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  • "If I am bound to the belief that God is in control of the cosmos, and miracles can and do happen, then there is no 'hypothetical situation' wherein God's ability to perform miracles through the faithful actions of the merciful ceases to be a possibility."

    Joshua's above words continue to resonate with us, his family, friends and acquaintances seeking to live out that same belief. Though he is no longer with us bodily, we strive to faithfully remember and testify to Joshua's witness among us, through the establishment of The Joshua Casteel Foundation and other initiatives on which we will continue to provide update through this website. Thank you for joining us.

    "The just man, though he die early, shall be at rest." (Wisdom 4:7)

    Joshua was diagnosed in early November 2011 with stage IV lung cancer (adenocarcinoma), which ultimately took his life on August 25, 2012 at the age of 32. The many of us who survive and love him will continue to pursue the heavenly justice to which Joshua (in life, and now in death) testified.

August 25th Four Years Later

Each August since Joshua passed has brought with it such a mixture of emotions, memories, and thoughts. And thankfully they are changing and becoming more hopeful and redemptive with each passing year. I have tried to honor him by carrying out some kind of special project each year that expresses love and compassion to others, carrying on life as he lived it. But this year circumstances have brought more than a few challenges and it has been all that I can do to just keep my head above water, this time more physically than emotionally. So, instead of a direct or tangible “Love In Action” project this August I am going to simply pass on a powerful truth God reminded me of last night (Aug. 24th) through a movie.

Surprisingly it was from a movie I thought I would most likely never watch and which understandably I haven’t been able to even think of watching during these last few years. The movie is entitled, Lone Survivor. I have some connection to it, however, as a friend read a review about it while visiting New York City, a few years after Joshua’s passing there, and relayed to me that the review said some things that reminded him of Joshua. And I have also come to know the author of the book, Demon Camp, about a soldier she met and wrote the book about who was supposed to be with the men sent to rescue soldiers on a mission in Afghanistan which is what the movie describes. That mission is the main plot of the movie. So there was some interest in watching it but I just didn’t think I would ever be able to. Then I saw that it was going to play on TV so I recorded it for some possible future viewing, thinking that it would most likely be far off in the future if at all. However, last night I felt a surprisingly strong desire to watch it as well as strong enough to do so. I jumped in, but holding my breath, ready to jump out immediately if I felt like I was going under. I was in for a surprise and a blessing.

What I found out is that the movie possessed a profound message that I believe did characterize Joshua’s life and beliefs, and what led him to live the life that he did. It is not about conscientious objection or a person who leaves the military to work towards peace and non-violence, as Joshua did. Quite the contrary. It is about a group of Navy Seals sent on a mission to ‘take out’ a leader in Al Queda in a region of Afghanistan. It’s a story of a mission gone wrong and an ambush which eventually took the lives of all but one man, Marcus Luttrell. (real name) Hence the title, Lone Survivor. But there is a reason that Luttrell survived several gunshot wounds, multiple injuries from jumping off of cliffs and rolling down rocky terrain, as well as near death from an Al Queda group in the midst of a small village in the mountains. And that is because of the care and protection of a ‘local’ man and his son, following the teaching of their religion which calls for its followers to protect at all costs a man from his enemies.

In the movie, when the soldiers were first found on the mountaintop overlooking the village by a small group of farmers including children, there was some discussion about what they should do with the group. It was Luttrell who, in opposition to others in his squad, stood up for humane treatment of the people, stating that it was not right to kill innocent unarmed civilians, needless to say, children in order to protect themselves from potential future harm, the possibility of one of them tipping off Al Queda of their whereabouts. The squad leader eventually agreed with Luttrell and let the men and children go. As feared, a young man in that group did tip off Al Queda leaders which caused the ambush. But miraculously Luttrell survived unbelievable odds until Mohammad Gulab (real name) and his son found him and took him to their village for safety. Mohammed and his people argued just as the Seals had up on the mountain whether it was too dangerous for them to keep him, as they too would become targets of Al Queda for helping the US. But like Luttrell, Mohammed also chose to protect this unknown wounded US soldier at great risk to himself and his family. Both men made humane choices and both would face consequences.

The two men seemed to be worlds apart in culture and religion, but turned out to be very similar when it came to matters of the heart. A message finally got through to the US base headquarters of their location and Luttrell was rescued by fellow US Seals. In the last scene Luttrell, being carried out by his fellow soldiers, turned and looked at Mohammed and his son and said “Thank You”. The son then ran up to him to embrace him and say good-bye. At the conclusion of the movie, displayed on the screen was a picture of a reunion of Marcus Luttrell and Mohammed Gulab in 2010.

