Clark’s book and film based on true story of forgiveness

By Page H. Gifford

On a fateful night in rural Bassett, Virginia, C.J. Martin Jr. and his son were heading home after a football game but were told to take a detour because an ambulance had caught fire and was blocking their usual route. It was a detour that would change lives.

While driving the unfamiliar, rural route, Martin was confused by the lack of signage and lighting. At 10:08 p.m. on August 21, 2015, Martin made a turn onto Rt. 903 in southeast Virginia into the path of an oncoming motorcycle driven by Bobby Clark along with his passenger wife Pam. They were returning from a church service. Clark swerved to avoid the truck but veered too hard to the right, throwing the couple into the direct path of Martin’s vehicle. The couple later died of their injuries at the hospital.

The tragedy led to John T. Clark’s book In A Blink of An Eye: Forgiveness in Black and White that tells a story of ultimate forgiveness. John Clark is Bobby Clark’s brother.

The film My Brother’s Crossing produced by John Clark and his wife Terri Lee  Clark is based on that book and Clark’s journey to discover his faith.

After the accident, Martin, who is Black, feared there would be racial backlash because of the ongoing protests and racial hate crimes. Bobby and Pam’s daughter visited Martin and his family to show her forgiveness. John Clark was not so forgiving. In the movie there is a line where Clark tells his wife, “I want him prosecuted.”

“Don’t you mean persecuted,” she answers. That in itself is telling about Clark’s view of his brother’s death. But then strange things happen to change destiny. On October 26, 2015, Martin appears in court and stands before the judge to hear the verdict on the charge of reckless driving, along with a fine. What happens next is surprising, to say the least.

While driving to his job in Roanoke, John Clark had no intention of going to court but something changed his mind. His family was unaware of his decision to go to court that day.

“In my mind, the only reason I was going was to represent my brother and his wife in the courtroom. During his hour-long drive to the Henry County courthouse, something told him to pay Martin’s fine. “My reaction was, pay the fine? This could be thousands of dollars.”  Suddenly he felt like a burden had been lifted and that his brother was working through him and sharing his faith. He wasn’t a believer in divine intervention until that moment.

“When I arrived at the courthouse, I went inside and grabbed a seat about four rows back from the front. I was reflecting on what had happened during my drive.” He then felt compelled to seek out the investigative officer, Trooper Byrd. What unfolded in those moments was stunning. Clark paid Martin’s fines and it became a turning point for both men to walk a path of recovery and healing together.

C.J. Martin was the pastor of his own church but it was an opportunity for him to help John Clark with his grief. Both cemented a friendship that resulted in the ministry called  My Brother’s Crossing. Nowadays, John Clark devotes all of his time to the ministry.

“I had no faith to speak of before my brother’s accident. Now, I work full-time in ministry. I simply live to be evidence of the Gospel,” Clark said. “We go where we believe God is leading us to go, we do what he would have us do, and we speak what he would have us speak.”

He hopes that his story is an inspiration to others.

“I was not living this way when all of this happened. Forgiveness is a choice. Six years before the accident, I had to move in forgiveness toward the man that had abused me as a child. This prepared me for what was to come in the instance of the death of Bobby and Pam,” he said. “C.J. Martin has said that when I showed up in the courtroom on his behalf saved his life. The truth of the matter is, I have received far more from C.J. Martin than I ever gave to him. My brother was a pastor. C.J. Martin is a pastor. I had nothing to do with the church when this happened. Now, I am ordained as a minister in C.J.’s church, and now he is our pastor.”

Clark will be discussing and showing the film on Wednesday, May 25, at 6:30 p.m. at the Calvary Chapel Fluvanna at 2772 Thomas Jefferson Parkway. A mutual friend along with the representative of the church invited Clark to come and tell his story.

“This is how we get invited to speak at churches. We have traveled from Florida to Texas to Colorado to South Dakota to Minnesota to New York and points in between. We simply go where God opens the door.”

A story of one man’s miscalculation while driving on a fateful night transformed another man’s life in a way he never imagined. Their paths crossed and C.J became the catalyst for Clark’s faith.

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