Joan Mayak passed away. When my daughter let me know, time seemed to stand still. My mind and heart were flooded with a lot of thoughts and emotions; the most overwhelming was gratitude for the person who led me to Jesus and modeled the Christian life.
The beloved “Kook Group,” whom I often refer to as they are a major reference point in my life, was led by Joan. The conspiracy to evangelize the corner gang, of which I was a part, was conceived and planned in her living room prayer meetings with other ladies in the neighborhood that she was introducing to the Holy Spirit.
I had never heard the gospel until she shared it with me on that corner. At first, we jeered and mocked, but eventually throughout the summer, we developed a respect and fondness for the Kook Group’s consistent preaching to us. We would actually wonder where they were if they were a little late on the usual weekend “show.”
It was September 12, 1975, when I finally blurted out that I wish I could believe all they were saying–new mercy, new life, new creation, new birth. Without blinking, they answered with Scripture. Ephesians 2:8-9, For by grace you are saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no man may boast. “Tucci,” they always called me by my last name, “If you’re sincere, He’ll give you the faith to believe!”
That was forty-seven years ago. They were right! They took me to church and Joan encouraged me, counseled me, and believed in me. This dear lady invited us into her home and life. I learned to drink coffee at her kitchen table as she would patiently explain Scripture to me.
Her funeral celebration was November 5. I canceled my trip out of town. I needed to be there, to mourn and celebrate and to think. As I reflect on the seed that she sowed into my life, there are some conclusions I have considered.
I’ve always maintained no one is beyond God’s reach. I came by that honestly. They showed me that they believed that and all through Joan’s life she continued to demonstrate that. I was just one of many she brought hope to. They developed in me a love and respect for God’s Word, which was their go-to. I’d watch them thumb through the pages, looking for the verse to answer my questions. Joan expected God to speak to her and lead her, and she passed that onto me. She modeled what the Spirit-filled life was like.
She would often start by saying, “This may sound crazy, but this is what I believe God is saying,” and was usually laughing as she said it. She modeled the truth of taking God seriously, but was honest enough to have a healthy dose of doubt about herself. I think that has been very impactful to me.
She would drop what she was doing or multi-task, cooking a meal for her family while trying to help me navigate my journey. She never made you feel like you were inconveniencing her when, in reality, you really were. Joan never used her own hardships or circumstances as a reason not to love and serve others.
Her husband had died young and she was on her own, raising three daughters. Life was a challenge and she had her own struggles. But her mission was bigger than her ability or resources. What a great example of true leadership in a world filled with quotes and quips. This is an inspiration and standard to me.
Jesus taught us whosoever is born of the flesh is flesh and whosoever is born of the Spirit is spirit. I’m so glad that what she told me and showed me was an out-of-the-pew version of Christianity. In my walk with the Lord, I’ve witnessed much more passive versions of faith. I’m so grateful for the “normal” that she demonstrated that ruined me for any interest in a convenient journey.
Thank you, Joan! My heart is filled with gratitude for your love and example, and I will attempt to live it out.
In the Master's Service,