Disciples Among Us: Reflection Responses
DISCIPLES AMONG US: SONDRA RYAN
Aimee Bostwick said, “Speak up if you recognize a disciple in our midst.” And it takes about five minutes to recognize Sondra Ryan. Look for a tall, glamorous grandmother with a million-dollar smile, a twinkle in her eye that a 30-year-old would envy, and a penchant for saying “yes” any time Good Shepherd needs a helping hand.
She’s the alto on the back row of the choir most Sundays. Or maybe you recognize her as the former Director of the Junior Choir — a labor of love she held at Good Shepherd for 13 years. Remember those boisterous, full-fledged musicals the children launched every May? Try doing that just once, and you’ll see how devoted you have to be to corral and train a cast of 20 or 30 elementary and middle school kids. But Sondra was never just a “music teacher” to the hundreds of children who, over the years, donned that little red vestment to sing praises to the Lord. She loved them as if they were her own. And they knew it. (I know because my granddaughter was one of them.)
Not ringing a bell? Well, maybe your child went to Vacation Bible School where Sondra worked tirelessly for 25 years to help provide fun and some Bible-based character-building. Ask her how she does it, and she’ll tell you, “It’s always all about the children. And that makes it easy.”
Okay, how about a two-year stint as president of the St. Anne’s Guild? Need help with funeral receptions, a cake for the Youth Mission Drive fund-raiser, or a snack tray for an Evensong reception? Count on Sondra Ryan.
What you may not know about is the love and devotion she and Bob shared with an immigrant family Good Shepherd adopted a decade ago when their family of 10 came to Austin seeking refuge from poverty and oppression. They spoke no English. They had 7 kids and no car. But soon their children were enrolled in the Good Shepherd junior choir. Guess who picked them up from an apartment on Riverside Drive and brought them to choir practice and church on Sundays? You’ve probably figured out by now that it was the Ryans.
The multi-talented Sondra has a long and successful track record of service to others. She and her husband, Bob, moved to Austin in 1989 after he retired from the Army. They joined Good Shepherd not long after, and thus began a discipleship whose impact can never be accurately measured. I am most grateful to have known and cherished a friendship with a living disciple named Sondra Ryan.
DISCIPLES AMONG US: GEORGE BRAZELL
God blessed our planet with many good folks who live and breathe Billy Graham’s awe-inspiring message. One of those special beings was George Brazell. George was a cross between a Marlboro man and a minister…one who preaches by osmosis, meaning he never acted like he was preaching. Everyone just seemed to learn, gain more insight into life and become a better person just by being around him. George has probably brought more people to Jesus by not preaching than some others have who do.
George oozed love for life and inspired others to join him in the mission. His ability to love unconditionally equaled that of God and Golden Retrievers. His love, warmth and humor filled any room of any size and touched everyone who was in it. He was one of the most brilliant and best-educated men I have ever known, yet he mastered the art of simplicity, humility and fun.
I treasure the times I shared with George, because he had yet another gift. He treasured all of life’s special moments. We are both great storytellers, who are easily moved to tears of joy or sadness. He would tell a great story and I would laugh. I would tell one of my mushy heart stories and we would both cry. Our visits were kind of like a water ballet. We would do all this carrying on as I worked on him. He loved the Trager work that I do. Often Anna and Elizabeth would come in just as we were in the grand finale of the session and the laughter or the tears. We would tell them all about it and they would laugh or cry and carry on with us. Good feelings are catching.
George spent his life doing that very thing…spreading wisdom, joy and love for life. Today we come together to celebrate eighty-two years worth of teaching, sharing, caring, laughing, crying and loving life. We are from all spiritual, religious and educational backgrounds. We are professors, teachers, and homemakers. We are old and young. Some of us are great singers and performers. The rest of us are lousy.
We share one great and common bond. George loved each and every one of us of us Just As We Are and our lives were deeply touched.
With great love and gratitude for the times we shared.