While sitting in the Mobile, Ala., airport, my phone began to vibrate – not a good sign on Sunday evening. Answering, my wife said through her tears “Leroy Krolczyk just transferred his home to glory.” Many who read this would not know Leroy, but he was precious to Southwestern and especially precious to me. After he served with his wife Sharon for quite a number of years as Minister of Music in our churches, he joined the staff of Houston Baptist University in Institutional Advancement. Later, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary was able to secure his services to assist in our growing Havard Campus in Houston.
And Leroy Krolczyk got it! Raising money for the seminary is fine, but never the end or real purpose of the ministry. The guiding commitment is always to take care of the donors, to meet their spiritual needs, to love them supremely, and to trust God for the rest. Leroy – wonderful husband, consummate father, gentle and encouraging minister of the gospel – waited on his flock as unselfishly and faithfully as any I have ever known. All who knew him rejoice with his new adventure with God but sense only too well the loss we have sustained.
When I learned from my wife that Leroy was gone, I wept, but then I was flooded with a memory so sweet that I thought I heard angels singing. Suddenly I was 19 again, and I was just walking onto the platform of Memorial Baptist Church in Baytown, Texas, to preach the evening revival service. It was 6:15 p.m., and I was a few minutes early to begin the service at 6:30 p.m. Then it hit me. I had attempted to share my faith with a young man that afternoon. He was from a Roman Catholic background but was most curious about Jesus. He informed me that he could not talk then but finished work at 5 p.m. He asked me to come by his house. “I will be there at 6 p.m.,” I replied. Then, may God have mercy on my soul, I forgot. Walking on the platform at 6:15, the Lord suddenly brought Leroy back to my mind. What would I do? By the time I got to his house and shared a few moments with him, it would be time for me to preach, and all the saints would wonder where the evangelist was.
“Well, it was just another kid,” I reasoned. He probably would not have been home anyway. Surely to stay and preach to a large gathered congregation was more important. I sat in the cushioned platform chair and opened my Bible. But I could not shake the vision in my heart. God seemed to say, “You promised Leroy that you would come. What need have I for a preaching evangelist who is not a man of his word? Go now, and someday you will be a thankful man.” Approaching pastor Ed Thiele, I said, “Pastor, I have made a terrible mistake. I must go and make it right. Please sing until I return.” I drove to the address that Leroy had provided.
Sitting on the front porch, Leroy said, “I was about to give up on you. I thought you had forgotten me.” I told him the truth. I did forget. Please forgive me. But God reminded me; and though the service is already under way, I had to come here. Oh glorious night! On that night, Leroy Krolczyk invited Christ to be his Savior. On that day he set a course that would change the lives of hundreds for good and for God.
Now in the airport, I missed him greatly – taken from us, I thought, far too soon. But then I remembered the delinquent witness who almost did not go to Leroy. And I wept once more as I thanked God that He would not let me forget, and I also realized anew that this is precisely how God intends evangelization to take place. Not preaching to massive crowds, but the personal word of love and salvation – this is what God has purposed to use.
Please, precious Lord, never let me forget again. And please, Lord Jesus, may our people recover this vision.
Farewell, sweet brother, Leroy Krolczyk. I know that it is only for a while; and when I approach, you will be waiting for me on the porch of heaven.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Paige Patterson is president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)