Rev. William “Bill” Hamel

Rev. William “Bill” J. Hamel, age 71, was greeted by his Lord and Savior on Wednesday, August 15, 2018 after a month and half battle with liver cancer.  He was surrounded by his beloved wife and daughters at his home in MN where he had also been lovingly cared for by them.

Bill is survived by his wife of 50 years, Karen (Holleen) Hamel; daughters, Krista (David) Masterson and Kari (Eric) Berglund; 5 grandchildren: Ian, William and Linnea Masterson and Emma and Ethan Berglund; siblings:  Dr. Peter (Beverly) Hamel, Dr. Timothy (June) Hamel and Wilma (Rev. Peter) Akright; and many relatives and friends.

He was preceded in death by his parents, J. Peter and Jayne Hamel and grandchild, baby Berglund.

Bill was born on July 30, 1947 in Marquette, MI to J. Peter and Jayne (Berklund) Hamel and grew up on the family farm in Fence, WI. In 2nd grade, Bill accepted Jesus as his Savior; choosing to stay in from recess at summer VBS to learn more about Christ’s saving grace. For his 6th grade year, the Hamel family then moved to Clintonville, WI, then New London, WI, and just before his junior year to Stanley, WI where Bill graduated from Stanley-Boyd High School (class of ‘65).  Bill loved playing football during his high school and college years. In 1969, he graduated from Wheaton College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics. During his senior year, Bill decided to answer his call to ministry and to continue his education at Trinity Divinity School in Deerfield, IL, graduating cum laude with a Masters of Divinity Degree in 1972. In the spring of 1998, he received two honorary Doctorates from Trinity International University and Trinity Western University.

It was in Stanley that Bill met Karen at an EFCA church plant. Both sets of their parents were charter members of the newly formed Faith Evangelical Free Church. On August 10, 1968, Bill and Karen were married at Our Savior Lutheran Church in Stanley. They were later blessed with two precious girls, Krista Joy and Kari Elise. In later years, Bill became a proud Opa and relished every moment with his 5 grandkids–especially raising them up as the next generation of Green Bay Packer fans.

Bill’s life as a pastor began in 1972 at West Bloomington Evangelical Free Church (CrossPoint) in Bloomington, MN.  Bill shepherded this congregation until 1986, when he became District Superintendent of the EFCA Midwest District for Kansas and Nebraska. Returning to Minnesota in 1991, Bill became the Executive Vice President of the Evangelical Free Church of America (EFCA) at the denomination’s national office in Bloomington, MN.   After serving as Interim president for one year, Bill was elected President of the EFCA in July, 1997 and continued to faithfully serve for 18 years until his retirement in 2015. Since his retirement, Bill continued to mentor other pastors and staff as part-time Pastor of Leadership Development at Trinity Church in Lakeville, MN, where he also served as the Interim Lead Pastor from 3/1/2017 until 4/1/2018.

Bill’s faithful service to others extended beyond his role within the EFCA. He served on numerous boards throughout his career: EFCA North Central District, Camp Shamineau, Elim Homes, Elim Care, Elim Care/Augustana Merger, University of Northwestern-St. Paul. the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, Trinity University, and Trinity Western University.

However, Bill’s life was best defined by the people whom he loved and served. He always felt that the Lord had given him a deep passion to lead all people in their faith. Bill took true interest into the lives and struggles of others and great joy in mentoring pastors (something that he continued to do even in his final weeks). His love and compassion was felt by all who knew him. Bill had an infectious smile, a love for people from all ethnicities and walks of life, an undying commitment to the local church and a passion for multiplying disciples.  His leadership will not be forgotten, and his legacy will be evident through the lives of those who have learned from him.

A visitation will be held Thursday, August 23 from 4-7 pm and on Friday, August 24 from 9:30-10:40 am. A Celebration of Life Service will begin at 11 am. All events will take place at Trinity Church, 10658 210th Street West, Lakeville, MN. Interment will be at Hillside Cemetery in Fence, WI, on Monday, August 27 at 11 am.

In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to The William J. Hamel All People Fund (Evangelical Free Church of America 901 East 78th St.  Minneapolis, MN 55420) or Trinity Church (10658 210th St. W. Lakeville, MN 55044). If you would like to send a card to the Hamel family, please send to either address noted above.

