Monday, May 28, 2012

In Memoriam

Happy Memorial Day, America! Today we remember all who have journeyed a long road and sacrificed to give us freedom, and that freedom comes in many forms. Since 1776 the men and women of our country have given their lives to ensure that we could be free, but they weren't the first who sacrificed their lives for us. Two thousand years ago, there was another who died to give everyone ultimate freedom....


“One way to get the most out of life is to look upon it as an adventure.” — William Feather

The Bradshaw family. Micaela, Kellie (mom), Wayne (dad), James, John, Natalie, Audrey, Aleaha, and Charis. :)

John Thomas Bradshaw was born on July 15, 1993 in the small, sleepy midwestern town of Chester, IL. His parents, Wayne and Kellie Bradshaw, raised him in a happy home along with seven brothers and sisters. In this household family was important, faith was essential, and daily adventures were encouraged. 

As the second oldest in a large family, John took it upon himself to pave the way of discovery and parental patience-testing for his younger siblings. Along with his older brother James, John began breaking bones and causing panic attacks for his mother at a very young age. His uncle recalls a time that he came to visit the Bradshaw family and noticed a couple of bikes lying aside with only melted rubber for tires. When Kellie was questioned about this phenomenon she explained that James and John wanted to try riding their bikes through fire. :)

John Bradshaw lived his life to the extreme. He was a roof jumping, sports playing, MMA fighting, gun shooting, avid hunting, machine fixing, military joining kind of guy. He took risks, because he could. And why not?

“Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go.” — T.S Eliot

Family friend Sheryl remembers some of John's childhood shenanigans, and they still make her laugh. One day John was standing on the roof of the family barn and there was a trampoline sitting innocently right below it. His mom Kellie walked out of the house and yelled that if he jumped down onto that trampoline, he was "GROUNDED!" John looked at it for a few seconds, and then he looked at his mom. "For how long?" Haha.

Some remember John for his over-the-top antics, and still others close their eyes and remember his winning smile and his servant's heart. If someone's grass needed to be mowed, he mowed it. If something needed to be fixed, he fixed it. Just ask his good friends Zach and Andrea Ingles. The Ingles had purchased a brand new lawn mower one year, and by the next summer it already wasn't working. Zach messed around with it on several occasions, but he just couldn't get the thing to start. They were so mad that their practically new mower was broken, but they didn't want to put any more money into it. Eventually they thought, "The Bradshaw boys know everything...let's have them take a look at it!" 

So one evening James and John came over to see what they could do. They knocked on the door and let Andrea know that they were there, and she went back inside thinking they were going to have to take the entire thing apart. Within 5 minutes they had it started! Andrea came outside and they were both just smiling and laughing. Apparently Zach had put too much oil in it, and they thought it was the funniest thing. Zach never lived that one down, of course. :) 

John and James. Hehe. :)

When I personally think of John the word "dependable" comes to mind. John was definitely a guy you wanted on your side, because you could rely on him for anything. In fact, he saved my wedding day. As a frantic young bride and novice wedding planner, I had completely forgotten until the last minute to find someone who could play the wedding music during our ceremony. Before having a breakdown, Eric and I looked at each other and without hesitation said, "John Bradshaw!" He was only 14 years old at the time, but we knew we could count on him to do this very important job. Sure enough, without a thought John agreed to be our sound man, and our wedding ceremony went off without a hitch. Now I will never be able to watch the tapes of our wedding day without thinking of John - the man behind the music. :)

John and his mom Kellie in the Czech Republic

John's servant heart stretched beyond the borders of his hometown and reached folks halfway around the world. He served on two mission trips to the Czech Republic, where he worked diligently to show God's love in a place where over 99% of the population did not share his own faith. Missionary Mike Young had this to say about John's first experience in the Czech:

"My family and I met John for the first time when he came on his first mission trip to the Czech Republic in 2010. During that mission trip I remember going to Kellie after the first day at English camp and telling her how impressed I was with John. I couldn't help but be impressed with a young man who had a true servant's heart. From teaching children, keeping rowdy boys entertained, sharing his testimony, etc. to tasting Kofola (Czech cola), John had a good attitude and a contagious excitement for life. Even more importantly, John had a contagious excitement for the Lord! As I worked with John, I noticed very quickly that people were drawn to him. I remember telling Kellie that God was going to do amazing things through her son. "

John's second trip to the Czech

Closer to home, John also served at Bright Life Farms, an organization in Princeton, Kentucky dedicated to assisting developmentally and mentally challenged adults. Pastor Dennis Morgan who accompanied John on these trips shared that he watched John's heart melt for these people as he helped and encouraged them. Many of the folks that John had the opportunity to work with were individuals with Down's Syndrome. Little did John know that soon someone very close to him would have an extra magic chromosome as well - his baby sister Aleaha. 

