Just over a year ago, nobody outside of the small town of Humboldt, Saskatchewan knew the name Sean Brandow. How does someone from a community with a population of 6,000 people become a spiritual guide to a nation of 37-million?
Millions of people across Canada were left in a state of shock and confusion last year when tragedy struck a group of young men after their team bus collided with a truck. Sixteen members of the Humboldt Broncos hockey team tragically died on April 6, 2018. The Humboldt Broncos were not known by many people outside of the communities they played in. Today, the team, community, and all families involved are in the hearts and minds of people around the world.
In a moment, Brandow, the team chaplain, was forced into a spotlight to help a nation make sense of what happened.
During a vigil streamed around the world, the team’s pastor Sean Brandow delivered a powerful message. Brandow has been honest about the confusion he is feeling. He was not afraid to ask the question so many others are asking—“Where is God?” In the midst of his own grief, he has been a man able to bring hope.
MORE THAN A MOTTO
In his speech, Brandow shared the team motto painted on their bus: “Character Determines Success.”
How is a man who is thrust into the darkest moments able to withstand the pressure? How can a man who is experiencing loss at such a deep level able to have the strength to help others?
Character is most often revealed in the most difficult seasons. I believe he has shown incredible character in the midst of tragedy. His speech gives us a glimpse of where this character comes from:
“I told my church this this morning, I’ve never felt so empty in my life. I needed to be reminded of Jesus, I needed to hear from God in this darkness. I didn’t have anything to give because I wasn’t full of hope myself. As the verse ends, you know, may God fill you with that. God can fill you up so that you can be a blessing to somebody else, but if you don’t have hope, you can’t be a blessing to anyone else.”
Brandow’s character has been shaped through his own relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Everything invested in his relationship with God has prepared him for this moment.
Here is the thing—we all have our own sphere of influence, we’ve been entrusted with people in our lives that are watching and listening to what we have to say.
Many Canadian Christians believe their faith is being marginalized. This is why the story of Sean Brandow is even more remarkable. I know his faith has inspired me and many other men, and gave us an example of how we should be ready to share about God’s work in our lives, whether it’s one person, or a thousand.
I admire the moments of transparency he has shared. During the vigil following the accident, he said this when describing what it was like to be at the hospital:
“The only part of that Psalm 23 that was just read, for about 15 hours that I heard in my head was: Even though I walk through the valley of darkness. That’s all I heard. That’s it. That’s it. That’s all that went through my head, this is it, this is the valley of death, this is the valley of darkness. And all I saw was darkness. All I saw was hurt and anguish and fear and confusion. And I had nothing. Nothing. I’m a pastor, I’m supposed to have something.”
There is something very powerful in this level of transparency and honesty. It is a reminder of our human condition. There is a level of weakness we all have—even when we are supposed to have all the answers.
I admire the courage he has shown. Ernest Hemingway once said: “Courage is grace under pressure.” While most of us have not seen the private moments of Mr. Brandow—he has been a model of grace in the public eye. This type of courage is something for every man to aspire to.
I had the privilege of hearing Mr. Brandow speak at the National Prayer Breakfast in Ottawa. It was one of the most wonderful and powerful twenty minutes I have ever experienced. In a room packed with politicians, foreign dignitaries, political advisers, and leaders from business and faith — Sean Brandow clearly explained the Good News of Jesus Christ. He spoke about the need for all of us to have a heart transplant.
At the Humboldt Broncos first game of the season, he once again spoke about Jesus. This message was not only for the people in the room, but was also shared on SportsNet to millions of Canadians.
Mr. Brandow has consistently, boldly and graciously pointed people to Jesus. We live in a time where most Christians in Canada seem afraid to talk about Jesus in public. We fear how people will push back or attack us. Sean Brandow has stared that fear in the face. Canadians are not angry about Jesus being part of the conversation. News agencies are played his speeches without editing the parts about Jesus. It was quite incredible to witness.
Thankfully, most of us will never experience the same circumstances as Sean Brandow. His transparency, courage, and boldness are a great lesson to help all of us. Everyday we are around people who need Jesus. Imagine if we all pressed in to these opportunities in the same way.
Today, millions of people across Canada know that God walks with the broken- hearted. Canadians have heard the hope of Jesus Christ because one broken man cared enough to speak. I am certain this is not the type of influence he envisioned or even desired. Sean Brandow has been a faithful man of God in this moment.
I pray every person who has heard this message will have their life changed by God’s grace and mercy through Jesus.