It was a sea of yellow shirts at the funeral for Wayne Laechelt as Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers recently gathered at Crosspointe Church in Oswego to honor their friend.
Laechelt, 67, died May 9 tragically from injuries sustained from a falling tree that he and a co-worker were removing from the property at Streator Baptist Camp.
Laechelt was known for his love for the ministry that became his passion in retirement.
“Wayne and Bev are among the best examples I can name of Disaster Relief volunteers, representing Illinois and Christ well in every situation,” said Shannon Ford, Illinois Baptist State Association missions director. “Wayne was always making certain that flood recovery, or tornado recovery, or work at Incident Command led to conversations about Christ. He told all the volunteers, ‘That’s why we do this.’”
Laechelt served on the IBDR executive leadership team. Since 2012, he had completed 10 training modules, including chaplaincy. And as a former high school teacher, he turned his gifts toward training new Disaster Relief volunteers.
“Wayne was an articulate teacher who stressed correct methods and procedures without being too technical or overbearing,” said Arnold Ramage, state Disaster Relief director. “If a volunteer had questions, he would always answer them in kind and caring manner.”
One standout moment was his service after a mass shooting at the Independence Day parade in Highland Park in 2022.
Devoted to the Lord, service
Drawing on their connections with other relief groups in Chicagoland, the Laechelts helped organize ministry to families shaken by the shootings, traveling three hours round trip daily for more than a week to serve in the north suburban community.
“It’s hard work, but we know we’re supposed to be there,” Wayne said of their servant ministry at the time.
IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams said in a message that resonated with the state’s more than 400 trained IBDR volunteers, “This is a tragedy that is difficult to process, concluding a life so devoted to the Lord and to service. We as a Baptist family join Wayne’s wife, Bev and the family in their grief.”
Laechelt was featured in a 2021 news story during a callout after Hurricane Ida in Louisiana.
Laechelt’s friends honored him with an ice cream fellowship after the May 20 service.
“I will always remember Wayne’s love of ice cream,” Ramage said. “Since he and Bev were often the first to arrive at a callout, he would always visit local ice cream shops before other teams arrived. We have many fond memories of eating ice cream together.”
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Eric Reed and originally published by IBSA Newsjournal.