We want to provide weekly updates this month to help document all of the actions taken to remember Joshua and also hopefully inspire others! The first is a memory that was shared with us shortly after Joshua died. Please continue to send me descriptions of your actions as no act of kindness, compassion, or peacemaking is too big or too small. We are drawing strength from each and every one of them! – Rebekah
(1) I wanted to share another memory of Joshua…on this the day of his memorial service. Joshua spoke at a conference on counter recruitment which I organized…held in San Antonio, TX several years after his return from Iraq. He spoke on a panel, and then we interviewed him on video tape. You will find several clips of his reflections at: co.mcc.org andhttp://co.mcc.org/Resources/VideoClips
It was after we finished taping his interview that he got into a conversation with an African American pastor in one of our Mennonite Churches, who, believe it or not was a former Marine recruiter. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Josh and Ertell (the pastor) get into an animated discussion in which they compared Shakespearean English rhetoric and discourse with today’s hip hop rap. There is no way I could reproduce the comments…but I remember marveling at the ease with which these two men who had never met before, built a bridge between their life experiences and cultures with amazing speed…and had a great time doing it.
As a peace educator, I will always cherish and be inspired by Joshua’s story, his deep faith, and his courage. Wishing you and your family God’s peace. – Titus Peachey
(2) To commemorate Joshua and his generous life of making friends of strangers, we are going to invite a family who lives close to us, clearly in poverty, but to whom we have not yet reached out, to come over for ice cream. – Mike Griffin
(3) I am continuing my work to make certain that no child in Cedar Rapids’ elementary schools goes hungry on weekends and school vacations. Operation Back Pack is a national program through Feeding America. I began working with HACAP (Hawkeye Area Community Action Program) a year ago and have helped raise $78,000 towards our goal of $107,800 which would allow us to implement the program in all 21 elementary schools. I am continuing my mission this year in honor of Joshua, a former voice student of mine and also a dear friend of our son Bryan and his wife Kate. I speak tonight to a group of visiting Optimist Club members who are touring Cedar Rapids to see the recovery we have made since the flood in 2008. While we have recovered very well on the surface (restoration of the Czech Museum, Paramount Theatre, Theatre Cedar Rapids, Convention Center, with the library and central fire station near completion, etc.) there is a sad and hidden problem that remains. Too many of our families are living in poverty, unable to meet basic needs. Three fourths of our elementary schools have more than 50% of their students on free and reduced lunch, a federal poverty designation. One of our schools has 88% on free and reduced lunch. School staff are identifying children in all our schools who do not eat at all on weekends. It is my mission to continue to raise awareness, as well as funds, to help our children most in need. – Karla Goettel
(4) One of the things our family is doing to remember Joshua is to sponsor a child through Children’s Relief International. I traveled with CRI to their ministry in Mozambique back in 2006. I had two back-to-back Africa trips (the first to Kenya in 2005). I had originally traveled to Africa in hopes that I would find what I had been looking for – a purpose in life. I had grand dreams of working in an orphanage or starting an orphanage or working in some capacity for International Justice Mission to help stop human trafficking. I was disappointed after my first trip when what I discovered was not that the trip confirmed my desire to move across the world, but that I still hoped to get married and have children. Still single when I got home it was another 10 months until I met Mark (my now husband). I went to Mozambique to give that calling to Africa one more chance and am so grateful for the opportunity because I came back knowing that my life (at least for the near future) would be spent in the U.S. Although I am not working in Africa, my family can do this small thing for a child. If you want to know more about CRI you can visit their website at http://www.childrensrelief.org – Rebekah (Casteel) Latchis