Mariah and Joe aren't two people you would "peg as friends" if you saw them walking down the street, much less family. But as Mariah shared at a CRM On the Move event, the gospel has incredible power to bring unlikely people together. Hear Joe's transformation story by watching the video; then read the following reflection from Mariah on what her relationship with Joe has taught her about making disciples.
What I've Learned From Joe
I met Joe nearly ten years ago. He was one of the first people I ever met who had lived on the streets. Joe really was our team’s (sometimes infamous) mentor—as to what it meant to live on the street.
He created what he called “The First Hand Experience” where he sent us out to sleep on the streets for a few days while he slept in his cozy room at home. But more than a sneaky attempt to get back at us for all our years sleeping in a warm bed, I think Joe had an intuitive understanding of the value of an incarnational posture. He could see that if we wanted to reach kids on the street, we needed to understand what their life was like. So he sent us out to begin to understand firsthand.
As I reflect on Joe’s journey of discipleship, and my own, I am reminded first that discipleship is a process, and then, that investing in the lives of people on the margins—people who will then impact their communities—bears far more fruit than I could ever produce alone.
Discipleship Is a Process
I think most of us are aware that our own discipleship has been a process, not an overnight transformation. And yet somehow I find that for myself as a missionary, I often want other people’s growth to happen much faster than my own ever does. James chapter 5 encourages us to “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains” (James 5:7).
In discipleship with Joe there have been many frustrating, even agonizing seasons where it felt very much like one step forward, two steps back. Many times light would dawn in Joe’s life, and clarity of commitment and desire to live for Christ would come, only to see darkness redouble its efforts to keep Joe in captivity. Joe’s has been a journey of wrestling—wrestling to choose the deep comfort and satisfaction of Christ over the empty promises of addiction, learning to follow the Prince of Peace instead of resorting to a culture of violence, and taking the risk of participating in the body of Christ instead of retreating into isolation.
Today, as the video shows, Joe is in a great place. Early and late rains have come, producing fruit, but not before some years spent staring at the sky like an anxious farmer waiting for rain.
The One Who Is the Seed of a Movement
It may seem like walking this long with one person isn’t a very efficient investment of time and energy. But as I have walked with Joe and others like him, God has reminded me of the Good Shepherd who leaves his 99 sheep who are safe to go in search of the one who is lost—and then throws a party for the one (Luke 15:3-7).
We have discovered that being called to the very margins, among some of society’s most broken, can be a very slow work. But we have also seen that as we make disciples there, the seeds of movement are planted. We are making an investment in their contribution to the transformation of their community.
We are seeing now how the change God has worked in Joe is having lasting impact on the city of San Francisco long after I, “the missionary,” am not there anymore. You can see Joe’s service of making meals for those living on the streets in the video. He also is a person the team in San Francisco often looks to when someone on the street is thinking about change, considering giving up an addiction, or wondering about following Christ. Joe’s words of encouragement and advice to those people are deeply impactful because he has walked a similar road. Joe’s discipleship is multiplying in the lives of people around him.
Joe’s story is one, a deeply meaningful and important one to me. In him, and others with whom I’ve had the privilege of participating in discipleship, I’ve seen the seeds of a gospel movement—a movement among the poor on our streets. And I’m hungry for more.
What About You?
Is there a "Joe" in your life—someone who God has called you to walk with spiritually over a longer season? What does faithfulness to that relationship look like this week? This year? If you don't know, ask God to show you. You can also ask him what encouragement he might have for you in that relationship.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mariah Nix and her husband, Paul, live in Los Angeles, CA, with their two children. In addition to serving on the L.A. InnerCHANGE team, Mariah works as a mobilizer for InnerCHANGE, helping others discern God’s unique call on their life and to the poor.