The last scene of the two men looking at each other, everything stripped away between them but life itself, remains so vivid in my memory. And I can’t help but think that seeing another as part of our own humanity is what Marcus and Mohammed experienced because they both chose love and life over hate, self preservation, and death in those crucial moments in their lives. Their beliefs on killing and violence were circumstantially selective as the movie depicts, but the beauty of even their one choice was powerful and moving, showing two men who might have become enemies bonded for life by acts of love.

This over riding sense of humanity and the desire to choose love over hate is what I believe Joshua not only experienced in his interrogation booth in Iraq while talking with the young Jihadist, but finally saw as the heart and soul of the Christian message. When he saw himself in this young man, it was then that he realized that ‘enemy’ is a man-made label and it only has the power and meaning we give to it. How we define it is the difference between life and death and a more violent or a more peaceful world. When Jesus said to “love our enemies, and pray for those who persecute us”, he did so knowing that man is not capable of doing so outside of the grace of God. He commanded us to do the impossible so it would draw us to Him in deeper and stronger ways causing us to become more like Him. It takes divine enlightenment and transformation to enable us to make the hard choices of love.

The movie was exceedingly inspiring and caused me to reflect on this truth and question:

Where would we be if God was like us?

“And while we were yet sinners (enemies of God) Christ died for us” (all of us)

Joshua looked beyond his reputation, acceptance, and even safety to follow Christ’s teachings, taking Him at his word to lay down the sword and choose to love becoming a peacemaker. Taking unpopular stands makes us vulnerable and open to the unknown as it did for Marcus Luttrell, Mohammed Gulab, and Joshua. And yet they all experienced a freedom that no one can ever take away…and that is the freedom to love…whether it ends up saving our life or costs us our life…But in the end we are assured that…

“Love never fails”

Love to you all,

August 27, 2016 - 7:03 AM

Helen Schwietert - Thank you for sharing this with us.

August 27, 2016 - 12:51 PM

emily - Hi Kristi ~ I drive by your house several times a day and God often brings you to my heart. I am driving by because I am taking my son to and from activities… I can’t imagine how you must miss Joshua. It only seems fitting that God would put you on my heart during those drives. I’m so sorry to gather that you are struggling so physically. I will pray for you. I don’t know if you recall me writing to you last year. I am a member at Maranatha and I know you have several friends in our body. I also stopped by your sale a couple of years ago and introduced myself. I just wanted to let you know that Joshua’s life, through your writings, has impacted me as well. Be blessed, sweet sister in Christ ~ emily

August 30, 2016 - 6:23 PM

Stacey - I appreciate you theme of “love”. I feel it is a message often lost in the noise of daily life and politics. And, I feel sad to be the one to share the following with you under these circumstances. But I think we need to be honest with ourselves and eachother if we are to truly love one another, and better describe who Joshua was and how we can just be good and kind people – to recommit and find resolve in our walk with Christ despite the tragedies that test and can even break the strongest of us.

Marcus Luttrell abandon Mohammad Gulab (the man that saved his life) and lobbied to block his asylum to the US. It’s hard to accept, and I imagine more so as the fictional story seems to have brought you a degree of clarity and peace. The book and the movie “Lone Survivor” were made to solicit the kind of emotions that caused you to draw comparisons to Joshua. It is unfortunate, because “Lone Survivor” was written by an author of military fiction, and both the book and movie are largely a fictional and politically bias account of what occurred. The only stand Marcus Luttrell has made since deciding to move forward with telling his sea story, is for himself (even as he as he stood on stage for Donald Trump). And, the only person who took an unpopular stand was Mohammad Gulab (a Muslim) who chose the path untraveled, who saw Luttrell as a fellow human, and who put his livelihood, life, and his family’s lives at risk to rescue, shelter, and protect Marcus Luttrell. The Luttrells tried to bribe Gulab for his silence about what actually happened. They lobbied to have Gulab’s asylum blocked. And yet, this Muslim man from Afghanistan would still choose to save Luttrell if he had to do it all over again. Learning how to be Christ like through the kindness of a Muslim. There is some thick irony in that. Marcus has no love for Gulab, and yet Gulab has love for Marcus. There is a degree of irony in the truth of this story that makes you realize why we can’t find more peace in this world. If we are to call ourselves Christian, how often do we look in the mirror, reflect on our own actions and lives, and resist casting stones or cutting off those in need?

On a side note, “Demon Camp” is very self-indulgent and largely fictional piece of writing. You had a emotional reaction to two fictional stories designed to solicit those very emotions. I feel like they both may have helped you cope with understanding Joshua’s life and/or death. But I find it very dishonest, and destructive to being true to both yourself and Christ, if we draw anything from these stories as if they represent reality.

