It’s not every day you’re confronted by a stranger living in a school bus in a Walmart parking lot bearing a message from God, but that’s exactly what happened to Joshua a few short years ago. The incident—as odd as it may have seemed—was an affirmation that helped plot a new trajectory for the Florida native, and he hasn’t looked back since.
Embittered by the divorce of his parents as a teenager, Joshua’s heart was softened after hearing a sermon on forgiveness and he committed his life to Christ. That same year he bought a guitar and learned to play, desiring to literally live the words of Psalm 33:2-3, “Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to Him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”
“It’s so easy in the valleys of life to lose sight of the fact that we have a sovereign God who will receive the glory in spite of the hardest of circumstances we face,” Joshua says of his life’s ups and downs. “Romans 8:28 is a constant reminder for me to look at the big picture instead of the momentary pain or struggle and realize that our great God is orchestrating my steps, even the hardest steps.”
One of Joshua’s darkest seasons was the death of his older brother in a car accident nearly five years ago, the day after Joshua and his bride Deanna returned from their honeymoon. In spite of the tragedy, more than 10 people came to Christ after hearing the Gospel at the memorial service, which Joshua and his father officiated. It was a pivotal moment for him.
“I was sitting behind a piano singing ‘Amazing Grace,’ yet I was internally battling anger, frustration and bitterness,” he recalls of the funeral. “I looked out and saw people coming forward to respond to the call of salvation and that moment made a lifelong impact. God can take the lowest times in our lives and use them to point to His Son Jesus. I have since been able to share my brother’s story to hundreds of congregations, student ministries and in concert in 30 states and four countries and have seen salvation and life-change as a result.”
Further redeeming the tragic circumstance, Joshua put pen to paper, writing a song that would later become the title track of his EP “Nothing Without You.” “There’s a line that says, ‘I’m not defined by circumstance/with You there’s nothing left to chance/but I’m still torn apart.’ That perfectly describes the place I often find myself. Yes, tragedy has stricken my family. Yes, life can seem hard. But ultimately, my identity is found in Jesus, not circumstance.”
Shortly after his brother’s death, Joshua began to sense God telling him to “go,” but he didn’t know where, or even how to heed the call. He and Deanna returned to Houston to his job as a worship leader and student minister at Second Baptist Church. Settling into life as newlyweds, the couple had no logical reason to “go” anywhere, yet they continued to hear the message.
Later that year, while visiting his father in Florida, Joshua and Deanna told him of this persistent nudging, uncertain of what they needed to do. The three prayed together, asking God for a sign, never thinking an errand to Walmart would hold the answer. However, a ramshackle school bus in the parking lot caught Joshua and Deanna’s attention while at the store that evening. Intrigued, they walked over for a closer look at the graffiti-like writing that covered the bus. It was all scripture. To their surprise, the door swung open and a man emerged. He introduced himself as Kirby and said he’d just been reading the Bible and praying when God told him to tell the people standing outside the bus it was time to “go.”
“Honestly, my first reaction was, ‘Is this real life?’” Joshua recalled in shock. “My other reaction was fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of finances. Fear of doors not opening. In other words, I completely lacked trust in the Lord. It still took nine more months for me to answer His call to sell our things and move, but we knew He would show us the way.”
Joshua committed himself to itinerant music and ministry—anywhere God would lead. He and Deanna began traveling the country, often living out of their car and relying on the hospitality of friends and fellow believers along the way. Today his rapidly growing ministry includes leading worship for a variety of events, sharing his own songs, and also speaking to congregations and student groups.
“Ultimately, I think anyone called into worship leading is called to be in constant study of God’s Word,” he says. “When I became a worship leader I found out quickly that God’s Word is much more powerful than mine, and using the Bible as my primary tool in worship should be my focus.”
Joshua’s new EP, Elevate, will be releasing in 2015. John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease”, is the inspiration behind the anthem of the title track; “Less of me/ More of You/ Reflect Your ways in All I do/ to live for Your great name/ and elevate You.”
That prayer is a sincere reflection of Josh’s heart to bring the Lord all the glory possible through song and through everyday life. Joshua has a passionate love for Jesus and for the Church. To Josh and Deanna being a part of a church family is vital. Off the road, Joshua is a worship leader at The Loft Church in The Woodlands, TX.