I met Tom in college. He was the minister at a Congregational church (at the time I had never even heard of "Congregational") in Bowling Green, Ohio. A couple of us attended his church because we saw a note on a bulletin board offering rides. We didn't have a car, so gave the lady a call. That call - that ride - that church - that Sunday morning - changed our lives (I speak for others freely because I know it to be true). Tom spoke of a freedom in Christ in such a way that it seemed new to us. I think I knew that morning that I wanted to be a minister of some kind. I wanted to excite and inspire as Tom had me... I have fallen short, I'm afraid. There is only one "Tom."
Tom Witzel never disappointed me. I know for a fact, from things others have said, that he wasn't perfect. But to me he was. I never left his presence without feeling that I had been drawn closer to God. I was honored when he officiated at our wedding. Tom believed in me enough that he somehow convinced his church in New Jersey to financially assist me through seminary (he was gone from Bowling Green by then).
I wrote Tom a letter before he died. I needed to express to him (again) how much he meant to me in my life. I needed to tell him that me being here (pastor at one church for thirty three years), ministering to God's people, was largely his doing (and God's, of course).
I shall see Tom again. That is the Christian hope. Yet, today, tears flow freely.
Tags: Witzel, eulogy, mentor.