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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.

For it is in Dying that We Live

“Truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat dies and falls into the ground it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

One year ago today Joshua stepped into eternity to be with his earthly and heavenly Father.  It has been a year of sadness and grief beyond imagination.  But slowly and gently God has brought us to this day in a way that has enabled us to focus on his life rather than his death.  Faith In Action was a result of that and has made this very difficult month more than bearable…one of hope.  We determined that there was no better way to honor Joshua than to use his own words and experience to express the heart and soul of who he was and the beliefs that became his life’s purpose. We hope that they will bless and inspire you.
The following was part of an email Josh sent to a friend while stationed in Iraq. It was subsequently published in Letters From Abu Ghraib (Essay Press, 2008).

Thoughts from a Christian American Soldier:

This morning I awoke wrecked by anxiety. For a full two hours I could not move. From the moment I opened my eyes all I could think of was failure, contradiction, falsity. For the past week or so I have been writing a script to help chronicle my experiences of war, and so for the past few days I have watched films such as Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, and Platoon as a means to help narrate what I experience. After watching films such as these, hearing the first-hand accounts of my forebears’ tales of war, it seems to me as if “war” is not even a term I know how to use to describe my time here in the desert. War is supposed to be the threat of being easily annihilated, not the threat of annihilating with ease.

The sacrifices made by my forebears from the Second World War are hard to comprehend. The beaches of Normandy. The winter journey to Berlin. The jungles of Guadalcanal. The massive force of destruction that they had to endure day in and day out in WWII is something I see now but in fragments in the attempts of an impoverished opposition setting off mortar attacks in one or two-round bursts every other day. One of us is killed for about every 40 of them. Or there are the inter-tribal kidnappings, the ransoms that go to fund the resistance. The chaos is real, but I view it mostly from an ivory tower. The utter contradiction and hopelessness levied against my forebears in Vietnam—well-intending American men walking footpaths each day under orders that came to embody the very barbarism they sought to overthrow—I do not palpably sense or encounter here. I have my own paradoxes of barbarism, but the gravity is altogether different. My job is often grueling and mentally and emotionally exasperating, but I live in a place with bins full of the remains of packages sent from home that simply can’t be consumed by individual soldiers. This cannot be true of everywhere on the battlefield, but in my corner of the world we have buffets with consumer response cards, air conditioning and internet cafes. I have been injured once, but only because I accidentally stabbed myself with a knife while cutting open a footlocker to pack all of the excess things I could not find a place to store in my living quarters. I am more likely to struggle from putting on weight than from losing it, from spending my money unwisely than from fear of not having a use for it, and from wasting my free time in entertainment than from waiting anxiously for the few times I am afforded it. Even the Eucharist sometimes feels like a product I am given, a thing consumed for the maintenance of morale. This experience of “war” is confusing at best.

Before I became a cadet at West Point, I read a quote of a military statesman who wrote, “I study politics and war, so that my sons may study mathematics and music.” This was written hundreds of years ago, but I read it on a brochure for an academy I was then to attend in the coming months. Long before I ever decided to leave the Academy I remember thinking it ironic that I too would be going on to study, yet again, politics and war. Would it be in the hope that one day my children might gain the opportunity to study mathematics and music? For then one must ask, “When will that day come?”

I recently made a man cry. I told him in Arabic that he was not a criminal and not a terrorist. He later told me that he had cried because it was the first time in many months an American soldier, or anyone for that matter, had told him that he was not an evil man. The next day I thundered away at a different man who sat blankly calm with the knowledge that his lies could possibly put the man who had the previous day cried openly in front of me in prison for the greater portion of his life. And now I am faced with the decision of having to abandon their cases altogether, because my job as an interrogator is not the enforcement of justice in criminal investigations, but merely obtaining intelligence relevant to the war-fighting efforts of US Forces.

