This morning we celebrated the life of an amazing man at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church. Bryan Clark was 19 years old when he stormed the beach at Iwo Jima as a marine. He was there when five marines raised the flag over Iwo Jima, a moment that was later memorialized forever. Bryan was one of 3 men from his unit who returned uninjured from Iwo Jima. There were 165 marines in Bryan's unit, 80 were killed. Nearly 7,000 Americans and 20,000 Japanese soldiers died at Iwo Jima.
Another amazing thing about Bryan is that he served as a volunteer with Methodist Hospital's Auxiliary for 24 years. Every Thursday for 24 years he and his wife Reba would run the gift shop at Methodist Hospital.
I knew Bryan at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church as the friendliest greeter ever. He greeted me the first time that I attended the church and later when I served as an Intern he served as my Intern Committee Chair. He encouraged me, supported me, and helped to make me a better pastor. Bryan taught me that one person can make a difference because he made a difference in so many people's lives. There are so many people who attribute their membership at Oak Lawn United Methodist Church to Bryan Clark. He made people feel at home and he noticed when you were gone. He made everyone feel welcome.
After the celebration of Bryan's life this morning, I took Madeleine to her basketball game. Madeleine's team was down 0-12 and in 2 quarters only one shot had been made towards the basket by her team. I was feeling pretty hopeless for Madeleine's team when their star player came racing into the gym. She had been at another event. This one player propelled Madeleine's team forward so that by the end of the game they were ahead 17-12. One person can make a difference.
As I listened to the words that were said about Bryan this morning I looked around at the congregation, filled with people who had become a part of the church because of Bryan. One person had made the difference in welcoming them so that they wanted to become a part of the church.
One person can make a difference.