Holding sister Aleaha. She's ridiculously cute, by the way. :)

When someone has a truly good character, it doesn't take a handful of stories to convince anyone of it. It exudes from them. While close friends of John were quick to share their memories of him, those who only had the chance to meet him for a brief time wanted to share their stories as well. Melissa W is the cousin of John's fiancé Emily, and she shared her experience meeting John for the first and last time:

"I only had the pleasure of meeting John one time, at my little sister's wedding. (He and Emily arrived at the reception, and I immediately made a beeline for them, knowing that I just HAD to meet this guy - and what a guy he was.) I was so impressed by him even before I actually met him in person. I had gotten to know John only through Facebook and from what I had heard from my cousin. When I was finally able to meet him, he was so engaging. While we talked, he scooped up my month old baby girl and held her and cooed and played with her like it was second nature for him. We talked about his family and smiled together...I learned more about him and became more impressed by him every second. John was different. Good different. If I had known that this was the only time I was going to have the pleasure of being in his presence, I may have never let him leave...."

There are so many more testimonies that could be shared, and there are countless other examples of ways and places where John gave of his time and energy. He poured many hours into the new Baptist church building recently erected in his hometown. Local businessmen nicknamed John and his brother James "The Sons of Thunder" as they worked alongside them. They simply couldn't get over what diligent and hard workers they were.

In December of 2011, John was sworn into the United States Air Force. It was no surprise that a young man with his sense of adventure and love of country would want to serve his nation. And in true John fashion, he wanted to be right in the action by training to be an aerial gunner. He genuinely enjoyed his time in the service and took on each new challenge as he had always done in life: fearlessly. 

John Bradshaw lived an incredibly full 18 years on this earth. He had so many friends. He touched so many lives, and he is continuing to do so. Missionary Mike Young had more to say about our brother and friend:

"God has done amazing things through John. AND...He continues to do amazing things through John! During his life here on earth, John touched the hearts of countless people including the Czechs who he got to know while he was here. Our prayer is that many people will accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior...Our family is honored that we had the opportunity to get to know John and to serve the Lord alongside him!!" 

John was also a man who was madly in love. He and his fiancé Emily were to be married this October.

We honor John and celebrate his life today not because he was perfect, but for who he was always striving to be: a man after God's own heart. When I think of all of the good things that John did with his life, and compare it to mine, I fall dismally short. I've never gone across the globe on a mission trip, joined the air force, served at Bright Life farms, or even run the soundboard at anyone's wedding. Compared to John, I'm practically a bad guy. 

What may surprise some of you is that John considered himself a bad guy. John was a committed believer in Jesus Christ, and he knew that the Bible says, "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," and "...the wages of sin is death...." He knew that there was nothing he could do to change the fact that he had sinned and that the punishment for that sin, even the smallest one, would sever his relationship with God. No amount of Sundays spent in a church service, hours spent volunteering, or money given to a charity could make up for the fact that he had ever sinned against God. 

The reason why John was so willing to go above and beyond was not because he thought he could fix his previous mistakes. It was because he knew that God had given him a gift he couldn't ever repay, and part of accepting that gift was receiving a changed heart that wanted to do good things. What is the gift? It's eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord. 

John didn't spend his time trying to appear holy to other people. His faith was part of him, not something that he did. He knew that compared to God, our "righteousness is as filthy rags." He helped the mentally disabled and the poor only because, when he was too poor to help himself, God helped him first. 
Many of us spend our lives trying to do good things in order to hope that someday we make it to Heaven. What John understood is that there is nothing you or I could do to earn freedom from our sins. The true freedom that I referenced at the beginning of this post, is freely available to you only through Jesus Christ. 

In Romans 10:9-10, the Bible says, "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confess, resulting in salvation." In order to receive the gift of salvation you must first believe that Jesus was who he said he was. He was God sent as a man to live a perfect life and to die on our behalf. God raised him from the dead, proving that all he said was true. If you truly believe that, then confess it out loud in a prayer. Ask God to forgive you of your sins. Receive the gift that Jesus freely gave. Ask him to come into your heart and be your savior and Lord.

John traveled around the world to share this message, because he wanted others to have the same freedom that he had experienced. Maybe you still have some questions or you are unsure about how John's faith dramatically impacted his life. If so, please do not hesitate to contact me or Eric. We would be glad to answer any questions you have. :)

We celebrate John's life, and his family and friends have peace, knowing that he is spending eternity in Heaven. John lived his entire life with that hope, and THAT is what made him the young man he was. It caused him to live fearlessly, give tirelessly, and love endlessly. When your heart and life are filled with God's love, everything changes. I am thankful to have that same hope. Many, many of my friends and relatives have that hope. Do you?


Katie said...

I didn't personally know John but I know a lot of people that did and speak so highly of him! It's also so encouraging to hear you share the good news of salvation with the blogger world :)

Melissa W. said...

Love this!!

John was amazing. Your memorial post is amazing. I hope you plan on sharing this with his family...Emily included.

Thanks for letting me be a part. Truly a great message can be learned from John's life.

Bravo Adrien!!

Anonymous said...

Adrien you did a great job sharing John's story. I pray many people will see and hear his story! April R

Cassie said...

amazing post adrien!
i don't even know the kid, but my heart feels good just reading this.
what an amazing kid <3


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