suggested that he listen for God’s voice, and in a year and three months, he filled 160 pages! He gave me a prayer book which he put together, including ideas, verses, and thoughts. I’m sure I will use it a lot in the future.

When we had finished that discussion, he started to tell me his life story. He was 14 when his mother left the house. His dad was remarried, but Bill and his new mother didn’t get along, and she would whack him occasionally.  That was when he started to drink and smoke marijuana. He didn’t think any of his family cared about him, so he began to work out and try to ‘live up’ to his dad. As Bill entered into high school and college, he would work 16-17 hours a day, 7 days a week, and then at night, he would get drunk and take marijuana so he could continue working. And on top of that, he would be working out three or four hours during the day.

Somewhere around that time, he decided to go into the Marine Corps, and he was sent to Vietnam in 1964. Bill was only in Vietnam for 18 months, but there were a lot of changes going on in the U.S. For one, miniskirts became popular during that time, and so did topless restaurants. And on top of that, guys started to wear their hair long. On his flight back, his plane stopped on Hawaii “to refuel,” but there were no fuel trucks in sight. In reality, they were waiting until dark to fly in, because many of the college students were protesting the troops in Vietnam. As soon as they landed, they taxied right next to the hangar to await their debriefing, and they were told NOT to set foot in town. However, they hadn’t tasted steak, milk, or potatoes for 18 months; they went into the town. After they grabbed something to eat, they swung by a bar, and asked some of the college students to buy them drinks. They were, after all, war heroes. They ended up having to fight their way out of the place.

When Bill had gotten re-acquainted with the US, he found a job at a circuit design place. At that time, there was a man there named Tim who was a Christian who did very good work.  However, Bill gave him a really hard time because of his faith. One day, though, Tim got to talking about a revival that had taken place, and about a demon-possessed man who had been healed. While Tim was describing the man’s life Bill was thinking, “His life sounds like mine!”  During the day, Bill needed to visit the bathroom, and as soon as he walked in, he felt like someone literally enveloped him in their arms. He had never felt something like it before, and decided that he would wait until he got home to go. But the next day, the same thing happened again. This time, Bill fell to his knees (right next to the toilet) and told God he was sorry. His co-worker Tim noticed something had changed, and the following day Bill asked if at lunch he would want to read the Bible and smoke Marijuana. Tim said yes, but would Bill mind very much leaving the Marijuana alone? Bill agreed, and that was the day he made a commitment to Christ.

When Bill went home, he heard a little voice in his head (The Lord) say, “get rid of all your drugs.” See, he had about ten quart jars full of nothing but Marijuana, and he would also save up those little containers of alcohol they used to give out on planes, so he had a huge stash. But as soon as he heard God’s voice, Bill grabbed all of the jars, opened them up, and started flushing the contents down the toilet. He had disposed of every jar but one, when he heard a different voice in his head say “keep that jar; you may need it.” Well, he knew that the voice he was hearing was the Devil, but try as he might, Bill just couldn’t open the jar! He knew that something supernatural was keeping him from throwing the drugs away, so he called on the name of the Lord, opened the jar, and flushed it away.

After that, he  just kept on growing in the Spirit and feasting on the Word. Later in life, he became the chaplain of Cleveland High School; he also found out that he had second degree Diabetes. He had gotten it during his time in Vietnam, when they would spray the jungle canopy with Agent Orange. You see, they would send down troops from helicopters on ropes, but because of the canopy, they didn’t know how far it was to the ground. But the Agent Orange would kill off the leaves, and the soldiers were able to see how much rope they needed. Bill would work around the chemicals, and he breathed the residue; it resulted in Diabetes. So he started weight lifting again to compromise the problem, and that was when he set the record for bench pressing for his age category. He was asked to teach at the school here in Cleveland, and that is where we are today.

By the time Bill finished, it was lunchtime, so we drove over to Quizno’s to chow down a couple of subs, and I started asking Bill some of the questions I had for him. I asked whether kids ever make trouble at the school, and in reply he said yes; about once a week he sees the in-school police officer lead a student out of the school in handcuffs. Then I questioned how he became a school teacher. He said that ever since he became a Christian, he has always felt connected with high school-age kids. I asked him if he ever tried to do anything and it just didn’t work. He laughed and told me that one time, he decided to go to Amway and “make millions”. The problem was, to make money there you have to be aggressive and try to convince people that they need something when they really don’t, and he just wasn’t like that.

Lastly, I queried what some of his decisions that have been wise/unwise were. He said that the wisest decisions he has ever made were to receive the Lord, marry Debbie (his wife), and to accept his teaching position. For unwise decisions, he said that once, he was benching 405, and it went up really easily. So he told his spotters to make it 425. He had been eating bananas and drinking Gatorade to keep up his potassium and energy, but the air-conditioning was out, and apparently he didn’t drink enough liquids. While he was lowering the bar, the muscles in his bottom cramped, and he almost got crushed (OW!). Another time, while he was in the Marines, he was operating a TRC-75, which is a type of powerful radio that has 12,000 AC volts running through it. He was trying to see if the tubes were warmed up, and he accidentally touched it. Ouch. By this time we had finished lunch, so it looked like my day was at an end. After leaving Bill, I felt full of knowledge about prayer and life, and green with envy because he was so buff. But I’m sure I’ll get over it; after all, not everyone can be a power lifter — right?

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3 Responses to "Week 8: Teaching and Benching"

  1. Bill Stockham says:

    Thank you David, for such kind and very well written words.
    I really enjoyed our time together.
    Bless you as you continue your journey!

  2. Sandra says:

    Made me smile that “Bill was only in Vietnam for 18 months.” Only 18 may have seemed like a lifetime. Praise God for you both.

  3. Tim Nelson says:

    I read the article wondering if this was the Bill Stockham that I had known back in the early 1970’s. Apparently it is. I’m the “Tim” he mentioned. I don’t remember Bill ever giving me a hard time. I’m still doing hardware engineering as I was doing when Bill was my boss at AKI 39 years ago.

    My son and his family live just down the road a ways in Ooletwah, so maybe I could stop in and see Bill next time I’m there.

    Can you have Bill send me an email so we can get in touch?

    Tim Nelson

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