KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Friends and Family in East Tennessee are mourning the loss of 45-year-old Stephen Troell. He was killed in Iraq where he lived with his family for 15 years. He served as an aid teaching English to people there. He was serving with the Temple Baptist Church in Knoxville.
His church community remembers him as a great man who laid his life down for others. People describe him as a man of compassion, dedication and service.
Tennessee Representative Tim Burchett said Troell had a genuine love for Iraq and the people.
"He loved Iraq, he would always post about it being a beautiful place to live," Burchett said.
Before moving to Iraq, Troell spent part of his life in Knoxville. He attended and graduated from The Crown College -- a Christian school.
His faith background and education led him to move to a foreign country thousands of miles away from home.
"It shows dedication to folks like him. He was out there to make a difference. And he did," Troell said. "The Lord took him home a little sooner than we liked."
Aside from being a teacher, Troell was a husband and a father. He and his family were building their life in the Middle East.
"In his heart, he was there to save souls," he said.
Overseas tensions and conflicts did not stop Troell from working in a foreign land. He endured and stood his ground.
"I think he knew the risk. And, he was willing to take it. And I salute him for that," he said.
Knoxvillians back home, saluting and admiring him for his biggest sacrifice -- his life.
"I think he knew the risk. And he was willing to take it. And I salute him for that," he said.
According to a statement from Troell's wife, Jocelyn Troell, the family is currently safe and planning to return back to the U.S in the next few days.
In a statement, they said: "Your prayers, love, and kind words have sustained us as God walks us through the valley of the shadow of death. Stephen often quoted the words of two Moravian young men who gave their lives for the cause. We echo them again: “May the Lamb that was slain receive the reward of his suffering.”
The U.S State Department is currently working with the family. In a statement, they said: "We are closely monitoring local authorities’ investigation into the cause of death. We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss and stand ready to provide all appropriate consular assistance. Out of respect to the family during this difficult time, we have no further comment."
Troell's alma mater is taking donations from the public to assist his wife and family. You can help by visiting TheCrownFoundation.com.
Church leaders announced people can pay their respects to Troell on Sunday, Nov. 27, from noon to 5 p.m. at Berry Lynnhurst Funeral Home at 2300 Adair Drive in Knoxville. The family will hold a memorial service for him on Monday, Nov. 28, at Temple Baptist Church in Powell at 7 p.m. They will also receive friends that day from 2 to 4 p.m. All other arrangements will be private for the family.
"Thank you for your continued prayer and love as we navigate these difficult days," the family said.