“The Real Version” – a Memory of Joel

Posted on by Bonnie Rodriguez

As many of you know, this past weekend, my friend and fellow Miami YFC Missionary, Joel Stigale, passed away.  Joel reached out to the hip-hop community all over South Florida.  He was known for being a loving man of God who also didn’t settle for the status quo.
One of my favorite Joel memories happened back in 2006, when I was a 19-year old intern with KIX.  I had driven all the way up to see a Catalyst battle in North Dade.  It was my birthday and – at the time, I thought – my last chance to see Joel before I went back to college.  I was standing outside with Joel, our Executive Director Andy & his two daughters.  A member of Catalyst approached us, and Joel started telling us a little bit about this guy’s story (I can’t remember his name but I remember he was a graffiti artist who used images of babies with alien heads in a lot of his work).  At one point, the artist turned away to talk to someone else, and Andy asked a question about his art.  I can’t remember what the question was, but Joel was like, “Let’s ask him.”  He directed the question to the graffiti artist, who responded with a smile and exclaimed, “Oh f—- no!”  We all chuckled and then went back to our conversation.
A few minutes later, Andy left, and it was just me and Joel.  The artist came over to Joel and said, “Man, I’m so sorry.  They just told me that guy was your boss.  I didn’t mean to curse in front of him.  Man, I’m sorry.”
Joel cut him off. “Dude, I would rather have the real you than some fake version any day. Don’t worry about it.”
When I think about what brought me back to Miami, what made me want to be in this work, it is because of people like Joel who taught me that, as a Christian, I can value the real version of broken, messed-up people over the shiny, fake ones any day.  Joel loved people in all their mess and it’s because of that love that people met Jesus when they met Joel.  It made me rethink everything I knew about how to share God’s love with others.

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