Yesterday I received the tragic news that one of my heroes in life went to be with the Lord. Like the apostle Paul says, he became “absent in body, but present with the Lord”. After crying and mourning for a while, I decided, “wait a minute, he’s happy! and wait another minute, this man truly lived for God!” Was there something this man hadn’t done?
Married a beautiful godly woman who kept him on his toes. Worked incessantly to be the best in his field (water engineering, just google his name). Traveled all over the world. Did everything with excellence and every ounce of work that he labored was done as unto God. In the midst of my mourning heart, I’ve decided to try to also rejoice for a life well lived and count myself blessed to have met a man like him, a mentor and example to learn from.
One of the funny things I remember about Otto is that I called him “Mr.Otto” one time in an e-mail. He was so smart and intelligent that at first he intimidated me and I was very formal in my greetings. He corrected me by replying to my e-mail and said, “please call me Otto. Furthermore, it is grammatically incorrect to say “mister” and then a first name.” I loved his matter-of-factness in that instant! And I was amazed that Dr.Helweg would let *me* just call him “Otto”.
Otto was the only one who could make our office staff scramble like crazy if he was about to lead a meeting. He would come into everyone’s cubicle at 5 ’till and remind you of the time. And by-golly, you dropped whatever you were doing when he did that, grabbed notepad and pen, and ran to where the meeting would take place. For those of you who know what the term “Mosaic-time” means, you know it is unheard of for anything to start on time. If Otto had you scheduled to speak in his meeting agenda, be sure you didn’t go over your carefully allotted time, or he would gently, but firmly cut you off and let you know time was up. Like he did to CESAR one time, when he said, “CARLOS, we’ve got to move on to the next person, your 4 minutes are up.” I almost fell on the floor laughing when his loving wife leaned over, horrified, and whispered in his ear, “his name is CESAR, not CARLOS.”
I loved this 77-year-old Navy-man who was no-nonsense and would get things done in a timely manner and with utmost excellence. He inspired a group of young adults one time by making a case for never separating “secular” work from “holy” work, since, he noted, Adam was given the first job in the garden and that was to work. Therefore do everything you do as if it was for God, and God would be most high exalted when you did it. When he shared, this stiff, military man cried, and I couldn’t believe it! I don’t think I ever saw him cry again, but I realized this was a deep issue in his relationship with God. No wonder God entrusted him with such a genius brain, to use it all for service to God. His words resonated with me and became the building blocks of an important personal move in my own life.
Last year he spent a whole year in Rwanda doing amazing water engineering projects with the government, building wells, fixing old wells, and creating the country’s first-ever water infrastructure. Most men his age would have said, “I’m done. I deserve to rest and retire.” Not Otto. He didn’t find evidence of “retirement” in the Bible, so he kept using his amazing brain to bless individuals, communities, and whole 3rd-world countries. Living Water International will never be the same without him (in my personal, humble opinion). He visited so many countries and lived abroad for so many years, it’d be hard to keep up with all the lives he exponentially impacted. His resume was pages and pages long of honors and awards.
There are a couple of other funny Otto moments where you wouldn’t believe what came out of his mouth, but it was hilarious. I’ll just have to leave that for another time. His home was always open for young adults. He was always open to talk about deep things. He had a dry sense of humour, but to me it was hilarious. I could see right through him, to see the heart of gold that he had for God, when others might have been intimidated with his stiffness, haha. He was all about using your life to impact the Kingdom of God. I want to be like him when I grow up. I want to live my life, whatever that is made up of, to the fullest, using every ounce of what God has entrusted me to live for God. To do even the most mundane, daily tasks with excellence, not because anyone else is watching, but because God is pleased when you do your best. Only then, will God entrust you with bigger things.
These are just a few thoughts on Otto’s life and how it honored God & blessed me. Pray for his lovely wife Virginia, that the loss of her beloved one would not be too much to bear.