During our recent ‘Beards In Action’ outreach experience, I had the pleasure of getting to know my new friend Jake. He came down from Portland, Oregon to serve with me and my fellow YWAM worker Chris Whitler, along with other workers and volunteers here in Modesto, California. We spent a lot of time time ministering to and building friendships with the local street community in some of our regular places of ministry, including South Ninth Street. South Ninth Street is an area just outside of the city limits where there are several low-income, residential motels. Here there are people dealing with a variety of issues, including addiction, prostitution, and all kinds of hurts and hang-ups. With Jake and our other official Beards In Action recruit, Josh Seehorn, we shared meals with people on the street, served coffee, and created spaces where we could sit with people and share our lives. As one of the hosts of this trip, I have to say how awesome it was to see our Beards In Action volunteers dive in and be a blessing to people. The following is a recap and reflection on that week from Jake.
-Aaron (aka ‘The Proprietor’)
by Jacob Johnson
During the beards in action week, I had the pleasure of getting to know some awesome bearded men, and serve alongside them. It was a great time to see ministry firsthand and learn different ways of engaging with people.
I had some great experiences seeing folks like Evelyn light up every time she saw Chris and Aaron. I was able to see the positive impact that these guys have on her and many others lives. Another great experience was learning the story of Bob – he was a 9th street resident at one point, and seeing the growth he has experienced was really special. The pieces of love, patience and God’s grace that Aaron exhibited by being a support and friend with him during difficult times was also an amazing testimony.
These stories of Christ’s work in people’s lives are powerful and ones I hope you can experience in some form. While these significantly shaped my experience, I was also able to form a clearer idea of what it means to be a Bearded Gospel Man (and that I want to be one!), and how I want to incorporate that into my life in Portland, not just during a weeklong Beards in Action trip.
I was struck by watching others during the week and how easy it is to love people. With a little bit of intentionality, striking up a conversation with a complete stranger and engaging with them can be a powerful ministry (if you have a beard, chances are you are friendly!). I have incorporated this into my life at the gym, a place I frequent but haven’t previously used to build relationships. I got to meet Mike the other day, because he has a beard and is awesome. We could be friends for no other reason than being the only two bearded dudes in the joint! Or the basketball guys I have gotten to know, who have affectionately started calling me “Beardsie” and “Fear the Beard” because of my mad basketball skills. (I wish…but probably because I have learned their names and am encouraging when they make their jumpers, even though I keep missing mine! Hey, I am a “defensive specialist” – but I digress.)
Another aspect of being a Bearded Gospel Man looks like consistency. During the Beards In Action week, I learned the powerful ministry that can come with consistency. I was able to see the ministry of serving coffee on a weekly basis and the opportunities it creates for relationship building. I learned that relationship building takes time, but being intentional and consistent are small steps of kingdom building. That mentality also helps me downplay the idea that I need to do something grand, which can keep me from doing anything. A small conversation could be all that is needed.
It was a great trip and I hope this recap has been an encouragement about living out your Bearded Gospel Man-ness. If you need more encouragement – come next year! I hope to see you and your beard there.