Businesses spend thousands of dollars at times bringing in "programs" to help better their employees and improve moral. Schools spend lots and lots of money on "programs" to keep kids off drugs, from having sex, stop bullying, etc., Churches spend lots of money on conferences and other events trying to impact their members. Colleges and Universities spend millions on speakers to inspire and teach their students how to make money, how to be successful, etc. However, you know what's missing in most of these? Not many people are trying to impact people's hearts! That's what changes lives.
When employees learn the importance of putting others first, of being kind, of overcoming difficulties the right way, and their attitudes are changed, that impacts the company and all those the company does business with. When kids realize they don't have to follow the "crowd", they don't have to do what "everyone else is doing", it's okay to be different – their lives are changed. Cancer patients and others with life threatening problems, who need to hear a story of hope and inspiration. Corporate executives, politicians, and other decision makers who need to realize the importance of making the right choices and how they can impact the world. When hearts and attitudes are changed, lives are changed, and when lives are changed - the world is changed!
The young girl Anne Frank, who was a victim of the Holocaust in 1945 is quoted as saying, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." And, while I don't begin to compare myself to her, that has been my goal in life as well – trying to change people's lives for the better.
Most people who read this will have already read or at least heard some of my life story. At the age of only four, I was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only one week to live. You can read my life story here if you've not read it. But that was over 45 years ago – so it's been a long week!
When I was in elementary school, many of the other students would make fun of the way I talked due to my vocal chords being partially paralyzed by the cancer and treatments I had been through. In fact, when I was in first grade, and we had to recite a poem or something in front of the class, I would ask the teacher to take me out in the hall where I could recite it only to her, because I knew the other students would laugh at me. And still to this day, when I speak (especially to young people) I can hear and see people snickering. Because of this and other physical problems I had to deal with, becoming a preacher and speaker was the LAST thing anyone thought I would do with my life.
However, at a very early age, I realized God had allowed me to undergo all of the trials and troubles of a terminal disease, so that He could use my life to be an inspiration and encouragement to others. And God has graciously blessed me in being able to reach people in many ways over the last 40+ years. I couldn't do it without Him!
When I was in the fifth grade, and felt God calling me to preach, I went to the pastor of the church we attended in West Virginia and asked him if I could use an old church auditorium that was owned by the church, but was on the other side of town. I asked him if I could use this auditorium on Saturday evenings to speak, to which he agreed.
I used to get up on Saturday mornings and go up and down the streets around that old church building and knock on the doors inviting people to come hear me. Of course, it's not every day that you hear a knock on the door and when you open it you find a little short kid who talks funny asking you to come hear him speak. So, I got many doors slammed in my face, people told me to stop playing "pranks," and people laughed. On the biggest night I had over 75 people come to that old church auditorium to hear me speak. I have no idea what I spoke about, since that was so long ago, and I was so young – but thus began my speaking career.
When I graduated from college, I envisioned traveling the world – speaking in churches, schools, businesses, colleges, etc., full time. That was my dream, and maybe someday I'll be able to do that; but even though I haven't yet gotten off the ground with a "full-time" speaking career, I have spoken all over the United States. I speak anywhere they'll open the door - and I do it for free. And the websites I've created and articles and publications I've written have been read by people all around the world. And, when people hear or read about me, I've had people ask me often, "Joshua, why do you do this?"
Well, people all over the world are hurting. People have problems in their lives both spiritual and otherwise. Financial troubles, personal issues, physical difficulties to overcome, daily problems and trials they face. And these people are looking for hope. They are looking for encouragement. They are looking for "answers". And every time I get a chance to speak to a group, I ALWAYS have people talk to me afterwards and say things like, "Thank you so much for sharing – you just changed my life!" or "What you said today is exactly what I have been needing to hear." and other things. That's why I do it – to make a difference in people's lives – one person at a time. I've spoken in many churches, in colleges and schools, at camps, at business meetings and conferences, at rally's and other events, and even in prisons.
In January of 2013, I spoke to a church youth group here in Atlanta. The next day, I got an email from one of the young men who had heard me speak telling me how inspired he had been to hear my story. He also wanted to know if I would be willing to speak at his school, which was a public school. In answering his email, I told him I would be more than happy to do so, but I also let him know that I had tried to get schools (even Christian ones) to let me come speak for years, and had not had any doors opened.
