My Friend Roland

My long-time friend and fellow laborer for Christ and His kingdom, Roland Niednagel, passed away yesterday morning (Christmas morn).

Roland Niednagel
Roland Niednagel

I visited Roland a few days ago and went to see him again yesterday (Christmas)—only to find out that he checked out of his temporary and restricting accommodations on earth, and moved into the presence of Jesus and the spacious and glorious accommodations of heaven. I will miss him.

I first met Roland in 1964,  just months after I became a Christian and was recently on the staff of Campus Crusade (now called “Cru”) at Northwestern University.  Roland was a freshman at Wheaton College, a mere 17 or 18 year-old kid. He later transferred to Florida State University where he played football and was active in student ministry. He went on to study at Dallas Theological Seminary, followed by youth ministry, church planting, and pastoring. I was privileged to walk with him over the years as he led churches in Portland, Oregon, Danville, California, and Ventura, California. He was a board member during my years as president of Christian Associates, and we engaged in ministry together in Switzerland, Germany, Holland and Brazil.

On one trip Roland, Patricia and I sang 50s and 60s songs together to pass the time while driving from city to city as we trained pastors in Brazil. One of my favorite memories was the time we were doing an evening training in a huge church in Recife, Brazil. A bat that had been circling the inside perimeter of the church suddenly navigated right at Roland who was speaking. I had been wondering when he would finish and it would be my turn. Uunnerved, Roland suddenly announced, “Here’s Linus!” We laughed many times as we remembered the “bat from hell.” Then there was the time that I was sick and Roland’s tooth fell out just before we were scheduled to speak. Patricia stepped up and covered the session for us…she was great.

I will cherish my friendship with Roland, and so many memories along the way. I remember so much about our talks, ministry, laughter, and prayer, in so many places and in so many circumstances. I remember his impact and teaching. I remember his heart of “favor-grace.”

Then I remember his last days. Even after the brain tumor and surgery, he trusted Jesus. I remember him gripping my hand, and with Patricia’s coaching saying, “I love you.” I remember his smile, even as he was losing his speech. I remember his stare indicating some recognition even after his speech was gone. Then, I remember his cough and labored breathing while sleeping, as he was losing the battle against another bout of pneumonia.

I knew Roland up-close and personal. I know that in spite of being abandoned by an alcoholic father when young, Roland found a heavenly father who he turned to over and over and over again. I know that his mother was a godly woman who raised four boys on her own and who was proud of Roland. I know that Jesus was Roland’s anchor and that Scripture was his guide. I know he cared passionately about training pastors and leaders.

Roland was the one who encouraged me to consider Global Training Network with the words, “You have a lot ahead of you, more than you realize.” Because of him, Sharon and I shifted to GTN and training pastors.

Roland served Jesus with everything he had. He fought the good fight, he finished the race, he kept the faith, and he is truly deserving of the crown of righteousness that was laid up for him. The trustworthy saying of 2 Timothy 2:11-12 applies to him:

If we died with him,

we will also live with him;

If we endure,

we will also reign with him.

Patricia’s announcement:

Dear Precious Friends,

Roland left this earth at 9:26am, Christmas morning, and was ushered into the presence of the Savior he loved so dearly.  The hospital called me shortly after 1:00 this morning, and I had the privilege of singing to him, reading from the Word, and telling him over and over what he meant to me.  He passed very peacefully, and as he took his last breath I was telling him how much I adore him.  Oh, I’ll miss him with every fiber of my being, but also feel so privileged to be his wife.  God is so good!

At this time, the service is scheduled for Saturday, January 5, at Bible Fellowship Church.  I am hoping to have it at 11:00am that day, but will find out tomorrow if the church calendar is free at that time. I’ll let you know in a follow-up email. If you plan to fly here for the service, please let me know, and I can give you a code that should greatly reduce the cost of a ticket.

I’ll express more later, but please know you have my heartfelt thanks for the many ways you have blessed both of us these past months.  May you have a blessed Christmas, as you celebrate the One who is worthy of all our praise.

With much love,

4 thoughts on “My Friend Roland

  1. Linus,

    Very warm greetings to you from Arabia. I am sorry for your loss, Linus. I know this has been a painful season for you and Sharon. Roland was an example to us all. His life was one well spent, as you wrote about. Peace to you my friend and brother.

  2. The loss of my dear friend Rolland leaves me satisfied knowing the state perfect peace he has now, but sadness at the personal loss. I served along side Rolland in Portland, Oregon, and years later had the privilege to coach along side him during his transition from pastoring a local church to serving a global community of pastors and leaders. He finished well.

  3. Grateful to have worked on staff with Roland and briefly as his secretary while he was in Portland. God used him to impact my life in several specific ways. In the grace of God, he is now home. I am praying for Patricia and the grown children. How precious that his wife was there to bid him farewell as he crossed the threshold. Love in Christ from Portland.

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