PINELLAS PARK, Fla. — Pastor Bill Wilson makes a trip to Pinellas Park every Christmas Eve to sit at a certain spot he says changed his life forever.

  • Wilson founder of Metro World Child
  • Organization helps at-risk children around the world
  • Wilson: "Where you came from doesn't dictate where you're going."
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"I just don't want to forget where I came from," Wilson explains. "Right here is where I came from."

When he was 12 years old, Wilson said his alcoholic mother abandoned him on Park Boulevard.

"She looked at me and she said, 'I can't do this anymore.'" he said. "She said, "You wait here," and I watched her walk away, and I sat there for three days and she never came back."

Wilson said he wandered along the street for several days when finally a man who lived nearby stopped and asked if he could help.

"He got me food and he made some calls and five hours after that meeting, he's loading me in a church van," Wilson said. "Sends me up to a Sunday School camp in Lakeland, and that's where I heard the story of Jesus for the first time and that was it."

Finding his calling

Wilson said the church family took him in and he dedicated his life to the ministry.

Eventually in the 1980's, he founded Metro World Child, an organization that helps at-risk children around the world. Thousands attend the organization's "Sidewalk Sunday School" classes every week.

"Those 214,000 who were in Sunday School last week were there because in 1960, an ordinary man chose to stop and ask me if I was OK," Wilson explained. "One person really can make a difference."

Wilson said he comes back to the street where it all started on Christmas Eve because for him, the holidays are a time to remember.

"I've been chastised a bit by some folks saying, 'Why do you do it? You're torturing yourself. What's the point?'" he said. "But I'm not torturing myself. I just don't ever want to forget where I came from."

An important lesson

He said it's a lesson he's shared with many people through the years, that where you come from doesn't dictate where you're going.

"The truth is, it still keeps kicking back to the one — the one little boy that nobody wanted and the one Christian man that cared," Wilson went on. "Right now, there's a kid sitting on another corner, there's a little girl being sold, and all it's going to take is somebody saying, 'I can make a difference to one.'"

Metro World Child is headquartered in Brooklyn, New York and has outreach ministries in 12 countries.