Dear Vivian –

by DanWolgemuth on August 19, 2016

My heart is heavy but hopeful as I press the keys. It’s nearly unthinkable that Joel is gone. Lost to us for a time, but ever so found by his King. 41 years just didn’t seem like enough. And I can’t imagine how that feels to you and Havannah.

For the last year, you and Joel have faced into the uncertainty and pain of his failing lungs; as you have ridden the roller coaster of medical highs and lows; as you celebrated the lungs that were donated to Joel; as you trekked through the unexpected valley of the shadow of death… you have inspired and propelled us. Your faith and courage and confidence and transparency have provided a front row seat to witness the love and grace and mercy of God in vivid detail. You have been a faithful and powerful warrior, even in tenderness and uncertainty.

Joel was one of a kind. A missionary among missionaries without leaving his city. Hip-Hop was born in the Bronx in 1973, but it was born again in Miami 15 years ago.  Joel made certain of that. He loved Jesus, and he loved the art and creativity of Hip-Hop. He loved the fact that Hip-Hop could be the perfect avenue on which the message of hope and love and life and redemption could be transported.

Joel loved the young men and women who embraced this culture long before they embraced anything having to do with God. Joel called it Catalyst; our Heavenly Father called it “good.” As a vital part of the Youth For Christ ministry in Miami, I marveled at the breakthrough that occurred when young people heard the power of the Gospel message in a context of familiarity. The beat of the music, the color of the spray paint, the athleticism of the dancers… and the clear communication of the love of Jesus.

I saw it. Firsthand. Both Mary and I did. That was before he met and fell in love with you. Vivian Perea. A gift from God to Joel, and to us.

Vivian Perea. Vivian Stigale. The faithful companion of our pioneering missionary. Your grief and pain are ours to share. We love you. God loves you all the more.

There are many, many young people in Miami who are walking the streets with hope and wholeness and courage… not simply because they met Joel, but because they met Jesus through Joel. What a story. What a legacy.

And so… we send our prayers. Our gratitude. Our sorrow-embracing love.

You served our brother well even in his darkest hour. You served our movement well by showing us the face of Jesus… over and over again.

For His King. For our King. Solidarity in mission. Confidence in calling. We steward this legacy. Together.

“I looked for someone who might rebuild the wall of righteousness that guards the land. I searched for someone to stand in the gap…” Ezekiel 22:30

Joel Stigale. Standing in the gap.

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Pure Gold… Who Needs Simone Biles Anyway

by DanWolgemuth on August 12, 2016

Our attention was riveted to the coverage of the Summer Olympics as Simone Biles raced across the mat to perform a masterful Floor Exercise routine. The speed, height and precision of her routine invoked the appropriate gasps in the room… until the words of Rowan interrupted the performance.

Rowan is my grandson; a three-year-old this week with the boundless confidence that is unhindered by reality. He’s a joy bringer. He’s a hoot. He’s an unfiltered mirror to the temptation of my own soul.

So, in the middle of Simone’s masterpiece Rowan blurts out, “I can do that!”

I can barely comprehend the tumbling prowess; I can hardly count the number of flips, but Rowan… he’s got this. Not “someday.” Not “I hope to.” But an impossible promise. “I can.”

The facts are simple and clear. Rowan can’t. I love the boy with all my heart. He’s bright and athletic and handsome… but he’s not a world class gymnast.

Through the humor of the moment came the inescapable origin of the comment. The Garden of Eden. From the tongue of Satan.

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4-5)

Like God. A gold medal athlete at the age of three without a lick of time in the gym. Like God.

This outrageous and humorous assertion by Rowan served to throw a powerful beam of light on my own unfettered ego. “I can do that.” It’s there. I say it without moving my lips. I live it by my own independence. Our culture promotes it, markets it, believes it.

No.

I can’t. Rowan can’t. You can’t. Nobody can.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.  (Romans 5:6)

Powerless.

I rest of the matchless power of Jesus. Over sin. Over death. Over despair. Over my own weakness. Jesus. The Christ.

His perfect score is credited to me. His faultless routine, my gold medal.

No, I don’t have this. No, I can’t do this.

But God. Through Jesus. Pure gold.

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A Timely Reminder

August 8, 2016

(The following is an encore Fragment.  Although written and published some time ago, I hope that it refreshes your soul today.) I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  ~ (John 10:10) I’ve been to rental car counters a great deal over the last eleven years.  But recently, at Midway Airport in […]

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Vulnerability Unlocked and Unleashed

July 29, 2016

It’s a bit of a tradition for Mary and me. We travel the 70 miles from our house to Quaker Ridge Camp in Woodland Park, Colorado. It’s a refreshing, inspiring and humbling glimpse into the impact of our YFC Camp strategy and the relational investment made by so many leaders across to country into the […]

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The Test Doesn’t Qualify Us – It Exposes Us

July 22, 2016

For the next several weeks, I will be utilizing the chapters of a book called Give Life that was published by Youth For Christ USA several years ago. It chronicles a bit of our journey in this incredible and wonderful 72-year-old mission… I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in […]

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Welcome to the Road of Life With No Exits

July 15, 2016

For the next several weeks, I will be utilizing the chapters of a book called Give Life that was published by Youth For Christ USA several years ago. It chronicles a bit of our journey in this incredible and wonderful 72-year-old mission… “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; […]

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Obedience Escorts Us to Venues God Ordains

July 8, 2016

For the next several weeks, I will be utilizing the chapters of a book called Give Life that was published by Youth For Christ USA several years ago. It chronicles a bit of our journey in this incredible and wonderful 72-year-old mission… It was an honor to speak at the Kansas Prayer Breakfast. The event […]

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God Didn’t Want Space on Our Refrigerator

July 1, 2016

For the next several weeks, I will be utilizing the chapters of a book that got published by Youth For Christ USA several years ago. It chronicles a bit of our journey in this incredible and wonderful journey… Then the King will say to those on his right, “Come, you who are blessed by my […]

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Confessions of a College Knitter

June 24, 2016

I’m not sure precisely when I learned to knit, or why… but early in my college life, on one of my visits back to Wheaton, Illinois, I got enough training to be dangerous. It happened at a local knitting shop, which propelled me. I was armed with two very large plastic needles and a connection […]

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“Ask what I shall give you”

June 17, 2016

Who wouldn’t love an invitation like this… “Ask what I shall give you.” Most especially when these words come from the lips of God. Wisdom was Solomon’s choice, and God both commended and rewarded his selection. Fast forward to the twelve disciples, living and learning in the shadow of their rabbi. From Jesus. Only once […]

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