I don’t know anything about Joshua to be fair, but I would like to think he is nothing like Marcus Luttrell, and a lot like Mohammad Gulab. God Bless.

September 11, 2016 - 12:39 PM

jennifer rasin denniston - Hi,
I taught Josh at U of Iowa. He was in my freshman rhetoric class. I am looking to reach out to his parents or siblings — if they are reading this, could you please contact me? Thank you.

My Day with Robert

As promised I am writing to let you all in on the very special day I had with Joshua’s friend, Robert, whom we decided to honor this year with our “Love in Action” initiative which we began on the first anniversary of Joshua’s passing.  “Love in Action” so fits what Joshua was all about in his desire to make his faith real by living it out in very relevant ways.  And it is that same desire which we hope always defines the Joshua Casteel Foundation. So this year we decided to attempt to make life a little easier and a bit more fun for this friend who Joshua knew in high school and who faced some very real challenges in life.

I picked Robert up on a sunny afternoon at the assisted living residence he calls home.  I was somewhat prepared for a change in his appearance as I hadn’t seen him for several years.  I remembered that he was taller than Joshua, but when I saw him walk into the room where I stood I was more than shocked.  It seemed as if he had grown another 5 inches.  I told him so and he replied, “I don’t know, maybe I did”, and then smiled as he gave me a hug like I haven’t had in a long time.  It felt very good.

I also met the man who supervises the men who live in the home and I cleared with him as I had Robert’s mom that this would be a safe and allowable mode of transportation for him.  He thought it would be fine IF we could find a bike big enough for Robert.  I replied that I was sure there must be a bike out there for Robert and together we’d find it.

As we drove away from his home we had not been in the car but a few minutes when Robert said, “I really miss Josh”.    He says this every time we talk, oftentimes several times within one conversation.  This time in response, however, I asked him what he missed most.  He responded, “Everything, but mostly because we talked a lot.”   The feeling in his words made the hole left in his life feel almost tangible.

Strangely enough there is something almost comforting in his admission of the loss he feels each time we talk because I know how genuine his words are and I feel comforted knowing that I’m in the presence of someone who (unfortunately) shares the same deep grief because of his absence.   Such a strange paradox in life.  We talked a bit more about his life now and some of the struggles he faces on a day to day basis until we reached the store.   As I began preparation to exit the car I could tell he wasn’t ready to stop our conversation, so we sat out in the parking lot and talked for awhile longer.  I know he also understands loneliness and I tried to lesson his just a little.

We then went into the store and looked at all the bikes and sure enough they had two 29″ bikes for him to choose from.  I asked him which one he wanted and he said, “I want you to choose”.  This repeated itself with everything we bought including a bike helmet, lights, a padded seat cover, and a lock .  I gave my opinion, but followed it up with, “Is this the one you like the best?”   I so wanted him to pick out exactly what he wanted, but I realized that might not be something he was capable of doing in this situation.  We checked out and wheeled the bike out to the car, and miraculously it fit into my car, something I had failed to think about until my drive to his house to pick him up, a little too late to change plans!  A week earlier I would not have been able to physically pick up the bike with Robert’s help or maneuver it into the car, because of neck pain.  God’s provision and timing were perfect.

I dropped Robert off and we unloaded the bike, showing his supervisor all that we had gotten.  Robert was smiling with that shy smile of his while expressing his thanks to me over and over.  He walked over to me to hug me and say good bye.  The hug was very very long.  He pulled away, thanked me yet once more, and hugged me long again.  And then the same, two more times.  I must have heard twenty “thank you’s” before we said our very last goodbyes.

I drove away with tears in my eyes, feeling a little closer to Joshua in the moment, and thanked God that He had brought Robert into our lives.

When I got home I heard my cell phone beep.  It was a text from Robert.  “Thank you for the bike.”


Today, the 25th of August, will have been three years since Joshua left this life for another, one that will have no end and is beyond any and all of our imaginations. He is without pain, sorrow, fear, or anything that would make his world less than perfect. How very hard it is to conceive of that as we attempt to go on in a world where sorrow, fear and death reigns in most parts of our planet. We hear or see glimpses in the news of the hatred, anger, and death around our globe where children have never seen nor cannot even imagine a world of peace where love and compassion are a part of common existence. Instead, parents have to watch them die, some through starvation while others become the victims of horrendous acts of savagery. Hatred, violence, and war are realities that these children and their families live with or die because of daily.