The other day, one of my superiors talked to my interrogation team prior to a session. He told me, “These are the agents of Satan, gentlemen, they would rather slit your throat and die trying than spend the rest of their lives with the virgin they married the first time around—their wives.” It was now my turn to be the blank, expressionless one. This was a Christian man telling me this, obviously trying to impress upon me the reality of a Jihadist’s belief in a paradise with 70 virgins and the like. But believing that evil is real does not mean that it is okay to believe that there are those who can completely be its embodiment.  When the President stood in the National Cathedral and spoke about the moral dimensions of the war on terrorism,

it was not a moment for Christians to show solidarity in the “identification of evil,” but a moment for Christians to repent in their having objectified it in the bodies of men. To believe that there are evil men only to be destroyed is to utterly disbelieve in the power of the Resurrection. Anne Lamott wrote, “You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.”

To the legalist-extremist Muslim, evil is something that can be eliminated by eliminating the “evil-doer.” If a woman is perceived as indecent, kill her. If a man commits apostasy, kill him. I fear that the West has also adopted this view in certain of its policies to attempt to “rid the world of terror.” Evil cannot be destroyed by the destruction of things or persons, it can only be redeemed by those willing to lay down themselves for others. Evil has no existence of itself, it is simply the consequence of an amnesiac and bereft people. Goodness forgotten is goodness perverted. We must be that much more fervent in remembering and reiterating God’s initial words over His creation: “It is Good.” When we know not what we do, God grant us the grace to forgive, so that we might in turn remember how we, too, once were forgiven.

Every day I talk with the enemy. But, I do not see an embodiment of “he who opposes goodness.” If we approach the war on terrorism with the fervor of a Christian Jihad against Islam, our battle is already lost, for we have become what we opposed and we are now the fundamentalists. Our battle is not one of flesh

and blood, but against the spiritual powers and principalities which rule this present darkness. We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in “war mode” against a fleshly enemy, or the true enemy is already within us, and we have failed to believe in the power of a redemption which (we say) we believe has saved us. As James has told us, “faith without works is dead.”

Orwell once said that we sleep comfortably in our beds because violent men are willing to conduct violence on our behalf. Uncomfortably I have known this to be true, yet I am also quite guilty of having fallen in step with the pathology of a blood-purchased liberty and self-sanctification. My comfort and liberty must not be won by the sacrifices of a new and foreign poor now paying the price for our moral failings of diplomacy, economy and statesmanship, turning our Republic into an Empire. The memory of those who willingly died in WWII is tarnished every time we resurrect them as an analogy to our alleged “war against terror and tyranny.”

A fallen world demands the imposition of justice and the rule of law, but evil cannot be destroyed, it can only be redeemed.

In Him,


August 19th: Faith in Action

This week we’ll be posting from several of Joshua’s female friends and family…some great projects and inspiring commentary.

Elizabeth M.:  I wanted to pass on the first reading from Mass today from the 31st chapter of Deuteronomy that speaks about Joshua.  The full text is below, but I was moved when I read the words this morning where Moses is speaking to the people of Israel and telling them that Joshua will cross to the promised land  before us.    It seems our dear Joshua may be living these words in his special way going before us to the promised land and leading us all to take possession of our heritage as citizens of heaven rather than the earthly kingdom!  This is faith in action.  He was brave and steadfast, knowing the Lord was with him and would never forsake him.

Joshua’s witness helps me to not be afraid of the unknown and to trust that the Lord is leading me in all things.
When Moses had finished speaking to all Israel, he said to them,
“I am now one hundred and twenty years old
and am no longer able to move about freely;
besides, the LORD has told me that I shall not cross this Jordan.
It is the LORD, your God, who will cross before you;
he will destroy these nations before you,
that you may supplant them.
It is Joshua who will cross before you, as the LORD promised.
The LORD will deal with them just as he dealt with Sihon and Og,
the kings of the Amorites whom he destroyed,
and with their country.

When, therefore, the LORD delivers them up to you,
you must deal with them exactly as I have ordered you.
Be brave and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them,
for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you;
he will never fail you or forsake you.
Then Moses summoned Joshua and in the presence of all Israel
said to him, “Be brave and steadfast,
for you must bring this people into the land
which the LORD swore to their fathers he would give them;
you must put them in possession of their heritage.
It is the LORD who marches before you;
he will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you.
So do not fear or be dismayed.”
Mia A.: In honor of Joshua, and the prisoner who was so essential to his crystallization of conscience, I wrote my first letter to a prisoner at Guantánamo, and commit to write at minimum of one such letter a month. This particular prisoner asked for pictures of flowers, so I drew a hollyhock that is in our garden.

