The Surprising, Healing Love of Christ


A few weeks ago, I learned that my grandfather had died unexpectedly in his sleep in his home in southwestern Virginia. A few hours after I got the news, I headed over to Emmaus’s Ministry Center for my shift. That afternoon was pretty heavy for me. Memories of my grandfather slipped into my mind unbidden, and I mourned a little bit more with every image or story that played itself out.

As I was preparing dinner in the Ministry Center—hamburgers that day—Greg came up to me. “I’m so sorry for your loss,” he said with the beginnings of tears playing at the corner of his eyes. He told me about how his mom had died within the past year and how that had rocked him to his core. He gave me a hug. “I may tease you all and give you a hard time, but I really love you guys.”

Later, as we were sitting down to dinner, Cliff prayed for the meal. “Oh, Lord, we pray for the Joel Brown family…” he began. He asked for the Lord’s mercy and grace on all of us as we mourned our loss.

I’m really glad I came into the Ministry Center that day, where I was ministered to rather than the one doing the ministering. I learned later that Heather, a fellow Kaio member, had led the guys in a time of prayer for me that morning. The Lord had used that time to give me the gift of Greg and Cliff’s words of comfort.

That day in the Ministry Center let me realize what a gift it is to get to do life with the men of Emmaus. Each of them has experienced very difficult situations and far more death than one person should have to endure. But somehow the Lord is working and shaping them, taking the broken pieces of their grief and pain and slowly but surely making something beautiful. With the comfort that they have received from the Lord, Greg and Cliff reached out to me and offered up that comfort. They shared with me a part of what Christ had ministered to them through Emmaus over the many years of meeting our staff and volunteers on the streets and in our drop-in center: the surprising, healing love of Christ. And that is truly beautiful.

  1. I am so comforted by your words here, knowing that Emmaus is the place you should be at this point in time. Just a wonderful picture of you, Bryce and Grandpa Stan!! I knew that swing well. 🙂

  2. Thanks for sharing this with us Joel. I lost my grandpa when I was overseas. It’s hard to be “alone” at a time like that. So glad you had your spiritual family there with you. Great picture. Looks like a good memory.

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