Joshua saw and experienced a small portion of this insanity and it not only changed his life forever, but took it as well. He became part of the collateral damage that the military talks of as the unfortunate necessity of war. He was not a civilian, but collateral damage never the less. We all know that this aspect of war is understated at best but more often than we would like to admit, the collateral damage incurred in war is a result of direct decisions made by the institution that had committed to protect their own as well as innocent civilians.. This was Joshua’s experience as well as thousands of others who lived and worked near the burn pits and were exposed to depleted uranium as well. As far as all those affected by war around the world hundreds of thousands to millions of people have become part of war’s collateral damage. Unfortunately there are more than I ever imagined in my company, a mother who had to watch her child die. Those of us who have experienced this tragedy knows that time seems to stop the moment we had to say goodbye, never to have the same relevancy in our lives again.

As others in my situation oftentimes say, “It seems like three days and yet thirty years ago all at the same time since going through the trauma of our loss. I understand that. Three days because the pain is still so raw and deep. Thirty years because it seems that long since I’ve seen his great smile or been able to talk with him face to face. But then again It feels like a hundred years since I’ve been able to hug him and hear him say “Hey Mamma”, his somewhat humorous but affectionate name for me. And harder yet, it feels like forever before I will be able to be with him again.

I know when I get to heaven and all the years of sorrow are behind me, my life and the sorrow and pain that filled it will actually appear to me as only a moment in time. That’s a promise from God that I believe fully and am so thankful for. But at present I’m still on this side of ‘forever after’ and locked within the bonds of time, so that very real ‘forever after’ still feels like an illusion, because I’ve not yet experienced it. That is simply reality and what I and so many others around the world live with day in and day out. I’m sure that sounds depressing and very honestly that part is at times. But thankfully that’s not all there is. (“We grieve but not as without hope.”)

But I have to remember that not everyone has the hope I live with which breaks my heart. I don’t know how they go on. The last few months have been hard for me for many reasons, besides the countdown to August 25th. I won’t go into all the reasons why, but two things have taken place this week that have given me yet another glimpse of that ‘hope’ we have in Christ, causing me to feel very grateful for the life I’ve been given.

This gratefulness exists in part because of what Joshua left behind He didn’t own much of anything besides books, ( lots of them), clothes, some keepsakes, and a truck. He was a graduate student when he was diagnosed with cancer. The truck went back to the bank, the clothes that I didn’t give away still hang in my closet or fill his suitcases, and the books, all still in boxes, fill up a big portion of the storage room in my basement. The books were some of his favorite earthly treasures. And the best part of them, somewhat like the body and the soul, he took to heaven with him (in his mind and heart), while their ‘bodies’ stayed behind in my basement. If you knew Joshua well at all you’ll understand the correlation.

So with possessions not of much consequence, the only other thing of real significance that he could have left behind is that which is not material, and can’t be seen or touched in a material kind of way. It is simply a ‘legacy of love’ possible only because of people and relationships that made his life meaningful and also gave him the opportunity to give and receive love. During his illness and after his death there were more people than we could have ever imagined that responded with love for him while also expressing appreciation for what Joshua had meant to them. We experienced that ‘circle of love’ throughout his illness and right up to his passing, finding out how powerful love is. It moved, inspired, and even helped to hold broken hearts together. People and love…the two most important things we can acquire, we found out, made him a very rich young man in life. And as heir to his ‘estate’ I have been the very fortunate recipient of those riches.

This week I had life changing experiences with five of the people from his ‘circle of love’ who continue to impact my life in deep and positive ways, which also allows me to feel something of the life of my son in the here and now. At first glance one might look at the external appearances of these five people and quickly categorize one as “the least of these” and the other four as “the best of these”. And in the way that Jesus pointed out this difference in the scriptures I suppose we could say that it is true of these five men. Four were given many gifts to use in this world while the one was given mostly obstacles in terms of his ability to succeed in making a living or impacting the world with the gifts and talents admired by our success driven culture.

The four are Joshua’s best friends whom he met while studying at Oxford in England while in college. Being young men of similar minds (intelligent and creative) and heart (all hold a strong faith in God) the connection was immediate for Joshua and a true gift from God. They created a strong bond that lasted until his death, and I might add to this day. They all serve on the Joshua Casteel Foundation Board. They are writers and lawyers, college professors and pre-med students. We could easily say that they are all succeeding in using their gifts well and are a success in their careers and in life.

The fifth young man I interacted with this week, Joshua met and befriended in high school. His name is Robert and he is a special needs young man who is two years older than Joshua. I believe I’m correct in saying that Joshua was one of the few good male friends he had in high school and most certainly the best friend he had during those years. They would talk often and we were able as a family to get to know him somewhat, thus seeing his fun sense of humor as well as his soft heart. He had a saying that he would often repeat to Joshua when he felt Joshua had something good happen in his life. He would say in his very genuine and yet funny way, “lucky… duck”, drawing the words out for emphasis. We all loved to hear his endearing tease and it became something we said to each other as well for fun and recollection of Robert.