Matt, Cory, Emma and Ava T.: Happy to have bought 130 folders, 16 notebooks, 3 huge packages of pencils, 1 huge package of pens, post-it notes, 3 flash drives, 27 highlighters, and 24 erasers to donate to low-income students at MHS in Joshua’s honor. This donation certainly does not bring him back, but I know he would have loved to help these awesome students who just don’t have the means of getting school supplies. I hope he is smiling…..

Madeline T.: Yesterday, Madeline was spontaneously inspired (as we walked into Kmart) to give some of her own money to help those with disabilities. So, she did it in her uncle Joshua’s honor as her “Faith in Action”, remembering his life and legacy of love to those around us! We love and miss you Joshua!

Erin G.: A few years ago I was having dinner with Josh and he shared that he “just wanted to collect all of the weapons in the world and melt them down into farm tools.”  We laughed together at the “modesty” of his goal.  So, to honor a man who dreamed big, I made a donation to L.A. Green Grounds, a grassroots organization created by “gansta gardener” Ron Finley.  The group creates edible gardens in South Central LA.  Finley believes gardens can transform neighborhoods, and his message to his community is to “Get ganster wit’ yo’ shovel, and let THAT be your weapon of choice.”

Stephanie R.: I was thinking about Joshua the other morning and the acts of kindness as I was going through the Starbucks drive thru. I  told the guy at the window that I wanted to buy for the car behind me.  He’s pretty used to having people do this, so he looked at the guy’s total first and said, “It’s $8.45 (that’s an estimate).  Do you want to wait until the next time?”  I was tempted, but it didn’t feel like waiting was in the spirit of my purpose for doing it.  So, I told the barrista to use one of my free rewards (yes, I have more than one because I drink too much starbucks) and I would pay for the rest.

Jordan, Matthew, MCB, Trevor, James, Owen, Avery, Caroline and Robert:  I (Rebekah) drove to Michigan with the kids this weekend to visit my very best girl friends. They surprised me by preparing an activity for all of the kids so that they could all spread acts of kindness to those living around the lake we visited. The kids painted flower pots and we put soil, a packet of seeds and a flower message in each pot. That night all 17 of us walked door to door handing out the pots and counting the smiles. The kids were thrilled that we got 10 whole smiles!


I’ve been having a hard time deciding exactly what I wanted to do for our Faith In Action Project. But I want to first share my ‘missed opportunities’ that led to my decision as an encouragement to some of you who are also maybe having a difficult time deciding what you can do.

At one of my sales I was trying to sell Joshua’s anti-gravity lounger.  I had just marked it down from $50 to $30 and a young couple came in and asked if I would take $25.  I responded that I had just marked it down and he said, “It’s my birthday, come on $25!!”  I smiled and we talked a bit.  Then his wife asked the same thing and I was reluctant…why?  Maybe because it was Joshua’s, I’m not sure, but I hesitated. (normally I wouldn’t haggle over $5) They ended up buying the chair for $30 anyways.  As I watched him happily walk down the driveway swinging his newly bought chair I could hear Joshua saying, ” You should have just given it to him, Mom.  It was his birthday.”  And I immediately thought of the faith in action project and realized that it’s exactly what Joshua would have done.  He was gone by that time and it was too late. Convicted, I asked God to make me aware of another opportunity to show generosity.

So today (Friday) I was eating at a mom and pop’s type restaurant for lunch and a middle aged waitress waited on me.  Just as I was finishing signing the charge slip with the tip on it I felt this nudge to give her a large tip. I’m sure she doesn’t make a large salary by any standard.  But again I was reluctant, not because of the money but because it would have required re-doing the credit card transaction as I never carry cash and we had already finished.  As I hesitantly walked out the door I heard, “wouldn’t it have just made her day if I had given her a $25 tip”?  Again, this is something Joshua loved doing…giving large tips from time to time. I didn’t go back. Second missed opportunity!!

