Bryan Koch, the lead pastor of GT Church in West Lawn, Pennsylvania, lost the sight in his left eye, and later lost his left leg and lost the ring from his left ring finger in a tragic accident, but through the Hope of the Cross, Koch says he’s all right.
In the second Story of Hope testimony given during the Thursday morning Communion service in the Anaheim Arena at General Council, Koch followed Dick Foth’s call during the Influence Conference to tell your story to impact lives for Christ.
In his youth, Koch lost sight in his left eye when he was hit by a 90-mph fastball while playing for the Chicago White Sox. “God never fixed my eye,” Koch admitted, “but He did fix my calling . . . . I never dreamed I would ever become an Assemblies of God pastor!”
Even though the loss of sight was a difficult, but transformational moment in Koch’s life, it would pale in comparison with what took place on June 7, 2015.
Koch and his wife of nearly 28 years, Lynn, were coming home from a relaxing motorcycle ride — one of their favorite hobbies. A mile from home, a drunk driver crossed the center line and struck the couple head on, killing Lynn instantly and leaving Bryan close to death.
In a medically induced coma for nearly three weeks, Koch wasn’t expected to live. His hips were fractured, his pelvis was crushed, his liver was lacerated, and a kidney was punctured.
Miraculously, Koch survived. Even though he has no memory of the accident, he does clearly remember when his wife’s sister broke the news to him — Lynn was dead and he his left leg had been amputated.
“My room became the ‘war room’ before the movie,” Koch says. “I had sticky notes all over the hospital room with prayers and sayings. One note I remember was from my niece wrote, ‘If God brings you to it, He’ll bring you through it.’”
Koch admits that dealing with the loss of so much wasn’t easy. He spent 51 days in the hospitals, underwent 19 surgeries, had 36 pints of blood in transfusions, and the day he went home from the hospital would have been his and Lynn’s 28th anniversary.
“The first day I was home, I cried,” Koch said. “I’m Pennsylvania-Dutch – you know what that means, we don’t cry.” Koch also had many questions for God as he felt the full load of the loss.
“It’s not wrong to question God; it’s just wrong to live there,” Koch said.
Koch went on to share how God delights in everything about us, whether we see something as good or bad. Earlier Koch had shared his salvation experience when he was a junior in high school. His mother caught him coming in late that night — he was in trouble. She demanded to know where he had been.
“I told her I was at church,” Koch says. “She said, ‘I’ll give you one more chance to tell me the truth!’” That night his mom would rededicate her life to Christ.
Prior to Koch’s testimony, the scroll of ministers who had passed away since the last General Council was run. Lynn’s name was on it — something Koch said he never imagined he would see, but because of the Hope of the Cross, he has hope.
“It’s OK to be all right,” Koch said. “Not every day is wonderful, but it’s OK to be all right.”
General Superintendent George O. Wood said that prior to Koch’s tragic accident, GT Church had an attendance of 3,000. However, following the accident and the months since, the church has grown to 4,000 as people have witnessed a life devoted to God despite the circumstances.
“I had a veteran ask me, ‘Where’s the miracle? You lost your wife and you lost your leg in one second!” Koch said. “I told him, ‘I’m talking to you, that’s the miracle.’”
Then Koch shared a key to his being OK. Forgiveness. During the court process, he was able to address the young man who had struck them and spoke to him about the power of choice. Through his decision to drink and drive, the young man had denied Koch and his family so many things through Lynn’s death. However, then Koch explained that he and his family had also made a choice: to forgive him.
“It’s one thing to understand forgiveness, hear about forgiveness, experience forgiveness, and preach forgiveness,” Koch said, “it’s another thing to give it. The only way is through Jesus and the power of the Cross — I thank God for that.”