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A Good Epitaph to Have: Leroy Columbo

This is a story from my first book, Stories from the Creekbank. It concerns a famous person from Galveston, Texas. The plaque mentioned is at sidewalk level atop the sea wall. As I’ve watched TV reports on the hurricane, I’ve wondered about this plaque.

When Galveston rebuilds, I plan to go see it again.

A Good Epitaph to Have

Have you ever thought about what epitaph you’d like to have? Recently as I walked Galveston’s seawall, I read a plaque:

In memory of Leroy Columbo
1905‑1974
A deaf mute who risked his own life repeatedly to save more
than one thousand lives from drowning in the waters
surrounding Galveston Island.

Looking out over the Gulf of Mexico, I wondered about what kind of man Leroy Columbo was. Evidently, he was a man who exhibited a passion for saving lives. I suspect he was also someone who overcame his physical challenges, and put everything fiber of his being into the life-saving business.
Gazing down the beach, I visualized Leroy Columbo sitting alertly on his lifeguard stand. There he was—by far the most focused lifeguard on Galveston Island. I can picture him sitting on his perch oblivious to the surrounding honking horns and squealing children with his focused gaze surveying the waters for the signs of a swimmer in distress. . .

I can imagine his joy as he handed a rescued child over to a terrified mother—how many changed lives resulted from his live‑saving work! With each saving act, his passion grew deeper to do what he was born to do—saving lives.

As I stood there, I thought about the job of Dry Creek Baptist Camp. Our reason to exist is to be a place where Jesus rescues souls in need of God’s grace. That is to be our focus and passion. Just as Leroy Columbo did, our focus and concentration must be on the job God has called Dry Creek to do: being an environment where God’s presence is felt and lives are changed.

As we see what God has done this summer, we are so thankful. We cannot change one single life—we’ve seen that only God can touch lives. All of the over three hundred fifty salvations this summer are God’s work—not ours. Whether it is a seven-year-old asking Jesus into her tender heart, a rebellious teen repenting and turning to God, a high school senior surrendering to missions, or an adult counselor making a decision to be a better parent, lives are changed by God at Dry Creek.

I’m convinced that now is one of the most important times for presenting the gospel to today’s generation of young people. Never has there been a greater need. . . or a better opportunity. Youth today are not satisfied with worldly things and are sincerely searching for the answer—a personal relationship with God.

. . .And those of us who serve in Dry Creek’s ministry, especially those of you who labor by praying faithfully, are a key part of what God is doing.

Let’s keep our gaze out on the waters as we strive to reach those who need the life‑changing news of how much God loves them. Let’s do whatever it takes to serve and minister to others! What greater privilege is there in life than to be part of a person coming to know Jesus Christ?

Pray often for Dry Creek. . . It’s the most important thing you can do!

“In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Luke 15:10

P.S. After the publication of this story, a Galveston native told of watching Leroy Columbo on his lifeguard stand. He was evidently a larger-than-life character along the beachfront.

To learn more about Stories from the Creekbank, as well as other books by Curt Iles, visit http://creekbank.net

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About Curt Iles

I write to have influence and impact through well-told stories of my Louisiana and African sojourn.

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