William Donald Black '64

Major Greek
Favorite Course Old Testament Survey
Favorite Professor Irving L. Jensen


   

Dr. William Black is a self-proclaimed "average man by the grace of God," but his story is one of incredible influence in both the medical and mission field.

Dr. Black's educational journey began in 1960 at the University of Tennessee. He changed majors several times and transferred to Bryan his junior year. "The first week at Bryan there was a chapel speaker who said, 'Abide in Christ and He will get you where you need to be,'" Dr. Black said. "It's one of the most important things I remember from Bryan." Another chapel speaker who influenced Dr. Black was a woman who became a missionary to America. "She told us that we could stay in the country and still support the Great Commission," he recalled.

His senior year Dr. Black transferred back to UT to complete a major in physics before heading to medical school in 1964. "It was very overwhelming," he said. "I would spend all night in the lab with my cadaver." With six months left in medical school, Dr. Black married Barbara, who he met at UT. In 1968 he and Barbara moved to Virginia where he interned at Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The following spring Dr. Black went to Vietnam with a tank battalion and spent six months in a field hospital. "The Lord really orchestrated all of this," Dr. Black said. "It was my first exposure to a third world country. We got to go into villages and give the children apples, candy, and medicine." Dr. Black spent the last ten months of his military service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
 

Dr. Black seeing a patient at the clinic in the village of Taiama; Patrick, an interpreter, is on the right.
(Sierra Leone, West Africa, Jan 2007)
He then moved his family, which would soon include two sons, to Memphis where he had four years of training in nephrology, a branch of internal medicine centered around kidney disease. After 14 months practicing in Alabama, he found himself drawn back to his hometown of Knoxville. He started his own practice, Renal Medical Associates, which is still flourishing today.

In 1993, Dr. Black's son wanted to go to Guatemala and he decided to accompany him. On four more medical missions trips to Guatemala over the next five years, Dr. Black organized clinics, children's outreaches, and evangelistic projects. Once, the national interpreter asked Dr. Black for his stethoscope, which he freely gave to her. This led to the organization of a conference in 1996 to teach health care workers in local villages. In 1997, Dr. Black expanded his missions trips to Eastern Europe, traveling to places including Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Belgium. Despite what was accomplished, he always returned feeling there was unfinished business.

In 1998 came the devastating news that his wife had cancer. Dr. Black stopped working in order to take care of her. That experience became the foundation for his book Finding Strength in Weakness, which was published in 2001, and has been translated into Russian and Spanish. A year later his wife passed away. The book is a Christian treatise on suffering and discusses the problem of pain and evil in the world and the appropriate Biblical response, which he summarized in two parts: Love God and Love People.
 

 

Dr. Black in the village of Taiama with the village chief

Dr. Black distributed thousands of copies throughout Central America and Eastern Europe. The translation of the book into Russian came about due to a missed flight in Frankfurt which resulted in a long train ride to Kiev while sitting next to a Russian officer, an atheist, who was mad at God because he could not reconcile the suffering in the world with the truth of Christianity. Since then, Dr. Black has returned to Kiev with a warm welcome (including a visit with the mayor's wife) and has learned that his book has become a witnessing tool in many of the surrounding Muslim countries. Mrs. Black's death is truly a memorial to the grace of God in the midst of suffering. "My wife has saved more people in her death than her life," Dr. Black said.

Dr. Black is working on an audio version of his book, to be released next spring. The book seems to be the "unfinished business" that Dr. Black originally felt because it can remain with the people in the countries he visits and communicate truth long after he returns home. For example, Honduras's current political turmoil makes it nearly impossible for him to visit the country but he knows that more than 3,000 Spanish copies of his books have already been given away there.

Dr. Black has remarried and continues to work as both president and doctor at Renal Medical Associates. "My goal is to complete the course," Dr. Black said. "We have a prize waiting for us if we persevere."