Sicklerville UMC has held a golf tournament benefit in his memory for the past decade (this year’s tournament is July 31), raising about $35,000 for the camp. His name is now on the caretaker’s house at camp. But who was Matt Warchol? Ruth Warchol Coleman was gracious enough to share his story.
The name itself may not be familiar to the general public…but to those who knew and loved Matt, it will never be forgotten.
Matt spent 10 crucial years, from age six to 16, in St. Mary’s orphanage. The rejection of love and the horror of this place led him to be a teen alcoholic. For many years he struggled with his identity, and remained lost in the sea of his addiction. One day, by the sheer grace of God, he reached out to A.A.
This wonderful organization helped him to conquer his drinking, but he was still groping to fill a void in his life. The Lord had his eye on him and knew the plans he had for him. It was at this point in his life that I met Matt. Being a Christian all my life, I recognized the Godliness in this man, even though it had not yet come to fruition. It didn’t take long for us to fall in love. We married shortly thereafter, and our life together was happy and wonderful, but something was missing. Matt had been raised a devout Catholic, and though he went through the motions of ‘religion’ he had never met Jesus Christ on a personnel level. I prayed daily for him to come to the Lord , but he just seemed to sink deeper into his empty faith. Ten years later, in 1996, my son-in –law invited him to a Promise Keepers event. He wasn’t sure whether he should go or not, and asked my advice. Praying under my breath, I simply said that it was his choice. It was very hard to do that, when deep down inside, I wanted to shout, “Yes…yes…of course you should go!!” ….but shoving Christianity down someone’s throat is not the answer….I preferred to trust the Lord with this one! Well, he decided to go , mainly because of his close relationship with Rick, our son-in-law. I spent the entire week-end in prayer and fasting.
That Sunday evening, Matt came home a changed man! I saw the change,( that only Christ can make ) immediately! He was full of love and peace and joy….and his face was almost visibly glowing!
My prayers had been answered! From that point on, he just couldn’t get enough of the Lord! He was on fire for Jesus! He began to attend Sicklerville United Methodist church with me….and became involved in many activities there. He had made friends with several of the men of the church, and got into an assortment of ministries. One time, he took on a fund raising activity, and , although he tried so hard , it wasn’t very successful. He felt so down about this and that he had let the Lord down….but he continued to try. In September of 1997, Matt was diagnosed with a lung tumor. The doctors had decided on surgery, assuring me that it would be just fine and they would be able to easily remove the tumor. On January 7th, 1998, the surgery was performed successfully and he was doing great! I was so thankful and relieved. He was due to be discharged on the 14th. Every time I was there to visit him, he was going around the unit witnessing to the other patients, and when he finally sat down with me, he asked me to pray with him for each of those dear souls and their families.
I remember when two of his Christian friends phoned me after they went to minister to Matt in the hospital….they were awe-struck by Matt’s ministering to them instead! Matt wanted to memorize as much scripture as possible, and would remind me each day to bring his verse cards in. On Jan. 13th, I was looking forward to taking him home the next day….when, at 4am, the phone rang. The doctor was calling to tell me that Matt had passed away an hour earlier. This couldn’t be!!! There must be some mistake!!! ….I was taking him home today!!!……but, the Lord decided to ‘take him home’ instead.
I was numb, and totally devastated. Through the oceans of tears and hazy days that followed, I wrestled with the “WHY” factor. Why him, why now, why would God choose to take him from me?
Matt had a good last two years of his life. He was truly loved, not only by me, but my daughters , his grandchildren, his church, his friends, and his sister. He was a letter carrier for 34 years. When he retired in 1996, serving the last eight yrs in Marlton, NJ, he took a part–time job as a driver for the senior citizens in Marlton. They all loved him. He even saved one of his rider’s life once.
Every one of them attended his funeral service. The line at that service was un-ending from the time the church doors opened, until they closed. Matt was very meek and humble. He never felt that he was ‘special’ ….he never knew just how much he was loved by everyone who had the privilege of knowing him.
In the spring after his death, I received an amazing phone call from Mark Riether. He and a group of the men at church wanted to hold a golf tournament in Matt’s memory. He was calling to ask if I would mind. Mind? I was ecstatic and thrilled at the thought! Mark said that he knew that Matt loved to golf, as a matter of fact, Matt had asked him several times to golf with him, but he could never go due to previous engagements. Mark also knew that Matt had tried so hard to raise money for various causes at the church, so it occurred to him that a fund-raising golf tournament made sense. Now to name a recipient of these funds. SUMC had its children attending camp each year at Delanco.
It was a wonderful, beautiful place for kids to spend time in the great outdoors and learn of the Lord at the same time. Over the years, the camp had lost some supporters, and needed various supplies and repairs. A perfect recipient! Especially since Matt had attended, each year as a child, a camp for the residents of St. Mary’s. He had some great memories there, and it was always very dear to his heart.
Yes….this would be the perfect beneficiary of this tournament! Mark and Jack Mingle, and several others, worked diligently at this venture. The first ‘annual’ Matthew J. Warchol memorial golf tournament was a tremendous success! Since that time, each year, God has blessed this event greatly.
The thousands of dollars raised over the years has been a blessing to Delanco Camp. Matt has achieved in death, what he had tried so hard to do in life.
It blesses my heart that this tournament is still thriving. I know that the Lord, in his mercy, allows Matt to look down on this event, and see how very much he was loved and is still remembered and revered as a true servant of God.
God bless you always,
Ruth Warchol Coleman
For more information about the 10th Annual Matthew J. Warchol Golf Tournament, visit http://www.sumcnj.com/matt-warchol-golf-tournament.