A Valentine’s Day we’ll never forget

JosephIt’s time to tell the story, a story we hoped and prayed would turn out differently. On the 14th of February, 2008, in a secluded hospital at the foot of the hilly Ardennes of southern Belgium, our dear friend, Joseph Crapanzano passed away after a two-year battle against cancer. Many of you, at our request, prayed for him and his family during this ordeal. I (Blair) spent a good number of hours on the road back and forth to his bedside in the last weeks. For any of you who’ve been through a similar experience, you know how difficult and emotional a journey of this nature can be.

Joseph was our former landlord in 1997 when we were working in church planting in the city of Ciney. Early on, we sensed that ours was to be a unique friendship although we only rented from him for a little more than a year’s time. And so over a ten-year period, we saw God show us on repeated occasions that it was no “happenstance” that the Crapanzano family became our close friends. Not only did they come to visit us in Louisiana during their annual holidays in the summer of 1999 while we were traveling and sharing our vision for Europe, but Joseph and I would share an almost weekly phone call as well. It seems that we discussed every topic under the sun; Joseph was an insatiably curious person.

Our talks often led to spiritual things and Joseph asked me for a Bible during one of those chats. After having read it through entirely at a swift pace, we discussed faith issues together for hours on end. He also mentioned that what he read made him troubled about his soul and his priorities. My friend once told me that he was convinced that God had sent me to him. And he professed faith in Christ.

Joseph’s wife and daughters asked me to speak at his funeral and the Lord permitted me to deliver a eulogy that really seemed to resonate with the 200 or so townsfolk who were there. I’m so thankful for this opportunity to issue a clarion call for trust in Christ as the path to life to-the-full both now and in the hour of death. And I’m thankful to have known, as a true friend, one of the nicest guys ever.

walking and talking

Taken during the Louisiana visit in August 1999 showing Blair and Joseph “discussing every topic under the sun.”