“I think Justin really had it in his heart to make this continual progression in his journey and development,” his longtime pastor and friend Judah Smith told PEOPLE.
“It’s astounding to consider that at such a young age he’s experienced extraordinary fame, and yet here he is at 21 years old making some amazing decisions and really developing. I’m proud of who Justin is and the incredible journey he’s on.”
Bieber recently spoke to Men’s Health about how much he’s changed over the past year.
“This has really been a big year for me, as far as figuring stuff out,” he told the magazine. “This is almost like a full 180 from how I was. Yesterday – a year from yesterday – I was in jail.”
Smith – who just authored his second book, Life Is _____., which explores the purpose of life – says that people often forget about Bieber’s ongoing commitment to charity, including granting over 200 wishes for the Make-A-Wish Foundation in 2014 alone.
“I think there’s so much that he does that no one knows about – the kids that he visits and the hours he puts in making kids’ dreams come true,” he says. “His Make-A-Wish efforts are close to unparalleled as far as I know. I think those are things that sometimes get missed in the shuffle.”
The pastor says he often draws as much encouragement from Bieber as he gives to him.
“We talk nearly every day,” says Smith. “His authenticity, his genuineness, his love and his heart every single day are an encouragement.”