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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