By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The ingredients of the Rev. Bill Barker's life almost demand they be shared on a stage much larger than everyday life.
Yeah, his story is that good.
Barker, the lead pastor of LifePoint Bible Church in Quincy, has experienced more in his 37 years than most could even dream about. Yet he looks at his life to this point in little more than matter-of-fact fashion.
"You don't always get to choose what God has planned for you," he said. "Wherever you are, if you know you are in the center of God's (plan for you), there is a deep pace that nothing can replace."
And Barker has certainly found himself in the midst of some interesting situations and developments. Consider:
º He once sat with representatives of some of the leading terrorist organizations the Middle East has to offer and experienced first hand the carnage connected with suicide bombings in that region.
º Even though he is originally from West Virginia, Barker calls New England -- in particular, the Boston area -- home. He has studied abroad, earning a doctorate of divinity from the University Cambridge in England.
º Barker is fluid in more than 15 languages and has lived and worked in Europe, the Middle East and South America. He has been a member of the faculty at Cambridge and Gordon (Mass.) College, plus co-founding a marketing firm involved with the financial industry in Boston.
º There is very little of Barker's life that does not read like a screenplay -- even how he met his wife, Sara. They were undergraduates who came together in Jerusalem in the late 1990s. The irony is that Sara is from nearby Elvaston in Hancock County, which helps explain how Barker eventually wound up settling in West-Central Illinois.
Along with pastoring LifePoint, one of the city's fastest-growing churches that began with a handful of people meeting in a living room a little more than six years ago, Barker also assists Horizons Social Services. He once served as its executive director, a position now filled by Sarah Stephens.
Horizons works in unison with St. John's Church in downtown Quincy to help feed those in need through its soup kitchen and food pantry. Last year, Stephens said Horizons served 23,500 meals and helped 5,200 individuals through its food pantry. Horizons also coordinates a transient work program.
Most of Barker's day-to-day involvement is now tied to LifePoint, at the corner of 18th and Harrison at the site of the former Grandview Church. When the Grandview congregation bought the former St. John's Catholic Church five years ago, it opened the door for Life Point, which was meeting at the time on the second floor of the Maine Center, to buy a permanent home.
Barker became the church's first full-time pastor three years ago. He oversees a congregation that is predominantly young adults that now numbers about 250. Barker likes to kid about the relatively young LifePoint crowd.
"We have more weddings than funerals," he says. "It's about a 15 to 1 ratio."
Barker will be forever grateful to those at LifePoint for their support and assistance shortly after the birth of the Barkers' first child, Aidin, about three years ago. The infant needed corrective heart surgery four months after his arrival.
"The church wrapped their arms around us and will always be grateful," Barker said. "There was only five surgeons in the country who could perform the operation Aidin needed, and one of those was in Iowa City. The others were in Houston, Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia.
"Everything is beautiful now. Aidin is happy and healthy."
Bill and Sara are expecting their second child in the spring and in the not-too-distant future will have a third arrival -- an adopted child from Ethiopia.
"We love being parents," he said.
Not many couples have tales to tell like the Barkers. While they were in the Middle East together in 1997, Bill was able to meet with representatives of Hamas, Hezbollah and the Islamic Jihad. Information he obtained was turned over the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Barker does not try and sugarcoat the experience.
"It was absolutely terrifying," he said. "One of the reasons they granted the interview was they wanted the West to know it would submit to Islam -- one way or the other."
Barker said he and Sara survived a terrorist suicide bombing by only a few yards.
"We were not injured, but saw the carnage first hand," he said.
Most of Barker's life has involved first-hand experiences. Fortunately, most have not been so violent. Either way, however, is fine with Barker.
"You don't always get to choose what God has planned for you," he is quick to remind.