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Condolence Messages

  1. Karen and family, We express our sincere and prayerful condolences at this time of grief and a keen sense of loss, albeit temporary. Though “we do not grieve as those who have no hope” 1 Thess. 4:13, we do still grieve in hope of the sure resurrection in Christ to follow. We will pray as you work through the grief process. Bill was a good man of God, a fellow servant of the Lord, and a friend. Gary and Susan Hamburger

  2. Michael A Thompson

    I am so grateful for the bold visionary leadership provided by Bill. He set the tone for many of us to think outside the four walls of the church and focus more of our efforts on winning our mission field to faith in Jesus Christ. May God bless and comfort Bill’s family and friends until such time as we meet together at the Lord’s table for a wonderful reunion. In Christ, our hope of glory…..Mike Thompson

  3. Ed and Ardith Bender

    We are sorry for your loss, but rejoice that Bill is with his heavenly father. We know that God will strengthen you and uphold you in the days ahead. You and your family remain in our prayers.

  4. Wes and Jan Anderson

    It was very sad news to learn of Bill’s illness & passing. We have fond memories of the times we spent with you Karen and Bill while you attended and served at Our Savior EFC in Wheeling. We know that Bill is in the presence of the Lord, but the loss is so great for Karen and the rest of the family as they grieve in his passing. We will continue to pray for you in the coming days that God will comfort and surround you with His love in these difficult times.

  5. Greg and Debbie Loomis

    Karen and family, we are SO very sorry for the earthly loss of your beloved husband and father. We know you will have a grand reunion when you are one day reunited!! We are incredibly appreciative of your husband and the Lord’s work. We will always remember how “real” Bill was and what a servant of the Lord he was!! We are very grateful for all his work for the Evangelical Free Church also. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers!!

  6. Walter A. Eriksen, Jr.


    The good news is that he has not “died”, he has just changed his place of residence.

  7. Dear Karen and family
    What a privilege it was to know Bill a little better the past two years! His love and joy came through each time we saw him. He truly lived and loved His Lord and Savior!
    May Our God continue to comfort you as you miss his daily presence in your lives.
    Praise God that one day you will be together again.
    Lovingly in Jesus
    Pat and Sue Moore

  8. I have a tear in one eye (for your deep loss) and a twinkle in my other eye (for Bill’s great gain). I am grateful to God that Christians never have to say, “Good bye” but instead get to whisper at the casket of a loved one, “See ya later.” RIP&Joy Bill

  9. Bill, a dear friend and ministry partner, will be greatly missed this side of Glory. He is one reason why I am still in ministry today. Bill was always an encourager and a man whose heart beat for the vision of God’s Kingdom expansion through church planting and reaching all people groups at home and around the world. Karen, the girls and their families can look forward to a sweet and joyful reunion with Bill at the side of Jesus. Marty and I pray for the Hamel family as you grieve but also hope.

    Charlie and Marty Worley

  10. Roger Fries and Martha Fries

    Let our Lord be praised even beyond Bill’s days knowing he was faithful to the end.

  11. Karen, what a privilege it was to serve as President and wife of the EFCC while Bill and you were also serving EFCA in the same capacity. I loved our times together, albeit far too short and infrequent, but still wonderful memories. Bill’s love of spicy foods on our trip to Thailand ranks #1. My thoughts and prayers will be with you as you mourn the loss of this beloved man.

  12. Elaine Cheng (ANACEFC)

    Dear Karen and family, I am sorry for the loss of your loved one. It was a pleasure to know Bill especially for his support for the Chinese Evangelical Free churches in EFCA. He was always the first one to respond to encourage us as soon as our newsletter went out. He will be missed. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. May God’s comfort be with you all.

  13. Dear Karen and family. Sandy and I send our deepest sympathies to you and your family in the home going of your beloved Bill. Though Bill is rejoicing in glory, we all feel the loss of his smile, passion for people and love for Jesus. His leadership gifts and investment in so many of us will be long remembered. May the presence and peace of Christ be yours in abundance in the coming hours and days. John & Sandy Strubhar

  14. Dear Karen and family,
    May God bless you and guide you during this most difficult time.
    Many great memories at West Bloomington EFC.
    I know my mom Jan was there to greet Pastor Bill when he came home to Jesus.

  15. Dear Karen and family,
    My husband Guy and I worked for EFCA. I was there from 1978 to 1994. Guy worked there for 20 years. We have fun memories of Bill. I would swap deer hunting stories with him. We were in Palm Springs when Bill was elected President. Our puppy was there, too and wore a placard saying “Vote for Bill”.

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