I’m not quite sure when Robert’s faith journey began but he ended up attending the same church as our family attended during their high school years. He lived with his mother for many years and at present he is residing in a semi-assisted living situation and has a part time job. He is oftentimes sad or bored when I talk with him now. Joshua’s death hit him very hard. It is sometimes hard to understand his words, especially on the phone, where words can sound muffled and unclear. I imagine some may look at him in pity or silently give thanks that they are not in his position in life. A few may even make fun of him. And it might be hard for some people to say that he is succeeding in life. But, I have a very different opinion.

From the outside looking in, Joshua’s four college buddies and his high school friend seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum of life, but if one looks closer he or she might see that they are much more alike than they might appear at first glance. And in fact all five have something very powerful in common. I’m quite certain that they will ‘all’ leave what Joshua left behind when they leave this world, a very powerful ‘Legacy of Love’. (the kind of love we read about in the Bible)

“Love is patient, love is kind, is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on it’s own way, it is not resentful or irritable, it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends.” (1st Corinthians 13: 4-7)

Most of us who read that chapter in the scriptures usually walk away feeling fairly small in our attempt at achieving that kind of love. And I’m not suggesting that all of these guys epitomize this description of divine love. There was only one man who walked this earth who could fill those shoes. And He still died on a cross shamed as a common criminal. But I will say that each one has exhibited many of those qualities over the time that I have known them and in particular this last week in relationship to me. Let me explain.

As a board for the JC Foundation we have to make many decisions concerning Joshua’s life and legacy. And after a year or two of meetings I began to feel a certain attitude coming from the four guys towards me relating to our decisions about Joshua’s image. It surfaced again as we were discussing an issue concerning the republication of his book, ‘Letters from Abu Ghraib’. So after what I felt had been a long period of time involving a series of things said that i felt justified my feelings, I decided to write the guys a letter. And I did so, in a direct and justifying way, asking for clarification of their feelings or respect for my opinions and the realization that I wanted the same things that they did. It was a rather strong letter and I was a little apprehensive in sending a confrontational e-mail, as we had not had any real problems up to that point. But as I told them, they meant too much to me to let resentment begin to build and ultimately hurt our relationships.

It took only a few hours for the first response to my letter to come back to me. He began his response by ‘thanking me’ for trusting them all enough to be honest with them about my feelings! The next thing he did was express his love for me. And then he went on to say that he was sorry that I had been feeling the way I had, but it was not how he felt about me or my attitudes and he didn’t know of any feelings from the other guys that would substantiate how I was feeling. There were more thoughts expressed and also helpful suggestions for the issues we were discussing concerning the book that really helped me see some things in a different light.

My offended heart melted immediately and I was so touched by his letter that I felt the effects for days. First Corinthians love… he had hit about four or five of its qualities in the first two sentences in his reply to me. I immediately felt an inward rebuke that it was I that had missed an important quality of love in my interactions with them… “love is kind and “believes all things” or in other translations “believes the best of others.” His response made me look at my own heart and realize that I didn’t “assume the best” about them. I could have just shared my feelings with them and simply ‘ask’ if what I was perceiving was accurate. That would have been much ‘kinder’ and would have offered respect and trust. I experienced the power of love from his words to me. It built me up and made me feel valuable and heard, but it also caused me to look at my own heart and learn.

The Power of Love

The 2nd response came about a week later. He had been out of town. His response was equally as gracious. He expressed sadness over the fact that I had been carrying the feelings I had and apologized for anything he had done to cause them. He also expressed his love for me and then went on to discuss the issues with the book in a way that did not demean my ideas nor did he try to defend his opinions. “Love is patient, love is kind, it is not arrogant, and does not seek it’s own”.

Then came my third response which was every bit as kind and gracious as the other two. He also expressed his love as well as acknowledging that he would never assume to know Joshua like I do as his mother and that he would always want to defer to me when it came to issues pertaining to him. He then reiterated how fortunate he felt to be a part of Joshua’s foundation. While I never want to depend solely on my own opinions in our decisions for the Foundation, I so appreciated the love and respect he gave to me in his response. Again, “Love is patient, love is kind, is not resentful, arrogant or boastful”.

