By Ryan Peterson

I didn’t really know Byron. I knew his daughter Sarah, as we had attended Concordia University Wisconsin together years ago. I knew Jason, Sarah’s husband. I knew that Byron was a faithful church worker and had been for many years. Earlier this summer, I heard of his cancer as I wandered onto the St. Luke website in preparation for our move to the Ann Arbor area.

I didn’t really know Byron, but I certainly knew of him.

About six years ago, the church where I used to serve was beginning a search for a new Youth Ministry Director. As I began to make contacts with people around the country, many suggested that I “talk with Byron Porisch.” A handful of people suggested that Byron was the guy who would know who to talk with, because he had probably mentored and trained by example the kind of leaders we were looking for in our ministry. Though I didn’t know him, I knew he had made a tremendous impact in the lives of countless people.

But I didn’t realize to what extent, until last Saturday. As I sat with hundreds of others to celebrate his life and his homecoming with the Lord, I found myself mourning in a way I had never experienced for someone I didn’t really know. As the service began, I thought: why am I getting choked up? Why is this hitting me?

As a pastor, I’ve led and preached at many funerals over the years. I’ve buried people my own age and even college students. I’ve sat with grieving families who questioned God’s existence in the midst of their tragedy and loss.

But I didn’t even know Byron.

Then it struck me: Byron lived by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, with an intentional eye toward people and eternity. His Celebration of Life on November 23 awakened in me once again the impact of such a life. From the processional hymn – “Lift High the Cross” (a beautiful statement of truth and a reminder of where Byron placed his trust) – to the opening Scripture verses woven with “I Know that My Redeemer Lives,” the first 15 minutes of the service drew me to the comfort of Christ. Every musical piece pointed everyone gathered to Christ alone. Pastor Rossow allowed the powerful Word of God to comfort, sustain, and provide an unshakable hope in Christ.

To actually hear Byron’s voice through previous sermons he had preached made the entire experience unforgettable. God used the leaders of St. Luke – all of them – in a mighty way to celebrate, comfort, and encourage every person in attendance. Byron lived by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, with an intentional eye toward people and eternity. How might our world, and our own lives, be different if all of us were to do the same?

As I drove home on Saturday, my heart was filled with joy and hope because of the gifts Christ gave to Byron, which led Byron to share them with all of us. May we also live our lives with an intentional eye toward people and eternity.