STREATOR, Ill. (BP) – An Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief volunteer working at Streator Baptist Camp was killed Tuesday, May 9, when a tree he was cutting down fell on him. Wayne Laechelt of Sugar Grove was working with a fellow IBDR volunteer to cut the tree when it fell across his path. Laechelt was treated on the scene by emergency medical personnel for almost an hour. Further examination will be conducted to determine the exact cause of death.
“Our hearts are broken over Wayne’s passing,” said Illinois Baptist State Association Executive Director Nate Adams. “We as a Baptist family join Wayne’s wife, Bev, and the family in their grief.”
The Laechelts have been active members of Illinois Baptist churches, serving in multiple capacities at Orchard Valley Baptist Church in Aurora and for a decade at Crosspointe Church in Oswego. After Wayne’s retirement as an educator, the couple were trained for service in disaster relief. They joined many callouts for volunteers over 11 years, including service in Mandeville, La., following Hurricane Ida in 2021 and other catastrophic storms.
The Laechelts were instrumental in the Southern Baptist response to the mass shooting at the Highland Park Independence Day Parade in 2022. 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.
After years of training and service in response to hurricanes, tornados and floods, Wayne drew on his gifts as a teacher and trained new IBDR volunteers. He was highly respected for his recovery skills and his warm and comforting response to disaster victims.
“This is a tragedy that is difficult to process, concluding a life so devoted to the Lord and to service,” Adams said, in a message that resonates with the state’s more than 400 trained IBDR volunteers. “We are leaning on the Lord and trusting in Him, grateful for the eternal life that Wayne has in Jesus.”