September 18, 2013

One of the twelve: Marty Bodrog

by Jesse Johnson

Monday’s Navy Yard shooting ended with twelve innocent people murdered. One of them was Marty Bodrog.

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Marty, along with his wife Melanie, was a faithful part of Immanuel Bible Church. He was the kind of guy who causes people to conclude that God gives certain men the grace to father daughters; Marty was gregarious yet gentle, towering yet kind. Indeed he had three daughters, Izzy, Sophie, and Rita—two of whom are still in high school, and all three have their father’s wit and gentleness.

He was imposing—over six feet tall—and had the combination of charisma and giant smile that made him seem even taller than he actually was.

Marty was a Navy man, and had retired earlier this year. He had risen through the ranks, and yet was also fully devoted to life at church. As news of his murder broke, the most common comment I heard was, “Marty was my girl’s Sunday school teacher.” Those at  IBC knew Marty as this towering man who seemed like he was sailing through the hallways, his cargo was his crafts, and his port the 3 year-old Sunday school class, which he ran with Navy-like precision.

One Sunday, many years ago, there was an attempted hostile boarding of his class of 3-year-olds. A man came to pick up his daughter, but without the security ID bracelet. Marty did not recognize him—the mother had dropped her off—and refused to turn over the child. The father became agitated and demanded that Marty step aside. Instead he put his imposing frame in the doorway, making a naval blockade of the room. Eventually the mom came with the bracelet. Later Marty downplayed the situation: “I was only following orders!”

But don’t let his size or his military service mislead you. He was the kind of teacher that insisted on greeting the children at the door. Most of his kids had little idea how tall he was, because he was generally crawling on the floor with them. He insisted on leading the craft time because he used it as a spring board to talk about Jesus. He would talk to the parents as they picked up their kids, checking bracelets but also telling them all that their kids learned. He noted individual accomplishments too, and would tell parents what their kids prayed for and who they talked to during class.

As his own girls entered high school, the Bodrog home became the meeting place for students in the youth group. As parents came to pick up their students, they would inevitably encounter Marty at the door; he always had a few minutes to chat while the girls would make their way up from the basement or down from the bedroom, asking about other family members or how things were going in your life.

His smile was a beacon, and it was matched only by his gentle spirit. The only people he loved more than the kids he taught was the family God gave him. He was chauffer to his daughter’s ballet lessons, and there was no doubt that his priority was at home. He will be remembered as an exceptional dad.

Marty was someone that you would have wanted to know. Those that knew him wish they knew him more deeply, and those that simply passed him in the hallway must have thought to themselves, “who is this guy with the huge smile and arm full of art supplies?”

I wish I knew him better.

Yet we don’t fit in time and space. There are a hundred people and a hundred places we want to be in order to strengthen relationships. Marty’s life is compelling proof that people were designed to be known deeply, in a way that the busyness of life simply does not allow. People wish they knew him better, wish they had more time with him, wish their little kids had more than one year with him. But we are not made to do that here, in this life. That is what eternity is for.

For those that knew Marty, I pray that we will rejoice with him. He is celebrating in heaven, his smile bigger than ever.

There is a gap in the wall down here though. There is Melanie, who has lost her partner, the love of her life. There are three girls who will be missing their father at their weddings. The last class on the left will have a a new teacher with new crafts, and it won’t be the same. His absence leaves a hole in our heart and a wound in his family. When we notice that hole, may it cause us to long for heaven more—where we will have perfect fellowship with him forever.

A memorial for Marty will be held at Immanuel Bible Church this Saturday, at 2 pm. Burial will be at Arlington Cemetery at a later date.


Jesse Johnson

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Jesse is the Teaching Pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, VA. He also leads The Master's Seminary Washington DC location.
  • Dan Phillips

    Oh my brother, I am so sorry. Not for Marty in the indescribable joy he is experiencing, but for all who grieve his loss. Thank God that, among Christians, all partings are temporary. But they hurt none the less.

  • Christian Felanopolis

    Jesse, thank you for being such a great leader for our church. I don’t think I knew Marty, but I have taught in K-Station and I know it’s truly a blessing to the parents to know our kids are being left in such capable hands.

  • That was a really enjoyable dedication to Marty and the work of Christ in his life.

  • Was so saddened when Laura and David shared this news with me. All are in our prayers and yes, rejoicing that Marty is with Jesus but asking for peace that can only come from our Heavenly Father, for his wife and daughters.

  • Tony Miano

    Pastor Jesse,

    Yesterday I broadcast special edition of my radio show. I interviewed a brother in Christ who is also an open-air preacher, who was present at the Navy Yard when the Massacre took place.

    He was Marty’s friend and co-worker. Part of his grief was that he had never shared the gospel with Marty. He wasn’t aware that Mary was a follower of Jesus Christ; that is, until I shared with him that you had communicated that Marty was a godly man and a member of your church. Receiving that news truly ministered to his heart.

    I’ve also shared this article with him.

    Let me know if you would like the link to the show.


  • Joey Katches

    Praying for Melanie, Izzy, Sophie, and Rita and for Immanuel Bible Church. When my brother Jimmy died in February it was the hardest day of my life. He left his precious wife and two daughters behind. For help, I read Albert N. Martin’s book “Grieving, Hope, and Solace” and I have this line from the book printed over my desk…”Think more about what Jimmy has gained than of what you have lost.” I’m going to pray for Marty’s four girls and friends to think more of what Marty has gained then what they have lost. The Lord be with you guys in this difficult time of grieving.

  • Elissa

    Thank you for sharing a bit of Mr. Bodrog with us.

  • Steve Hardy

    Tears for a brother I’ve never met, a fellow serviceman, his family and yours and our church families. A hard reminder that we do live in a fallen world, with our sole hope and joy found in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. Prayers for you and your church family as you minister to the Bodrog family going forward.

    • Barbara

      Steve, I agree, just my thoughts too, thanks Pastor Jesse for the reminder we are united in Christ.

  • Myrna Gold

    My heart is mourning deeply with his wife and daughters.

  • So sorry to hear of this, Jesse..Thank you for so poignantly sharing Marty with us..your words make me think more deeply about building into the relationships of those with whom we worship and do Gospel life in the here and now.

    My Thanks go out to his family for his service and sacrifice for our prayers for their strength and healing. May God above all be glorified in all things for all people.

  • Sharon Randolph

    Thank you for taking the time to write such a beautiful tribute! So many of us at IBC were blessed by Marty’s service.

  • Eric Davis

    What a fitting tribute to a man of God whom I’ve never met, but anticipate celebrating with for eternity. May Jesus give his wife and daughters strength beyond themselves in this hard providence. And may God use you, Jesse, and the church mightily to unite, grieve, comfort, and rejoice. Praying for you guys.

  • Mark P

    I didn’t know marty, but read about him b/c he was a friend of my a friend from college. Touching and a very personal picture of a man who, as you said, has “left a gap” – thanks for sharing his story

  • Chris Brigham

    Wow, what a beautiful and captivating tribute. I was referred to this blog by Susan Huber, who is in our life/small group and who are praying for the family. I am grateful and inspired by a man I did not know and hope my walk of faith will elicit the well done good and faithful servant that was extended by our Lord to this man who clearly knows and loves our Savior.

  • Nord Zootman

    Thank you for sharing. We pray differently when we know something of the person. I will pray for the family and for you and your church family as you minister to them.

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