The Lord has a way of connecting co-laborers. More than a quarter of a century ago God allowed me to get acquainted with a young man from New Jersey named Stephen Troell. He had just come to Crown College and, in the providence of God, he was placed in my dormitory. Over the years that followed we had the privilege to work on the same staff for Pastor Clarence Sexton at the Temple Baptist Church. It was a season of preparation for us both.
When we stepped out by faith into our current work seven years ago, Stephen was one of the first to say that he believed in the call of God on my life and wanted to help. And help he did. In fact, every project we have been able to produce has his fingerprints on it and his heart in it. It was a unique relationship: my closest fellow worker lived and labored more than 6,000 miles away.
The Enjoying the Journey program had a “trial run” in December of 2017. Stephen said from the beginning that it would have a far reach. ETJ has now crossed 4.6 million podcast downloads and the radio audience continues to grow. Just days ago he stressed to me again that this was just the beginning and that we had to keep the broadcast going. He purposefully worked to mentor other laborers and assist me in building a team.
Stephen was with me the night that I spoke in an outdoor meeting on the subject of “Revival Praying” from Ezra 9. Later in the car he said, “We have to put this message in print.” I laughed at his suggestion, but now 10,000 copies of that first book are in circulation. Over and over he followed the prompting of the Holy Spirit and was used to urge me forward (3 John 5-8).
The website, books, and resources were all a collaboration with my friend and fellow worker. He was full of ideas and creativity, yet always committed to the truth and the primary work we had been given. Stephen Troell was that unique combination of a great mind and a great heart – tremendous gifts, full of grace.
I spoke with Stephen just minutes before he saw Jesus. We talked about a current project and an idea for another. One of the last things he said to me was, “We just have to do more!” By God’s grace that is exactly what I want to do until, like Stephen, I see Jesus face to face.
One of the last times the Troell’s were at our home I asked Stephen to sit down and do a brief interview with me. He really didn’t want to but, under the guise of tuning some recording equipment, he finally agreed. It was a brief 8 minute discussion that covered his life verse, how he came to know Jesus personally, and a truth God was teaching him at the time. I kept the audio file but it never aired publicly. To be honest, he would not be overly pleased with the audio quality, but today it is being released as a special memorial edition on our ETJ Weekend Pulpit. I hope his words will cause you to consider, as they have me, what testimony we all will leave behind someday.
On Monday we will celebrate his life and on Tuesday his body will be laid to rest. Soon we will publish a memorial edition of our weekly e-newsletter and I look forward to sharing additional reflections in the days ahead. It is our prayer that Stephen’s passion for the gospel will spread and that his servant’s heart will multiply in many more laborers.
My last words to Stephen were, “I love you.” He was a Jonathan, a brother, a constant encourager, my friend and fellow worker. I look forward to sitting and talking together again when we meet around the throne.