The Rev. Dr. William “PB” Devlin has gotten a lot of ink over the years.
Maybe that is because Devlin, who turns 71 this month, has led an amazing life. One article called him “the Indiana Jones of Jesus,” which is apt since he travels to areas of war and conflict to help those who need care: Yazidis and Christians in Gaza and Nigeria for his nonprofit Widows and Orphans.
“God is my safety and protection,” he said, adding he was not afraid when he travels to dangerous places.
Next, he heads to communist Cuba to hold a Jesus Youth Festival for hundreds of teenagers for his other nonprofit, REDEEM! He has held more than 500 events in Cuba since 2007, all with permission of that country’s government.
“This, of course, drives the U.S. State Department crazy,” he said.
Devlin and his wife, Nancy, now Lower Moreland residents, agreed to “live simply so that others may simply live” after talking to an older Mennonite couple when they were engaged. They are the parents of five adult children and have 11 grandchildren.
While the kids were growing up, the family lived in Philadelphia, first Logan, then Olney, and then East Oak Lane. In a borrowed house in Logan in the mid-1980s, the couple took in pregnant, HIV-positive women who no one else wanted to help as part of their pro-life stance, he said.
After 44 years, “We’re still in love; we’re still on our honeymoon,” he said.
While living in Logan, a would-be robber attacked him as he came home from an evening church service. When he said he had no money, the man stabbed him and “left a knife in my head.”
Their son, Luke, then 2, was diagnosed with leukemia shortly afterward. He was treated at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia on the Eagles Fly for Leukemia floor, recovered, and is now cancer-free.
Devlin traveled to northern Nigeria, Gaza, Egypt, and Jordan in June.
In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram and the Fulani Islamist jihadists burned down 32 villages.
“I’ve committed to rebuilding one of the villages,” he said. He plans to raise $50,000 and has already garnered $35,000. He will work with the governor of Plateau State in a public-private partnership.
“We will rebuild the church, the school, and 50 houses,” he said.
“I started REDEEM! in 2010, and then God called me to war zones,” he said. “And that was my target area, meaning Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Gaza. And in the midst of that, as I looked at who are the people that I’m attempting to reach and that would be widows, orphans, the neglected, the forgotten, the broken, the lost.” So, Devlin created another charity, Widows and Orphans.
“I have an earned doctorate in emotional trauma, which allows me entrée,” he said. “That gave me influence in areas where I go, whether it’s to work with the Yazidi girls and women who were taken as sex slaves by the Islamic State (ISIS), so I work in northern Iraq, AKA Kurdistan.”
He has helped persecuted Christians in many countries, including Kenya and Sri Lanka, but added he only goes where he is invited.
“And, of course, my work in Nigeria, with the women who have seen their husbands beheaded by Boko Haram in the West Africa Islamic State province by Fulani herdsmen. I do trauma healing and Jesus gatherings in four cities in Nigeria.”
Most recently, he traveled to Kano State in northern Nigeria and was “ministering to orphans there.”
“In May 2023, when the outgoing president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, left office, over 700 Christian believers were murdered within Nigeria in 10 states. The Fulani Jihadist, Islamist herdsmen said, ‘We give this as a gift to the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari.’ That was their gift, to kill the infidels.”
Devlin, through his charity, provides “emotional, spiritual, psychological and practical physical care to persecuted Christians” in Nigeria and 17 other countries. “That’s what God has called me to do.”
There is a small community of Christians living in Gaza that Devlin visits, bringing food, medicine, and money. Hamas (the ruling Islamic group) has allowed their three churches to remain. He also delivers items to Muslims in refugee camps, he said. When he speaks to Hamas leaders, he always tells them, “Israel is your friend,” and points to free medical care in Israeli hospitals for Gaza residents.
Devlin also serves as co-pastor at Infinity Bible Church in South Bronx, professor at Nile Theological College in Khartoum, Sudan, and co-chair of Right to Worship in New York City. If all this wasn’t enough, Devlin recently joined the Huntingdon Valley Fire Company to “give back to my community.”
“I am a long-term advocate of Israel and the right of the state of Israel to exist and a supporter of the Jewish people here in America and around the world,” said Devlin.
Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, said, “Pastor Bill Devlin is a person of faith who speaks out for people of all faiths under attack. He marches with me each year in the Celebrate Israel Parade as a proud advocate of the Jewish State. Fearlessly, he travels to several countries where Christians are persecuted and seeks to redeem those who are imprisoned. Some people in our world do so little and ask, ‘What can I do?’ Pastor Bill Devlin risks his life and asks, ‘What else should I do?’ He is a true blessing to humankind.”
Devlin’s father, an alcoholic, left the Schenectady, N.Y., family when he was 16. His mother died two years later. He graduated high school and went to live with a brother, and then joined the Navy. It sent him to San Diego, and while hitchhiking along a highway there, he met a “Jesus freak” who changed his life.
“I heard the Good News about Jesus, and that was the night of June 23, 1971, when I invited God into my heart and life, and He transformed me,” said Devlin. “And two weeks later, I volunteered to go to Vietnam.”
“A year after my conversion to Jesus, I was in a battle off the coast of North Vietnam. I was on a ship (the U.S.S. Bausell), and they blew up part of our ship. And that’s where I was wounded.”
Devlin received the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Medal, and other honors.
In 2022 the Biden administration gave Devlin a Volunteer Service award for his work with persecuted Christians.
Mark Houck, a pro-life activist and Republican candidate for Congress in Bucks County, counts Devlin among his friends.
“Pastor Bill Devlin is the most courageous man I know. He has sacrificed himself so much for the crucified church that I see the face of Christ in him every time I am in his company. A true hero. A true patriot. A true Christian,” said Houck.