By Julia Eckhardt
This story is written in memory of Terry Eckhardt to encourage Christians to persevere in teaching alien sinners and praying for their repentance. Sometimes, teaching alien sinners can seem hopeless, and their repentance and conversion an impossibility. However, Jesus said, “… with God all things are possible” Matt. 19:26).
In the early 1980s, Todd Eckhardt of Thermopolis, Wyoming was dating someone who told him he had to be baptized for forgiveness of sins. Having never heard of the Lord’s church, he began searching for answers to prove her wrong. He asked his mother what she thought; she said that she did not believe baptism was necessary. He called Billy Graham’s toll free number and was given the same answer.
Todd bought a Bible at the college where he attended and began reading. Not knowing anything about the Scriptures, he began to read in Genesis. He met with an elder in Cheyenne who studied with him for one and one-half days and answered all of his questions. Todd obeyed the gospel at this time as he realized there was no reason to wait. He began attending every service and absorbing as much knowledge of the Bible as he could. His repentance took some self discipline because Todd grew up, as many young American boys, sowing “wild oats.” He had participated in many sinful social activities, and now he was ridiculed for not doing so. He had attended a Methodist church with his family while very young, but they stopped going on a regular basis when he was nine. At-tending every service of the Lord’s church took some effort at first for a babe in Christ.
Nine months after Todd obeyed Christ, he moved to Austin, Texas to find work. After locating a job and an apartment, he moved his few things into his new place and went for a walk. On his walk, he found the Wonsley church building only 100 yards from his apartment complex. Since he had not learned the issues of the social gospel, he only knew he was looking for a “church of Christ” to attend. It was the providence of God that Todd found a sound work with which to place his membership.
Todd was joyous that he had found the truth; his life now made sense to him and he no longer felt empty. He had his goal in life now: “Fear God and keep his commandments.” But now, he wanted his biological family to join in his happiness by coming to the Lord. In the beginning, they were in-different to the Scriptures; they would politely decline attending services with Todd when he visited them in Wyoming. However, his mother would talk with him about the Bible and was open to discussion. Todd’s teaching seemed harsh to her because her own parents had been devout Methodists. He asked her, “Did your mother want you to follow God? If you learned God’s precepts differed from Methodist creed, would she not want you to still follow God?” This made sense to his mother and helped her change her thinking.
Todd continued to be an example to his family for several years. He tried to make his light always shine just as Paul told Timothy to do (1 Tim. 4:12). After seven years of prayer and Bible discussions with his mother, she obeyed the gospel. She began attending services regularly and continued Bible discussions with Todd whenever possible. Also, previous to her baptism, she had subscribed to the Guardian of Truth magazine. Through her own reading, she had already learned and accepted many Bible precepts.
Todd now yearned for his father to become a Christian. He always made it possible for Todd’s mother to attend services but would not go with her. Six months after Marial, Todd’s mother, obeyed Christ, Todd’s father was diagnosed with renal cancer. It had progressed to such an extent that the doctors did not think he would live longer than six months. While Terry, Todd’s father, was recovering from surgery in a Denver hospital, he had some hallucinating effects from his medications. He became very depressed, so Marial asked Jim Reingrover, preacher for the Westside congregation in Golden, to come to the hospital. Jim visited with Terry for two hours discussing the Scriptures and answering all of Terry’s questions. Jim baptized Terry the following day after Terry received a pass from the hospital. Although Terry’s body was quite weak from surgery, his heart was now rejuvenated and felt no fear for his soul. The Lord would now be with him through this cancer illness.
Although the outlook for Terry’s physical life looked grim, he now had the hope of eternal salvation. The Denver doctors sent him home to Thermopolis. Terry started interferon treatments with little hope of getting better. However, his mind was positive because he was focused on learning as much as he could about the Scriptures. Eight months after Terry’s diagnosis, he had another medical evaluation; these tests revealed no cancer in Terry’s body none at all! The Lord’s providence was again at work! Terry was in remission for a year, but he continued to learn and read the Lord’s precepts. He once said that he was sorry that it took cancer to alert him to his soul’s condition. He wished he had obeyed the Lord without having the illness. His example shined as his worldly friends watched him change. He dropped out of his golf club meetings so he could attend Wednesday night Bible studies, and he stopped socializing at the Elks hall. He told his old friends that they needed to come to the Lord.
In the fall of 1994 Terry began having severe pain again which required more surgery. After many medications and hospital stays, Terry never went back into remission. He spent his last six months at home in a hospital bed. Marial took care of him with the help of home health care nurses until December 4, 1995. He passed over the river in his sleep during the early morning hours.
Terry told one friend during his illness that he had no regrets of getting sick. He knew he had the hope of being with Jesus at the end of his earthly life. He told his physical therapist that he had a special son who had helped him find that truth.
Funeral services for Terry were December 8, 1995 in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Jim Everett and Jim Reingrover officiated using the opportunity to teach the gospel. These were Terry’s wishes.
Terry had one young man that he had been talking to about the Lord before he died. This man would not really listen to what Terry had to say. After he attended the funeral, the man’s wife told Marial, “Terry made him listen today.” Through Terry’s death, many seeds of life were planted.
Guardian of Truth XL: 5 p. 6-7
March 7, 1996