The scent spread rapidly as he peeled back the lid from another can of sardines. I tried hard to avoid showing my disgust as the smell of oily fish quickly saturated the air surrounding our table. Sitting across from me was a man I had only just met. For weeks I had heard rumors of a Bible study group at my college, but I was hardly prepared for my encounter with the leader of this band of believers. Josiah was a cheerful man with a powerful smile – and many eccentricities. A nursing student, he had recently started college in his mid-twenties.

Josiah listened as I shared my story, his large beard parting frequently to let his lunch swim through. During that first meeting we talked about our current classes, our families, and a lot about Jesus. While our interests and upbringings were quite different, there was something fascinating about this man. After all, not many of my classmates wore combat boots to school. I didn’t know it at the time, but this man would soon become a meaningful mentor to me.

In the nine years since that meeting Josiah and I have shared a lot of experiences. Together we baked pies, collected honey from his bees, and even built a bear cage. But more than just doing things together, Josiah invited me into his life. I have watched him deal with romantic rejection, process career moves, and navigate difficult family situations. In each of these scenarios I saw him put Christ at the center of his decision making process.

The Bear Cage

The Bear Cage

He also helped me process things going on in my life. When my attempts at romance didn’t turn out like I hoped he listened. When I returned from my trip to the Philippines he was eager to hear what God had taught me there. His encouragement was so helpful when I was struggling while studying for the ministry in Chicago.

We certainly talked about Jesus, but often we just talked about life in general. Josiah has some of the best stories of anyone I know. He talks about swimming across the lake and butchering animals in the barn. He also spent several months doing hurricane relief work in Louisiana.  I will always remember the time when he shared with me how to go about buying candles with a girl – such good advice.

Josiah and I now live more than two hours apart, so I don’t get to see him as often as I would like. But a couple times a year I still make the drive to spend the weekend with Josiah, his wife Jenny, and their three kids. Both of our lives have changed a lot since we first met, but I am still watching his life and learning what it means to be a man of God. While I have yet to develop a love for sardines, I have gained more from our friendship than I ever could have ever imagined.

My hope  is that you would be open to forming friendships with godly men and women around you, even if they don’t look like the kind of mentor you want. You may be surprised how God shapes your life through unexpected people.

JosiahEnochBeach

July 4, 2013

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