“Success is not measured by what you accomplish but by the opposition you have encountered, and the courage with which you have maintained the struggle against overwhelming odds.” - Orison Swett Marden
For Bryan and Lynn Koch, June 7, 2015, began just like any other Sunday. He had been the lead pastor of Glad Tidings (GT) Church, Reading, Pennsylvania, for more than 25 years. Before being called into ministry, Bryan was a professional baseball player in the Chicago White Sox organization before being hit with a 90 mile-per-hour fastball that blinded him in his left eye and ended his baseball career.
Each year, GT Church honors the “first responders” in the Reading area. Representatives from law enforcement, fire and ambulance services are honored for their commitment and sacrifice to the community during a Sunday service, which also occurred on the morning of June 7, 2015.
Bryan and Lynn loved to ride their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. That evening they took a relaxing ride to get some ice cream. A mile from their home they came to a small turn in the road — a turn they had taken a thousand times — and just after 6 p.m. their lives changed forever.
Coming around that bend at just the same time, and into their lane, was a drunk driver who was four times over the legal limit and hit them head-on. Lynn was instantly killed. Her funeral was held a few days later in the very church where approximately one month earlier she was ordained as an Assemblies of God minister. Evie and I joined several thousand others along with Koch’s three sons and one daughter-in-law who was expecting their first grandchild. All of our hearts were broken.
Sadly, Bryan could not attend his wife’s funeral. For days, his own life-threatening injuries left the medical specialists unsure if he would survive. In the morning of that fateful day, Bryan honored the first responders who later that same evening helped save his life.
His injuries were extensive. His hips were fractured, his pelvis crushed, his liver was lacerated and he had a punctured kidney. Paramedics pumped his chest and breathed into him to keep him alive as he was helicoptered to the hospital. There, doctors pumped 36 units of blood into him as blood poured from his wounds, external and internal.
For nearly a month he was in a medically induced coma. At first doctors thought he might lose his voice due to the trauma his vocal cords sustained from the tubes put down his throat. He had to have his left leg amputated. After 51 days in the Reading Hospital and 13 days at a rehabilitation center, during which time he had 19 surgeries, he returned home on Aug. 8, his 28th wedding anniversary.
But this story is not simply about Bryan going through this horrific ordeal. It is also about the courage and faith that enabled him and his family to face this impossible adversity. Just before the end of the spring semester at the University of Valley Forge, Bryan shared his story during a chapel service. Those of us who heard him will never forget it.
Whether in a sacred or secular setting, Bryan is quick to say that it is his faith in God that is bringing him through this incredible challenge. And if people have a problem with that, he actually has very little to say because that is the reason for his story. Even the doctors unapologetically have called his recovery a miracle.
During chapel he framed his remarks around three ideas: 1) when God doesn’t fix it, then our thoughts must be fixed on God; 2) when God doesn’t fix it, then He will bring you through it; and 3) when God doesn’t fix it, He helps us little by little.
Bryan’s faith in God is helping him face his new normal. And his example inspires our faith to face whatever comes our way.
Think about it.
Dr. Don Meyer is President of the University of Valley Forge, Phoenixville. Responses can be e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Official page: Facebook.com/DrDonMeyer; Follow on Twitter: @DrDonMeyer; Archives at: valleyforge.edu/thinkaboutit.