Before he left he wanted to say thank you.
A young boy’s journey in search of PEACE.
Something unexpected happened today that I wanted to share with you. Today was a “normal” and blessed start to the week as I actually made it up this morning at 5:30 a.m. for an early run before my son Josiah awoke. I like to use my time on the treadmill not only to train my body but also my spirit as well. When I run I either I am either listening to worship music as I meditate on my Father’s goodness, listening to the audio Bible, or a teaching on Youtube. So that’s how my day began which then stretched into some personal time with my son, followed by some time on the computer taking care of some clerical tasks along with providing updated information to be added to the website.
Today I was adding the information of a few children that have been added to the IM family recently, along with removing a number of others who are no longer with us. It was a bit sad for me to see the beautiful faces of these kids that I no longer see everyday, wondering how they are doing and lamenting the almost sure reality that wherever they are they are probably not doing as well as they were when they were with us receiving a steady diet of love, prayer, nutritional and educational assistance.
I tell people all the time that in the “ministry world” it seems that for every success story we have many more sad stories of when it didn’t work out as we had hoped. But a consistent and vital truth I have learned over the years is that the victories we experience will inevitably be accompanied by let downs. Excuses and reasons to not put yourself out there again and again in openness and selfless sincerity abound if you are looking for them, they always will.
If we choose to focus on when it didn’t work out as we expected or hoped we may eventually find ourselves slowly closing ourselves off to others who may come to us in search of inspiration and guidance. I have learned this foundational truth over the years and while it never gets easier to see a child or ministry staffer part ways with the ministry, I am reminded that I am not doing what I do for me.
I never had someone in my life over the length of my adolescent days and into young adulthood that poured into my life and really took interest in where I was at spiritually speaking. I came to the Lord at 25 years of age but I can’t help but wonder if I would have received Jesus as Lord at a much younger age if I had only had someone in my life that would have taken the time to sit me down and conversate with me about life and God. My goal is to be that person for as many others as I can believing that Lord willing I may save them from needless years of wandering and stumbling around in the dark as I did until I finally stepped into the Light.
José has been with us for quite some time now; he is currently in his 6th year as a student in the Isaiah Ministry. For as long as he has been with us José had been generally recognized as one of our hardest kids to get through to or connect with. As a youngster in elementary school he wasn’t necessarily the one always getting into trouble, but José was pretty much numb to everything.
He was neither here nor there, never super excited but never super sad either from what you could gather by observing him.
I lament the fact that throughout his first 5 years with us I never took the time to really sit down to talk with him about life and what his thoughts were about God and all that “spiritual stuff”.
I mean, I knew he had been around it for quite some time at least through his experiences with our ministry so he had to have an opinion about all of this right?! Well, this year some months ago it finally dawned on me that I had never actually asked him what he thought, so one day I decided to make time to do so.
It became very apparent to me after just a few minutes into our time together that afternoon that José pretty much was indifferent to God, church and anything Christian in general. He really had no strong opinions to share with me on anything; he was just kinda going with the flow of life and seemed to be doing whatever he thought was best for himself or whatever would bring him the most satisfaction with no real consideration as to what God wanted with his life or why He put him on this earth.
This response from José took me by surprise because I was kinda expecting to hear the same answers I usually hear when I talk with youth about God which are more or less a learned response they picked up along the way during their time spent in church services. I don’t know what’s more sad, to hear that someone has no real experience and is indifferent to God, or to find out that someone has only contacted dead religion in their spiritual pursuits and has never actually come into contact with the heart of God and His unconditional love and grace towards them on a personal level.
To be honest with you I felt a bit frustrated with myself for not having taken the initiative to get to know his thoughts on life and God earlier. But before we ended our time together that afternoon I felt like it was important that I pray for him and we just ask God together to reveal Himself to José and to show Him that He loves him. So we did that and there were no fireworks, no tears, no emotion from José, but I believed that He heard us and would honor that prayer as He did with me 11 years ago
About a month later or so I sat back down with José to ask him how things were going and if he had been feeling any different about what we had discussed in our prior conversation. Once again he was honest and told me not much had changed, but what was different this time around is that he had noticed how much he argued with his family members and that he had never really felt peace in his life. I asked Him if he’d like to feel true, lasting peace and he said yes to that.
So that day I was blessed to be able to lead José in prayer to receive Jesus as His Lord and Holy Spirit as His guide. Similar to the time I prayed with him a month earlier, there were no tears or great emotion that I could see, but José did say that he felt a peace had come over him. I gave him a Bible and suggested that he start reading in the book of John and sent him on his way. From that day on we began seeing changes in José confirming that something profound really did take place in Him. Over the next month or two it has been a great pleasure to see what Holy Spirit has been doing in José without him even trying.
The hardened exterior that José always carried around, not letting anyone get too close, seemed to come down and often a soft smile can be found on his face. He is no longer one of the more argumentative ones, always bucking authority and trying to things his way.
But perhaps the sweetest moment of confirmation for me as to what Jesus has done for José happened today when he came to me before he left to go home one day after tutoring. Usually when José would approach me to talk to me over the years it was because he had done something to get himself into trouble, so when he came to me today and said he wanted to talk with me I was not expecting the best.
But to my surprise he said that he wanted to say “Thank you.”
And I responded “For what José?”
He said “I wanted to say thank you for the peace I now have. I’m no longer fighting with my mom and brothers because I now have peace. Before I would fight with them over anything and everything, but now I’m different and have peace. So thank you.” “That’s wonderful José!” I said.
But wanting to make sure that he knew where this peace had come from, I asked him “Do you know where you got that peace José?”
He said “That day you prayed with me a while back I gave my life to Jesus and I’ve had peace ever since.”
Jose in 2011
Jose in 2017 (far right)
So yeah, the whole time José was telling me this I was holding back tears of gratitude which I would let fall down my face a few minutes later when my wife came over to ask me what José and I were talking about.
That’s what it’s all about for me, that’s it right there! I love feeding programs and helping kids get their education, but seeing them touched by the power and love of God through relationship with Him is what drives me.
How good my Daddy is to provide me with that little nudge of encouragement after just that very morning spending a few sad moments thinking back over the kids we have seen leave us too early.
I hope you enjoyed reading about José and how he and God blessed me today. Keep shining bright my friends! Much Love to you all!
We never know completely what God is doing in the lives of others; we can only know what He is doing in our own lives and trust that He will honor our attempts to share His love and kindness with the world.
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