By then I was feeling heartbroken that I had not trusted them, and that I had forgotten who they were as people, men of great kindness and integrity. My repentant heart led me to apologize to all of them. And refreshing my memory of who I had known them to be gave me a renewed sense of gratitude to God for the friends He had given to Joshua and then to me. Their love took me from feeling offended and distrusting to grateful and convinced of their love and respect for me. I could do nothing but thank God for the amazing relationships I am blessed to have with these four remarkable men, part of the riches Joshua left behind. I’m sure Joshua is smiling as he sees that I now know them even better and can see them as he does.

The power of Love!

A few days later Joshua’s friend from high school called me while I was doing some work on the computer. When I explained that to him he said, “Well, I’ll call you later then”. About ten to fifteen minutes later he called back. And to be honest I felt a little frustrated at being interrupted again. But just then I could ‘feel’ Joshua and almost hear his words. “It’s important that you talk to him, Mom”. So I began to talk with him and he told me that he was a little depressed and bored. And as usual he asked how I was doing, and said that he was praying for me. And then like always, he asked about each of the girls and reminded me that he was praying for them as well. We talked about it being the month that Joshua passed away, and he added that like me, it is a hard month for him as well. He reiterated again just how much he misses Joshua. We shared our grief together and I told him I’d be praying for him too.

After talking for about fifteen or twenty minutes, I thought I heard him say that he would be praying for me (again) and I responded with how much I appreciated his prayers. But he replied, “No, I mean, Can I pray for you right now”?

A little surprised I responded, “Yes, Robert, please do”. I was heartened but mostly humbled because it is something that he has done on other occasions. After he prayed for me and my family I prayed for him. And then we said our goodbyes.

As I have mentioned, it is oftentimes hard for me to understand Robert on the phone, BUT NOT WHEN HE PRAYS! I heard every deeply personal, specific, and sweet request he made to God for me and on our behalf as a family of three women. (and their families). Once again I was humbled and so touched by the love of this sweet young man who has stayed in touch with me since Joshua passed away, always reminding me of his prayers for me. This time, however, I realized how precious and needed his prayers really were, especially during this difficult month, but also because of the many months of physical pain that I had been going through. I was more discouraged than I had realized.

When I heard Joshua say, “It’s important that you talk with him”, I have to admit I felt it was probably for his sake, because his life is so hard and there are so few people in it. But after that call I realized how important the call was for me as well and all that Robert has to offer me, a compassionate, genuinely caring heart, with a childlike faith in God, that Jesus Himself said is “precious in the sight of God”. And might I add, his is a life that has meaning and love that is powerful.

The Power of Love

Jesus said, “When you do this unto the least of these, you do it unto Me”. I wonder when I think about that verse if the poor, the disabled, or the mentally challenged are really “the least of these”…especially when it comes to Love.? Who really are “the least of these”? I have to say that after I hung up the phone that morning I felt like it was me. I didn’t offer to pray for Robert first. He led me in the right way! He was my teacher. Robert doesn’t have a high profile job, he can’t drive a car, and he has a select few friends, but when it comes to love, he has it all. Like Joshua, he is rich in what matters. And he shared his riches freely and genuinely with me just as Joshua’s other four friends had. They all loved in their own ways.

As I reflected on all that had happened as a result of the phone calls with Robert I also realized a prayer had been answered. I was inspired to do something that I might not have thought about without talking to Robert that day. I had been thinking of a way to honor Joshua on August 25th by giving to others and showing love, something we started doing on the first anniversary of his passing which helped transform a very dark day in many people’s lives into a celebration of who he was and a realization that his life and love will still go on. And as a result of my conversations with Robert about his transportation, which is walking for him, I decided that it might be helpful and fun for him to have a bike to ride around town. So I mentioned the possibility to him and he said that he would like that, but that he would also need a helmet. He’s not only loving but also wise!!

So, hopefully on August 25th we will go on a bike and helmet purchasing expedition and the pictures will follow this writing. (If by chance that day doesn’t work out, keep a look-out in the next week or so for the pictures).

I can think of no better way to honor Joshua this August 25th than to continue doing what he did while he was on earth, loving others… from his friends to the Jihadist prisoner claiming to be his enemy. It was a heart of love and compassion that led Joshua to live the life he did while on this earth and the message I believe he wants us to continue to share with our words and our actions.

One way I’ve chosen to do that is to extend love to his friend Robert with a special gift and honor the love that he gives to those around him. In addition I know Joshua stands with me as I express my love and appreciation for his other four friends by honoring them as the men of God that they are and that he knows them to be. The JC Foundation will become what it is meant to be because of the bricks of love they have laid as its ‘foundation’.

So, thank you, Joseph, Jacob, Chad, Tim, and Robert! I love you all.

