The 700 Club with Pat Robertson


Paralympic Medalist Saved by a Bullet

By Audra Smith Haney
The 700 Club -“You believe the lie that you are never going to get caught and you make one compromise that leads to another compromise. The next thing you know, you are so far down the road and you don’t know how to find your way back.”

Bill Renje was a typical teenager, just trying to fit in with the right crowd.

“Like a lot of kids, I started caring more about what my friends thought about me, and I started listening more to my friends than I did my parents.”

But, the crowd he chose led him in the wrong direction.

“Unfortunately I was a follower and not a leader. We started getting into partying, drinking and drug experimentation.”

By the time Bill was a senior in high school, he was a full blown addict.

“I went from smoking marijuana eighth grade or freshman year in high school to the time when I was a senior being involved in hard core drugs; cocaine, crack cocaine, and selling drugs to support my own habit.”

Two weeks after his graduation, Bill went with a friend to a well-known drug house.

“You just kind of drive through and get your drugs, and then be on your way. We pulled in and this time it was clear that something was wrong. There was a drug bust underway. Plain clothes undercover police officers were running around. There was drug dealing suspects lying face down with their hands behind their heads.”

This plain clothes undercover police officer came up to me, on my driver's side window and in no uncertain terms told me to get out of the car. He had a 9mm Glock drawn and pointed at my head from three feet away.”

But when Bill floored the accelerator and tried to speed out of the driveway, their car nudged the police officer, causing his gun to fire.

“Then I knew something was terribly wrong because I was unable to move anything from the chest down. At that moment I didn't know if I was going to live or die. I knew enough to cry out to God, even though I didn't have a relationship with Him. I remember saying, ‘Please God, and don’t let me go out like this. I don't want this to be the last memory I leave behind for my parents or for my brothers.’”

Bill was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. The bullet had severed his spinal cord and lodged behind his right lung. It instantly rendered him a quadriplegic. His family learned of the accident and Bill’s secret lifestyle on the same night.

“When you are laying there in bed and you've been shot, trying to buy drugs at two o’clock in the morning, there are no more lies left to be told. So I had to confront that. I had to look at my parents in the eyes and tell them. I had to look at my brothers. It was very difficult.”

The consequences of Bill’s decisions changed the course of his life forever.

“Nobody grows up and says, ‘Hey, I want to be in a wheelchair. I want to be a quadriplegic or paraplegic. I want to have a spinal cord injury.’ You have to accept what happened to you. You go through denial. You do have a little bit of a pity party.”

“It was a long, long process. I went through four months of very grueling inpatient rehabilitation and then about a year's worth of outpatient rehabilitation afterwards. I put myself in that position. I didn’t have anyone to blame but myself.”

But one day, Bill saw a flyer that piqued his interest. It was an advertisement for a wheelchair rugby team.

“At the time I couldn't even push a wheelchair across the floor at the cafeteria at rehab, so I didn't know that I would ever be able to compete in that.  But, I was like, ‘Well, this is something that I want to give a shot to, so I was two years post injury and got involved in rugby. I wasn't very good at first.”

At first, Bill was on the bench. He was fourteenth on the depth chart, out of 15 guys. But, he made new friends; one of whom was a Christian.

“He wasn't going out to bars and parties. He wasn't chasing girls around yet he had more peace within him than any of the guys that did. He would just share the Lord with me. He just told me what Christ had done for him. That was a very important seed that was planted in my heart.”

A few years later, Bill got together with an old friend who had become a Christian in prison. He invited Bill to church.

“I had not accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and asked for total and complete forgiveness of my sins. So that was an eye opening moment. Right there in my seat where I was, I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.”

Instantly, there was just this peace that came into my heart and I knew that I was different. I knew I was redeemed. I knew I was a changed being and it was then that I knew that this is what a relationship with Christ, with God feels like. He is not some distant being. He is not you know, somebody who is just there...but He is real and He is a living God.”

Bill went on to earn a bachelors and a master’s degree, and with a newfound discipline and determination, he started to excel in rugby.

“By the time I was in my third, fourtth and fifth years, I was not only starting but I was winning all tournament awards at the various tournaments we were going to around the country.”

Bill eventually made the National Quad rugby team. He went on to compete in both the 1996 Atlanta Paralympic Games and the 2000 Sydney Paralympic games. Both times, Bill and Team USA brought home the Gold.

“My entire family was there, my mom and dad, my brothers, and that was awesome. It was almost validation for me that somebody who was unable to get out of bed and push a wheelchair, was now able to compete for his country and win a gold medal.”

When they sang that national anthem and when they put the gold medal around your neck, when you see your family cheering for you, you realize, God is at work and what He is doing in my life.”

Today, Bill is married and has three children. He is also an inspirational speaker and ministers to teens around the country, through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

“Going back to those first few days, first few weeks after my injury, if you would have played a DVD for me and said this is what your life is going to be like for the next 24 years, I never would have believed it. I never thought I would have a date again, let alone be blessed with a terrific, beautiful, godly woman that God has given me. I never thought I would be able to have kids and to have three wonderful children. It has been such a blessing.”

Bill has also written a book called A Chosen Bullet to share with others about his accident, his adventures in rugby, and his relationship with Christ.

 “The message of my testimony is simply, God used a chosen bullet to redirect my path from one that was going down a road of tragedy, and probably ultimately death and destruction to a road of triumph and redemption, and just really a life that far surpasses anything that I could have ever imagined.”
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