Experiencing Tragedy, But Choosing Gratitude

October 5, 2017

Tom and Becky Wetzel, former members of Galilee who now live in North Carolina, have been through what no parent wants to face. In 2016, their 25 year old daughter Melanie was killed with her boyfriend Andrew in a traffic accident on a wet road in Pennsylvania.

Her memorial service was held at Galilee and it was a big one, because Melanie had many friends in this area. A recent graduate of UVA, she worked as a teacher’s aide at Loudoun County Public Schools, helping autistic students.

But before that, she was a little girl in our Sunday school classes.

Becky and Tom Wetzel with daughters Melanie and Julia and son-in-law Matt. 

When the Wetzels arrived at Galilee in 1986, we were a small church meeting in the original sanctuary. Melanie was just a baby and her older sister Julia started in the Sunday school class for four year olds (which Becky soon volunteered to teach).

“We made immediate friends in this intimate church and we grew with it,” Becky says. “Our daughters grew their spiritual roots by attending Sunday school and VBS. The church expanded into the new building and many young families joined, and Melanie grew and went through the confirmation process. Her trust in God became stronger.”

Melanie’s favorite Bible verse was Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Becky with her daughter, Melanie.

“The Wetzel family is living proof that being in Christian fellowship can carry you through life’s ups and downs,” says Becky.  “This in turns teaches us how to help others in need. Galilee set many good examples for our children to see and emulate.”

“Galilee has been a big part of our lives. It was a no-brainer and a gift to be able to give back and help support the church.”

And give back the Wetzels have. Tom and Becky made a generous gift of insurance money they received when Melanie died. In a development that ought to please the little girl who was in Sunday school classes, who became the young woman who taught special needs students, this money was used to repaint and revitalize Galilee’s nursery and classroom spaces. Children will have a better space to learn, laugh, play, and grow because of Melanie’s life and the generosity of her parents.

Fresh paint, new furniture, new books, and new toys allow Galilee to reclaim and revamp space vacated by our former tenants.

“We will be forever grateful for the way the church surrounded us with love,” says Becky. “It made even the worst day bearable.”

“We would like Melanie to be remembered as having a big heart, a great smile, and as a person who chose to work with students with autism…a special person working with special people.”

Melanie Donna Wetzel, 1990-2016.