At 5 a.m. on a Friday last August, 20-year-old Joshua Jank’s condition was worsening. Nurses at his hospice home in Fort Wayne, Ind. told his mother to gather anyone who wanted to say a last goodbye.
“Josh spiraled downward very quickly,” Brenda Jank told Sojourners. “In less than two weeks he went from being at home without oxygen to being in the hospice house. He just hit it – a perfect storm.”
It was in the midst of that perfect storm that a movement was born. A family friend visiting Josh brought him a handful of small glass hearts. The friend suggested Josh could give the hearts to his visitors, Brenda said. With the hearts, he could tell his visitors that he loved them and that God loved them, the friend offered. They could be his way of saying goodbye. Josh loved that suggestion, Brenda said.
“He was in and out of it,” Brenda said. “There were times where he was unconscious and then there were times he could talk and he could connect. And he had incredible, precious goodbyes with people.”
For Josh, those memories are hazy.
“To be honest with you, I was in the hospice house dying,” Josh said of that August weekend. “And, you know, I was just in one of those days, the last few ones of life kinda state, and I just don’t remember it that much.”
On Sunday, Josh was still holding on, but he had given away all the glass hearts. When Brenda decided to find something else Josh could give to his visitors, he only requested that it be red.
“Josh said, ‘Make sure it’s something red, because I want to tell people that love really makes a difference,’” Brenda said as she told the story. She went to a local hobby store to find that something red.
“And when he woke up, as soon as he saw the diamonds – these red diamonds – he said, ‘That’s it. That’s perfect. Because then I can tell people that love really matters and that God does amazing things through heat and pressure.’”
Amazingly, Josh stabilized and the family decided they could bring him home. Six months later, Josh is still spreading his message of love.
“God was talking to me,” Josh said. “He was making me say that stuff. It’s red for love, and it’s a diamond because God does things under heat and pressure.”
A Long Medical History
This recent journey through hospice care was only the latest of medical issues for Josh. At 10, he was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. When he was five, Josh had a stroke due to complications from sickle cell anemia, which he’s had since birth. Because of the stroke, Josh has been on a lifetime of blood transfusions. Last summer when he stared reacting to the blood transfusions, his family stopped them. He was diagnosed with Heptopulmonary syndrome, a liver disease which can only be cured through a liver transplant. Because of his sickle cell anemia, he’s not a candidate a transplant. Toxins from his liver were destroying his lungs, so he’s now on oxygen 24 hours a day.
Throughout his medical troubles, Josh’s focus is clearly on others. His main mission is to find an adoptive family for Jing, a 13-year-old boy with special needs from Asia.
“He came here on a hosting trip with a friend of ours,” Josh said. “Everyone in his group got a family, but him. And so God said me, ‘Josh, you need to find that boy a home.’”
Josh set out to do just that. Using his own story, Josh is spreading the word about Jing, working to find Jing a permanent family in the United States. Josh’s family is also using the attention to raise the $25,000 it will take to fund the international adoption.
“He has no need for recognition,” his mom said. “He will do all these things to be recognized if he can get the word out and help Jing find a family. He likes to hear stories about how the red diamonds have impacted other people, but he doesn’t like the focus being on him.”
But his story did spread, and people outside of his small community started to notice. Soon, the movement had a Facebook page and a website. As of March 10, his family estimated that at least 50,000 diamonds had been passed along throughout 44 states and Washington, D.C., and in 16 countries.
A local Indiana business, MudLOVE, noticed one of their bracelets — with the word ‘courage’ stamped on it — on Josh’s wrist.
“They saw my story with [my] ‘courage’ band on and said, ‘Wow, that’s one of our bracelets,’” Josh said. “They came to us and said we’d like to do a band for you guys. And so my MudLOVE band is ‘L♡VE,’ because love makes a difference.”
In creating a specialized “L♡VE” band for Josh, MudLOVE has promised to donate 20 percent of the purchase price to Foundation for His Ministry, Josh’s charity of choice. But donating part of their proceeds is not the only way MudLOVE has furthered the red diamond movement.
“Since the launch of the ‘L♡VE’ bands, we have kept a dish out on the counter with bands and diamonds,” Sean Cruse, the social media coordinator for MudLOVE, said. “Everyone who purchases a band gets two diamonds; one for themselves and one to share. Our hope with the ‘L♡VE’ bands is that it will inspire people to intentionally love others in ways that make a difference.”
For Brenda, the response to Josh’s movement has been unexpected.
“So this kid, who by the world’s standards doesn’t matter, isn’t going to do anything, then makes a difference,” Brenda said. “He has created a momentum of hope and love that just takes our breath away.”
“God does speak in amazing ways,” Josh said. “And it’s all in different ways. It could be through anything.”
Ben Sutter is Online Assistant for Sojourners.