There was Josiah in the door of the bakery and heading straight for my table. His face lit up wide in a grin and he threw me a big grip of a handshake, saying, “Hello, Mr. Dubois.” “Hello, Josiah, it is great to see you!” Despite a Christmas full with family and friends, he had called me up, “Time for a talk?” “Absolutely.”

Josiah had been an apprentice to me for two years. Now he was back from college, back from across the country. I set my coffee down and flipped open my notebook, counting eight months since our last meeting. I had gotten Josiah started in software and in business when he was 15 and he had taken off from there. And I had experimented with a idea that kept the two of us talking steadily for those years. I was 50 then. How could a 35-year gap in our ages be bridged? I had tried something. He was about to tell me the difference that something had made.

Our work together started three years earlier. The church we both attended wished to have their website overhauled. This was an opportunity for Josiah to learn web development so I offered to put together a project. My colleague Mike took the role of technical mentor, giving Josiah the books he would need and directing him a step at a time how to build a website. I was the business mentor. Josiah was the developer. The pitch to the pastor was this: Mike & I would contribute our time for free if he would cover some pay for Josiah and the cost for books and a few other educational expenses.

The website was based on WordPress and related software programs. He built introductory pages, an event calendar and a media library to hold video and audio recordings. Multiple blogs were built in, one for each person leading a ministry. Josiah’s objective was to deliver technology to help the various ministries communicate their message in word, image and video. Furthermore, he ran the website himself for a while so that he would find and fix the bugs. And then he produced instructional videos in order to transfer the operation to the church staff.

Customers deserve care and attention. So Josiah was to be the spokesman. We met regularly with the pastor. Josiah would take the lead while Mike and I listened in. We prepared him beforehand, letting him talk through his presentation. He anticipated questions. Afterward, the three of us critiqued the meeting. Josiah outlined the actions he planned to take.

This project seemed to be all technical but it had a twist. Half-way through, Josiah would have to become a communications coach. Technology is a tool to help the people communicate and to advance the mission for which the church is assembled. After Josiah built the website, his job became weekly video production. Following the Sunday morning service, Josiah would take the minister aside and quickly make a short video, coaching the person to capture the main point and benefit in just two minutes. He would edit and post both the full message and the summary on the website. He also made videos of people who ran the many other programs. Josiah was surprised at the difficulties he encountered. People accustomed to speaking in person had to adapt to the new tools and embrace communicating in writing and video. The techniques proved not to be intuitive. Josiah found he could teach what they needed to know.

Along the way, Josiah began to take on website-building projects for others. He began to teach himself the software languages that make up the WordPress and internet protocols. He went on to learn advanced programming methods in commercial use and then began exploring experimental software languages. He later told me he made thousands of dollars from building websites for people and had begun to make repeat product sales from low-cost software programs that he sold online on a software marketplace. He learned the price his services could bear in his market. He even attempted to introduce some of his contemporaries to the freelance software business in an effort to find someone who could take over his clients. This led to a discovery. He found his peers were reluctant to take a software project unless they knew in advance they could accomplish it. Josiah realized he did not have that constraint. He would say yes to a job. His posture was that he would be able to figure it out. He learned of himself that he had a high tolerance for managing uncertainty. He could bear the risk to accomplish what a client needed done.

During the two years of active work, I had one more requirement of Josiah. I subscribed him to an information service that published daily articles on a range of economic and business subjects. His duty was to read the four daily articles, something that took about twenty minutes a day. Then every couple weeks he and I would get together for morning coffee. He was to choose any three articles from the dozens that had come out. Those articles – whichever three caught his attention – easily filled two hours with ideas and left a basket-full for later. We talked economics, history, banking, small business, marketing, advertising, education, politics, voluntarism, liberty – we ranged widely. He wanted to know my perspective on the historical events I had lived through. Or he’d ask of some crazy business practice, “Does that really happen in a company?” Or he’d read of an account of an invention and we’d wonder, “Why not us? What can we make?”

So I used this information service as the curriculum for business and life. All the articles were written from a consistent Biblical foundation of thought, a starting point that was crucial for the two of us. This proved a delightful division of labor: I relied on these articles, all of which expressed a consistent philosophy. This saved my time and avoided sloppiness had I attempted to pull together a curriculum from pieces. The apprentice benefited by getting a liberty education in bite-sized lessons. It costs him 20 minutes a day to keep read-up. He arrived prepared. Our time face-to-face was reserved for that which was irreplaceable: to explore, to apply these lessons to life, to challenge him, to exercise his skill of speech, discussion and argument.

We had begun when he was 15 and now here he was, 18, and home from the first year at the university. He caught me up on all the news, his study of philosophy and of physics, his plans to earn tuition money. Then he told me of a discovery. He had encounter challenges in the new place and from the many new people at the university. But he drew a line right back to our times together. He told me how the reading I had had him do and our dozen conversations and his watching of Mike & me had changed his way of thinking. He had been established enough that he was not tossed about. Our time had sunk a reference point into his thinking. He could make good measurements.

I am profoundly touched to be so considered by Josiah. Someone had a job that needed to get done. In putting our hands to the task, we got the work done. And we also got to pass on a bit of our way of walking.

This is a hope of Apprenticetown. Where families and communities share a common faith, we are compelled to teach our sons and daughters — and our adopted sons and daughters. Really teach them.

People need more resources. There is room for more choices of life curricula. What good fruit can come from the history and tradition of your community? What must be written and who can write it?