“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” is a commonly held belief that many Christians hold dear to their hearts. For one family, this statement could not be any truer.
The Ralph Hillman family of Murfreesboro lived a picture perfect life until a mysterious illness called Reye’s syndrome, struck their seven year old son. “Rejoice in the Lord Always” by Bill Conger follows the story of Jeffrey Hillman’s journey living with Reye’s syndrome, which is a potentially fatal illness that affects the brain and liver.
Conger was inspired to write Jeffrey’s story in order to show others the awesome power of God’s presence through faith.
Conger will be in Smithville for a book signing of "Rejoice in the Lord Always: The Jeff Hillman Story" at F. Z. Webb & Sons Gifts Thursday, December 5 from 3:30-7:00 p.m. and Saturday, December 7 from 1:00-2:00 p.m. He will also have a book signing at Justin Potter Library on Saturday, December 14 from 10:00 a.m.-12:00 noon.
“I think seeing a family face a crisis with faith and an attitude of ‘why not us’ rather than ‘why me’ is in direct contrast to society’s usual victimized mentality,” said Conger. “This attitude shows real strength and inspired me to want to write their story so I could share it with others.”
In an interview with WJLE recently, Conger said he learned of the story in a public speaking class at MTSU taught by Jeff's father, Ralph. "The family had taken a trip to Canada on a family vacation. On the way back, Jeff started to feel poorly. His folks gave him some children's aspirin to try and help him feel better but that didn't help. A few days later he contracted Reye's syndrome, which was practically an unknown disease at the time. He was later hospitalized at Vanderbilt hospital," said Conger.
As the story unfolded, Conger learned how the boy experienced a dramatic healing, after coming face to face with death. "I was pretty amazed with this story, just from a writer's standpoint but in the beginning I was cynical. While I am a Christian and grew up in the church, somehow I expected the miracles of today to be more outstanding like when Moses parted the Red Sea instead of coming in small increments. I was also jaded having seen some shady characters in TV ministries at the time that purported to heal people. I was kind of turned off by that and it made me skeptical. But the more I got to know Ralph and his family and saw that they weren't charlatans and that they were sincere Christians and walked the Christian walk, I started to believe more and more in their story. It changed my life spiritually and I grew more as a Christian and deeper in my faith as a result of learning more about Jeff," said Conger.
A Smithville native, Conger is a freelance writer who has penned articles for publications and websites including American Songwriter, CMT.com, VH-1.com, GACTV.com, Bluegrass Unlimited, Homecoming, Fostering Families, and ParentLife. He was a reporter and anchor for WSM AM and a news reporter for local stations in Middle Tennessee. Conger's first broadcasting job was as a part time staff announcer at WJLE during his high school years in the 1980's. Conger now lives in Mount Juliet with his wife Alyssa, and son, Gavin Conger. He is a school counselor at DeKalb West School in Liberty.
A 45 year old man, charged with breaking into a home, an outbuilding, two vehicles, and a church on Veterans Day last year, appeared in DeKalb County Criminal Court Monday, November 25
William Andrew "Andy" Cantrell pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated burglary and received a six year sentence to serve at 35% before his release eligibility date. He was given jail credit from November 11, 2012 to November 25, 2013.
Sheriff Patrick Ray said that on Sunday, November 11, 2012 Cantrell allegedly broke into a residence on Big Woods Road by prying open a back door. He also broke a window. Cantrell allegedly stole from the home a 22 caliber H & R target pistol, valued at $400. Cantrell also allegedly broke into an outbuilding at the residence. Entry was made through a window. Once inside he took a four wheeler and burst through the doors of the outbuilding.
On the same day, Cantrell allegedly broke into two vehicles at another residence on Big Woods Road. Both vehicles were unlocked so entry was made by simply opening the doors. Cantrell allegedly tried to steal one of the vehicles. He damaged the steering wheel column around the ignition keyhole as well as the glove box. The total amount of the vandalism to that vehicle was estimated at $1,000. Cantrell allegedly tried to steal the radio in the other vehicle and caused damage to the dashboard around the radio.
Cantrell also allegedly broke into the Old Fashion Free Will Baptist Church on Blue Springs Road. Entry was made through a back door. He allegedly stole a laptop computer, two wireless keyboards, a projector, and a black bag with a total estimated value of $2,200.
After being arrested and taken to jail on Monday November 12, 2012 Cantrell was searched by correctional officers and they found on him a small red plastic container with a powdery substance believed to be methamphetamine.
Meanwhile in another case, 31 year old Rhonda Murphy pleaded guilty Monday to one count of aggravated burglary and received a three year sentence all suspended to probation. She was given seven days of jail credit.
Murphy and 27 year old Eric Wayne Tramel were co-indicted last year on charges of aggravated burglary, theft over $1,000, and fraudulent use of a credit card.
Murphy's boyfriend, 23 year old Jason Kyle Shepard of Dowelltown was charged on a state warrant for fraudulent use of a credit card.
Sheriff Ray said that Murphy, Tramel, and Shepard were accused of using a credit card, taken from the home of a person on the Old Blue Springs Road that Murphy had been caring for. According to Sheriff Ray, while at the residence of the person she was caring for on September 28, 2012 Murphy left a window unlocked to allow Tramel to enter and steal some items from the residence. Tramel allegedly stole two laptop computers, valued at $2,000 along with assorted jewelry, valued at $3,000. Sheriff Ray said the three defendants participated in using the stolen credit card over a three month period to purchase an assortment of items.
Tramel pleaded guilty in this case and another in August and was sentenced on two counts of aggravated burglary. He received a six year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He must serve at least 35% of the sentence before his release eligibility date. Tramel must make restitution in one case of $234 and in an amount to be determined in the other case. He was given jail credit from November 11, 2012 to July 22, 2013.
Shepard's case apparently remains pending in court.
21 year old Dakota Stith pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated burglary and received a four year sentence in each case to run concurrently with each other. He will be on state probation. Stith was given 90 days jail credit. Restitution to be determined.