And thank you to all of Joshua’s friends and family whose love has continued on in many and various ways from that first dark day to the present. You have all shown clearly;


Perspective is Everything

Two years ago on a very sad day in August, as Joshua lay sick and dying in a hospital in New York City, a very special woman who also bore cancer in her body and whom Joshua and I were extremely privileged to meet and eventually call our good friend said to me: “We both know who Joshua is, how he has lived his life, and the faith that has grounded him throughout his life. If we know there is something beyond our life here and Someone is in charge of the plan that decides when we get to begin the new life we’re promised, then we can never say that we ‘lost our battle’ to cancer.  Cancer is only the vehicle God may use to bring us home. It was how Joshua lived his life that enabled him to win the victory over cancer before it ever invaded his body. Cancer is actually irrelevant in the assessment of our lives or our deaths, if we look through the lens of what we know to be true.”

There is no doubt that Joshua’s personal victories were a result of free gifts from God, of faith and grace, which empowered him to do what he did.  Whether it be in Iraq facing his supposed enemy and choosing to see him as a man in need of redemption and love no different than himself, writing and speaking about the true nature of God’s design for his creation achieved through faith, hope, and love helping to produce true justice and peace, or ultimately winning his personal and final battle demonstrating great courage in the face of great suffering and ultimately death.  It is that grace put into action and fueled by the passion of love that we want to see carried on through the Joshua Casteel Foundation.

Since Joshua’s death we have seen God use his life and legacy to carry on the work that he so passionately lived out while he was still with us. We are currently working with a publishing company to publish a second version of Letters from Abu Ghraib and hope to reach a new and expanded audience.  Stanley Hauerwas has agreed to write an additional forward which we are very excited about.

We are also beginning negotiations with a young composer in the UK who is interested in turning Joshua’s first play, Returns, into an opera.  This will be an extremely creative, interesting, and exciting project to see come to life.

In addition, we have reached out to an excellent organization called Preemptive Love Coalition that has been on the ground in Iraq for years.  PLC provides lifesaving surgeries for children with major heart defects caused from the many environmental hazards of war.  Their motto is, “Pursuing peace, one heart at a time”.  We are very interested in their philosophy of loving unconditionally those who agree with us and those who don’t. In Jeremy Courtney’s words, “Love first and ask questions, later”.  Jeremy, the co-founder of PLC, is Joshua’s age and how I wish they could have met!!  Whether it is PLC or other organizations on the ground in Iraq, we plan to become involved in projects that will continue to aid the Iraqi people. This would be a specific dream of Joshua’s realized, thus hopefully bringing about a measure of reconciliation.

I have also recently been contacted by a writer friend of Joshua’s from the University of Iowa who is interested in writing an article for a major magazine about the military’s use of burn pits, using his story.  We’re very happy to see that the issue of the burn pits and its effects on soldiers has not gone away yet and we very much appreciate the opportunity to help her in her efforts to raise awareness. We continue to believe that enough public awareness and pressure put on those responsible for their existence will bring their use to an end.  It is certainly still one of our goals.

Lastly we are in the process of setting up a new and informative website that will serve our interested supporters and onlookers in a more concise and organized way.  We hope it will be inspirational, educational, and informative, as well as offer ways for you to get involved in helping to change the world in ways you never thought possible … to become dreamers with us, following in Joshua’s footsteps.

I have lately come to the realization that it is Joshua’s generation that is bringing a genuine, powerful, fresh, and deeply compassionate vision back to the church with an inclusive love that Jesus himself taught much more clearly than we have focused on for generations.  And I see a fearless but passionate commitment to live out, rather than just preach, the truth of Christ in a way that has real power to change people and ultimately the world.  But it is hard and demands sacrifice and oftentimes suffering. And yet I oftentimes still find myself feeling overwhelmed and afraid to move out into arenas that I’m unfamiliar with, especially at this stage of my life. And yet I have to ask myself: “Isn’t this the heritage of the ‘church alive’ that I long for and what I want my life’s legacy to be as well, regardless of the cost?”

With all of the above goals in mind our first official fund raising letter will soon be sent out to draw into our circle those people who also have a desire to follow through with such dreams and the works that Joshua had to leave unfinished but that we now have the opportunity to carry on.

So we hope this August 25th (the second anniversary of Josh’s death) you will maybe take some time to think about Joshua and the passions you shared to see the world become a more loving place.  We also hope you take the time to ask yourself (and God) if you feel called to join us as we endeavor to bring hope and help to those in need and make the dreams of helping to create peace and justice in the world more of a reality. Joshua was very convinced that he could not achieve his dreams alone, that he needed community to help him on his journey.  And we are convinced as well that it will take each of us doing our part – but doing it together – to see the world change.

