June 7th started like any other Sunday. Bryan and Lynn Koch got up and went to church, where Bryan kicked off GT’s newest series with a message honoring first responders. After church, they headed home, had a bite to eat, and then Lynn suggested they go out for a motorcycle ride. The couple headed out later that afternoon to one of their favorite spots… the Pretzel Hut in Lancaster, and chatted about life change and about the new role of grandparent that they’d be assuming later that year.
Shortly after 6pm, Bryan and Lynn turned onto Grange Road, just minutes from home. Moments later, an SUV crossed the center line, hitting them and pinning Bryan and the bike under its front left tire, and killing Lynn. Bryan was taken by helicopter to Reading Hospital, where over the course of the next 51 days, he would undergo 19 surgeries and receive 36 units of blood while he fought for his life. Bryan’s injuries ranged from broken bones to bruising, but the worst was the amputation of his left leg.
Throughout those 51 days, Bryan’s three sons, Ben, Bryce, and Brett, along with the rest of the Koch family and GT, would wait and pray first for Bryan to pull through each procedure, and eventually, to wake up. On August 8th, his 28th wedding anniversary, Bryan finally went home from the hospital, and on Sunday, October 18th, he preached his first sermon back on the GT stage.
Despite doctors’ warning him that he had a long recovery ahead and that he might be ready to be fitted for a prosthetic leg around Christmas of 2016, Bryan miraculously reached his next milestone early and was able to walk out on the stage during this year’s Christmas Eve services.
June 7th was a day that changed my life forever. Before June 7th, my testimony included a story about how I lost sight in one eye while playing minor league baseball. After June 7th, that story changed and began to include how I lost my leg and my wife while doing one of the things I enjoyed most…riding my motorcycle.
When I returned to GT on October 18th, I preached the closing message in our fall series, “EPIC.” The series had been planned long before the accident and it just so happened that the closing message would focus on the story of Moses leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Here they were, the entire nation of Israel, at the foot of the Red Sea with the Egyptian army close behind. They where between a rock and a hard place. And what does God do? He parts the sea, and they walk right through.
Your road led through the sea, your pathway through the mighty waters—a pathway no one knew was there!
If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it. All we need to do is remember what
God did in our past, look for God in our present, and trust God with our future. – Psalm 77:19
Fast forward a bit and you’ll find those same Israelites wandering around in the hot, dry desert, complaining that God hasn’t delivered them into the Promised Land, forgetting God’s past provision. The problem is, they were living in the future instead of seeking God in their present. They couldn’t be patient and wait for God’s plan to unfold, and like the psalmist says in Psalm 106, “but soon they forgot what He had done and did not wait for His plan to unfold. In the desert they gave in to their craving; in the wilderness they put God to the test.”
The Israelites learned the power of forgetting and the problem with sameness. When you’re in a difficult season, it’s all too easy to focus on your circumstances and what’s happening right now. Trust me, I know! The past seven months have undoubtedly been some of the hardest I’ve ever been through. Facing the birth of our first grandson without Lynn, and then going through the holidays without her was hard. And it could have been easy to wonder where God is in all of this.
But there’s importance in remembering, when you’re walking in the deepest of valleys, the things that God has done in your past. And there’s hope and joy in seeking out the ways God is working in your present pain. If biblical hope is confident expectation and biblical joy is intentional, incarnational, and eternal, then being hopeful and joyful in hard circumstances is a choice. We wake up each day and have to make the choice to find hope and joy in the ways God is working in the present, because whether we can see it or not, He has already made a way through it.
Haba Na Haba
There’s a Swahili proverb that uses the phrase “Haba Na Haba,” which translates to “little by little” and has become something of a motto for me through these past few months. In times of blinding pain and grief, in times of great difficulty, when we reach those hard places, God brings us through. We might not see the big picture and we might not know the path, but little by little, He guides us.