a life lived well
Remembering R. Eugene Waddell
To learn more about Free Will Baptist International Missions, visit their website www.fwbgo.com.
On Sunday morning, October 21, 2007, Brother R. Eugene Waddell finished his race. He fought a good fight, and yes, he kept the faith. Early on that Lord’s Day he saw his Lord face to face. For Free Will Baptist people around the world heaven is more precious now, and this earth has lost some of its appeal.
From August of 1952 until his death 55 years later, Gene Waddell served as an ordained Free Will Baptist preacher. In his first year at Free Will Baptist Bible College he was deeply challenged through missionary prayer band and missionaries who spoke in chapel. It was clear that his vision was set for those who had never heard the gospel message.
This vision directed him, after graduating from Free Will Baptist Bible College, to attain an M.A. in Missions from Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University). When he entered the pastorate, he immediately sought to challenge people to become involved in missions.
His passion led to an official connection to Free Will Baptist Foreign Missions (now International Missions) from 1959-1998. The last 12 of those years he served as general director.
As we look back at a life lived well, several exemplary characteristics of Brother Waddell are worthy of emulating.
Photo: Director Waddell travels by horseback through the Uruguayan wilderness.
He had a unique gift of encouragement. At the visitation and funeral one thing was clear: everyone present felt as though they were special to Gene. He made you feel that way. To missionaries he was a “pastor.” To his pastors he was a confidant and friend. As his successor as general director of the Mission, I found him a dependable source of strength.
He was a man of integrity. When problems arose, he faced them squarely. He is loved and respected by missionaries and national leaders wherever he traveled. In the African village of Panzarani the Lobi chieftain presented him with a royal robe, bow and arrows, and the name “Sogouri,” which means “one who calms problems and resolves differences.”
He had a burning passion for the lost, clearly seen during his years as general director of FWBIM. He actively continued reaching out to the unsaved until the very end of his life.
During his tenure the Mission began ministering in Russia, Mongolia, China, and Central Asia. Under his leadership 64 missionaries were appointed, overseas church attendance almost doubled, and the E-TEAM summer missions program for high school students was initiated. After 26 years of isolation, Waddell spearheaded the effort to reconnect with our Free Will Baptists in Cuba.
Photo: Waddell worships with believers in Cotê d'Ivoire.
The International Fellowship of Free Will Baptist Churches met in Nantes, France, October 7-12 of this year. Most of the delegates knew, loved, and respected Brother Waddell. They passed around a multi-paged card to write notes to him and his wife Genevieve. I had the privilege of sharing those messages with him just days before he died.
He was excited about the future of Free Will Baptists. When told of the committee formed to provide a means for Free Will Baptists outside of North America to go as missionaries to the ends of the earth he said, “Is that nothing short of a miracle?” He had longed to see that and I’m glad he heard about it on the last bend of his race.
Thank you, Brother Waddell, for your inspirational example of a life lived well.