Lastly, on August 25th in memory of and upon reflection of Joshua’s life and your relationship with him, I want to invite everyone who would like to join us to release balloons up to the heavens. And if you so wish tie on a personal note to Joshua or maybe your dreams or commitment of what you hope to do to bring about change in the world. If you do decide to take part in the balloon release it would be wonderful to receive pictures from you so we can post them as encouragement to everyone who may see them.  Posting on Facebook would be great as well.

In the same way that our friend refused to look at her cancer as something that she would ‘lose her life to’, I believe Joshua refused to lose his life to mediocrity or in the end believe that he ‘lost’ at all.  Rather he believed his suffering and death served a purpose and we hope to continue to carry out that purpose.  I hope you’ll join us in doing so.

I want to end this annual tribute to Joshua by linking to a song that I used in a talk I gave at a peace conference in Maryland where I chronicled his life and the heart of a ‘peacemaker’. The song, so worth listening to, encourages us all to move beyond our comfort zone in faith and ‘refuse to play it safe or do nothing’.  I hope it inspires you and brings back fond memories of your encounters with Joshua.

It’s entitled “I Refuse”…by Josh Wilson:

- Kristi


August 25, 2014 - 2:24 PM

Little Brother Michael St. Jacques - Blessed Repose and Memory Eternal dearest brother Joshua Isaac Casteel!
Your presence and spirit are felt and continue to motivate us to look for better ways to be the men and women made in God’s image and likeness we have been called to be. Thank you so much for your life and the offering of your life for peace and the message and living out, crying out of the Gospel with our lives!

January 25, 2015 - 10:27 PM

Michael Snow - Wow, this blew me away. I just watched a youtube video that was posted on the ‘Pacifist Fight Club’ site of Joshua’s testimony. His story, in rough outline, paralles my own (a generation earlier) and I wanted to find out more about him. I left a comment on the site noting his name was Yeshua. And now I find he died in his 33rd year.
I found that he was born in SD and raised in Iowa (my sequence was just the reverse!). I’m from south of Sioux Falls.

The Joshua Casteel Foundation: Update

It has been a while since we updated, but a lot has been going on behind the scenes of the Joshua Casteel Foundation!  We are now an official non-profit and are working hard to realize the legacy that Joshua left for us and thus, the mission ahead of us, which is to promote peace, justice and reconciliation and care for those impacted by war. As Joshua’s mother and the President of the Foundation, right now Kristi is leading our efforts.  Over the next few months Kristi will have the opportunity to testify on behalf of Joshua about the effects of the burn pits and speak about Joshua’s life and legacy of peace.  These events are open to the public and we hope that some of you will be able to participate:

(1) People’s Hearing on the Lasting Impact of the Iraq War

Moderated by Phil Donahue, creator and host of The Phil Donahue Show and Co-Director and Co-Producer of the film Body of War.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Doors open at 6:00 p.m.; Panel and Livestream at 6:30 p.m.

Where: Friends Meeting of Washington; 2111 Florida Avenue NW; Washington, DC 20008-1912



Facebook event:

(2)   The 29th Annual Peace, Justice, & Environment Conference

Peace and Justice through the Generations:  Passing the Torch for a Better World

Friday, April 25th

St. Philips Episcopal Church

730 Bestgate Road, Annapolis, MD 21201


Saturday, April 26th

Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis

333 Dubois Road, Annapolis, MD 21401 • 410-266-8044

(3) Returns

Joshua’s play Returns is going to be performed in Canton, Ohio over Memorial Day.

(4) Bishop Dingman Award

Kristi will be present to support the 19th recipient of the Bishop Dingman Peace Award.

Catholic Peace Ministry’s Maurice J. Dingman Peace Award is given each year in memory and in honor of Maurice Dingman, the late bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines revered for his commitment to justice, peace and equality.

April 26, 2014 - 9:39 AM

Coralie Farlee - With a “.com” website, one would make the assumption that your organization is NOT 501(c)(3).

I asked you anout your tax- exempt status at the annapolis conference today.

Coralie farlee wilpf dc

May 22, 2014 - 3:04 PM

Chad N - Coralie,

Thank you so much for your interest, and for speaking with Kristi at the conference! The Joshua Casteel Foundation is incorporated as a non-profit corporation, and we are awaiting confirmation of our status as a 501(c)(3) before the IRS, which we have been assured is forthcoming. The website address predates the incorporation of the foundation, as it was initially a place for us to support Joshua prior to his passing. We are investigating purchasing “.org” addresses to clear up any confusion, though of course the use of a “.com” address has no bearing on our 501(c)(3) status.

I reply as a board member who has been working on our organizational matters, and would be happy to answer any further inquiries you may have at

Kind regards,