Story Highlights:

  • Awana leader William Gower runs in races even though he’s never walked a day in his life.
  • ‘There’s always a place for William to serve in the church.’
  • Pastor Tim Thomas models a servant’s heart to his church and community.

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'I'm So Blessed to Be His Legs When We Run'
How Alabama pastor Tim Thomas struck a special partnership with a wheelchair-bound church member and Awana leader William Gower and Pastor Tim Thomas make a memorable racing duo

Tim Thomas, pastor of Munford Baptist Church, in Munford, Alabama, has walked hundreds of miles in another man’s shoes.

For the past four years, Pastor Tim has run in more than 30 races pushing church member and Awana leader William Glower, 37, in a wheelchair.

“When we run and I push William, he has a freedom you and I can never understand,” Pastor Tim said.

Kindred spirits from the start

The inspiration for this special partnership stemmed from a similar team in Massachusetts: the father/son running tandem of Dick and Rick Hoyt. Rick Hoyt, like Gower, was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, leading to cerebral palsy.

“We were watching a video on the Hoyts in church. I leaned over in the middle of the video and said to William’s mother, ‘We can do this,’” Pastor Tim said. “So we modified a wheelchair and started racing.”

Recently, Pastor Tim called Dick Hoyt for a recommendation on a better wheelchair for racing. Their conversation led to an invitation for William to meet Rick in Boston.

“William was real excited, but I was terrified because I’ve never flown,” said William’s mom, Barbara Fox. “Tim and William and the Hoyts ran a race together.”

It was a time for William to enjoy fellowship with someone just like him. They were thrilled to meet each other.

“People even thought William was Rick because they could pass for twins,” Pastor Tim said. “We took William to a Boston Red Sox game at Fenway Park, and it was awesome.”

A heart to serve

Even though William’s physical body is limited, his mind is sharp and his heart desires to serve God. He currently volunteers as a deacon at his church and is involved in several other ministries. His commitment to the Awana program at his church every Wednesday night is one of the highlights of his week. Over 100 kids attend each week.

Barbara knows her son loves kids and is thankful there’s a way William can be a part of the church body.

“The kids love him, and some are inquisitive about William and his wheelchair,” said Barbara, who has also served as an Awana leader. “William listens to verses and helps with Game Time. In his four years with Awana, he’s only missed one week, and that’s because our van broke down and I couldn’t get him to church.”

New wheels for William

The family requires a special-needs van and is in need of a new one. Pastor Tim and William formed a foundation, Team Gower, to help raise money for William’s expenses and a new van.

Their first fundraising event was a 15-mile race—the farthest the duo had ever run.

It was a success. In just two weeks, Team Gower raised $21,000 toward the purchase of a new van. The next goal: a computer so William can better communicate.

Showing God’s love to the Munford community

“I am so thankful that Tim came into our lives,” Barbara said. “We really needed him. He’s done great things for both of us. People come up to us at church and say they came here because of William. I learned about faith by what you show.”

Pastor Tim and William race every Saturday morning at a local 5k or 10k run and train together twice a week.

“God put us together,” Pastor Tim said. “We have a friendship and bond that you just can’t explain. God built me with a sensitive heart to people’s needs. My passion for William came naturally.

“I’m seeing life through his eyes, and I’m so blessed that I have. I have this one-on-one relationship with him, and he’s taught me things that seminary and Bible studies have never taught me. I’m so blessed to be his legs when we run.”