It was just a couple of days later that I got an email from a teacher at the school saying this young man had told him about me and that they needed to hear my story. The teacher informed me that he was a teacher/sponsor for the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) at this school, and they had a weekly meeting before school started, where I could speak. I went to that FCA huddle (that's what they call the FCA meetings), and there were almost 200 young people in that classroom at a public school coming to hear about God. The room was so packed, there were even kids standing in the doorway and out in the hall. God in His amazing grace used my story that day to impact and change lives. It was an AWESOME experience.
Also in attendance at that FCA huddle, was one of the board members for the FCA of Dawson and Forsyth Counties (North of Atlanta). She wrote me the following email:
"On behalf of Forsyth/Dawson FCA, I want to send you a heartfelt thank you for speaking at Piney Grove Middle School yesterday. I was absolutely mesmerized by your story. It was by far one of the most powerful messages I have ever heard, and I'm not the only one who thinks so. Many parents have emailed me to say that their kids can't stop talking about you and your message. More than a few have said that their kids were so moved by you that when they talk about what they learned it brings them to tears. One mom wrote to tell me that her son said that you were the most inspirational speaker he has ever heard, and that he got more out of your message than he ever has at church or any other spiritual gathering. In my own son's words, "That was the most awesome testimony ever!" You certainly had a huge impact on these kids. Your message of how God created each of us with a specific purpose is so timely for our middle school youth. I believe that no one can deliver it more effectively than you. God is using you in mighty ways. You obviously know the purpose for which God made you. All who have the honor of meeting you and hearing you speak are truly blessed. Bless you as continue to inspire and glorify God through your testimony."
Word began to spread and soon I was speaking at schools all across north Georgia!
I spoke to the FCA huddle at Durham Middle School, and there were almost 200 kids at that one as well. After the meeting, the teacher/sponsor asked if I would come back and speak again and now I've spoken at that school eight times, and was even asked to speak to the ENTIRE school.
He wrote to me the following email:
"Joshua Goodling spoke at Durham Middle School FCA and the students are still talking about it one week later. He made a huge impact on our students. At first I thought the students would not be able to hear and understand him but they soon picked up his speech pattern and he was very clear. His story was incredibly inspirational and spiritually uplifting. One of our eighth grade students said it was the best FCA meetings she had ever attended in her three years at Durham. I have already asked him to come back and Joshua has graciously agreed to speak again. Our students are excited to hear he is coming back and promise to tell as many people as they can to attend FCA the morning he speaks."
One thing about speaking to the FCA huddles is, they are BEFORE school, so I can share the Gospel freely and talk about God and His amazing grace. When I speak to a school assembly during actual school hours, I'm not allowed to speak so openly about my faith, but I do share my story and inspire the young people to put others first, make the right choices in their lives, and make a difference in this world. And that has been very well received by students and faculty as well. There are so many ways we can impact lives, there are opportunities all around us!
I've gotten many many emails from students who have heard me speak as well. Here are a couple of recent ones:
"Last month you came to my school (Centennial High) and spoke to our FCA. I just wanted to thank you SO much for coming to share something so difficult. I really enjoyed your talk and I wanted to let you know that the brochure you gave to everyone is hanging on my bulletin board in my room. Whenever I'm worried or stressed I look at it and remember that God has a plan. You really effected the students at Centennial and I just wanted to thank you - You changed my life!!"
"Thank you so much for coming to speak at Lost Mountain Middle School. It was really inspiring and left me speechless because of how amazing of a speaker you are and your story. It helped me realize how precious life is and to never take it for granted. It changed the way I think of things. Thank you so much."
That's why I speak. That's the only reason – to change lives. Since that first school in 2013, I have spoken to over 150 different middle and high schools in the states of Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina! But it's not just kids in our schools who need a new perspective on life. It's employees in our work places where moral is low. It's business leaders in our corporate offices and politicians in our governments. It's fathers and mothers trying to raise a family in this tough economy. It's cancer patients and people facing other life threatening diseases who need hope. It's PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Thank you for helping me reach others! There are so many who need hope, encouragement, and inspiration. I'm just trying to make a difference in this world – one opportunity at a time, and reaching people with the one thing that will not only change their lives here, but also for eternity – faith in Jesus Christ! He ALONE can bring peace and joy like you've NEVER known.
And even when I speak at schools and events where I'm not so free to talk about my faith in God, I still inspire them to make a difference in this world by putting others first, spreading kindness, and overcoming the difficulties that life brings our way.
All Glory To God!
Pray daily for Joshua Goodling and the doors God is opening
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