I’m not sure if I would have thought about either of these ‘opportunities’ if it were not for our Faith In Action Project and the memory of Joshua’s generosity. I think God is opening my eyes to just how many different opportunities we have on a daily basis to give, not necessarily always involving money, but simply thinking about ways to bless other people as we go through life in small and big ways.  I know how much joy I do get when I make those kind of choices, even the small ones; stopping to hold a door for someone, helping a mom with lots of groceries and kids, or picking up items or clothing left on the floor by hurried shoppers to ease the load of the workers, or calling or texting someone I know is going through a hard time to remind them that they’re cared about and that I’m praying for them.  I’m praying that God will just enlarge my vision to see how much more I can do for others that will show His love and kindness in ways I’ve never thought of.

Thankfully, I came home tonight to find an appeal from Food for the Poor Inc. (A Catholic relief organization) They highlighted Guatemala and shared that it has the highest rate of malnutrition in our hemisphere.  Their statistics of how far just a few dollars can go towards meals for children were encouragingly surprising. There was no hesitation or indecision on this one.  I immediately made the decision to send a gift that would feed at least 600 children.  And that decision led to another.

Because I oftentimes only eat one meal a day other than my morning yogurt I usually eat it out while running errands. So I’ve decided to take one night every week and use the money I would spend eating out to send to a program that helps the children and families that were ravaged by the war in Iraq.  The Joshua Casteel Foundation is in the process of researching such programs presently and until we find a reliable program to help the people re-group and heal from the war and the ongoing violence my weekly fund will continue to be added to. My goal is to also take the opportunity during those home dinnertimes to pray for the people of Iraq (starting a prayer journal to help keep me at it)and for the opportunity for the foundation to partner with an organization on the ground to bring very real and practical aid to those in need.  And there is no doubt about how Joshua feels about ‘this’ project. It is one of his few requests before he passed away one year ago this month.

And I just can’t miss out on the opportunity to write to a prisoner at Guantanamo Bay, as Mia told us about.  Who knows? I just may get a prisoner that Joshua interrogated.  That would be the ultimate joy!! If there are any others of you who would like to participate in that project you can click here to learn more:

Blessings on all of you for continuing to put your ‘faith in action’. It really is an inspiration for those of us who read about it.


PS. This is a rally cry to all you men out there. We haven’t heard from many of you, even though our very first response was from a male. (Way to start us off, Mike). We know that you are probably busy doing good works, but please write and tell us about them.  I’m sure Joshua is rooting (and praying) for the men to lead the way.:-)

August 20, 2013 - 5:25 AM

DM - Kristi, As one of the men in the wings, I was stirred to write a letter to a widow friend of ours I had not connected with for several years. She would have received the letter a week ago. thanks for your examples of where you dropped the ball. I appreciate your heart. DM

August 11th: Faith In Action

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: and

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 - Rebekah (Casteel) Latchis

August 5th: Faith In Action (Excerpts From My (Kristi) Journal)

Aug.5th…Excerpts from my (Kristi)journal…Faith In Action

“Having the Faith In Action project is helping me immensely to deal with this month in a more positive way, remembering Joshua’s life more than his death and seeing it continue on through the lives of others. Last night I had a rare dream, with Joshua in it. He came to my door and I opened it to find him standing there with that great smile of his. He came in and after we hugged, he looked at me and said, “I have so much I have to do, I have to get to work”. And then I woke up.”

I’ve been reflecting on the dream for a day now. As I started writing in my journal tonight I was thinking about the dream and that although what he said initially seemed somewhat strange for him to convey as soon as he got in the door, I am wondering if it doesn’t make perfect sense that he would say that to me. He does still have much to accomplish. Only ‘how’ he does his work has obviously changed. Thinking about the Faith In Action Project in connection to the dream makes it feel like a confirmation of the importance of the project and the reality of Joshua’s life continuing on in the lives of so many others.

I was and am still so amazed at people’s kind words concerning the impact Joshua made in their lives, even those who only met him briefly. People have told us that he inspired them not only to be better people but live more purposeful lives. So now I wonder if he is not still doing the same thing; if he is not still inspiring, only from heaven and with the power and perfection that comes from being in the presence of God? And I wonder if as we start the Faith In Action project if he won’t still be actively inspiring us to be better people living more purposeful lives? I wonder if in some way he won’t still be encouraging us to love more and pursue peace and reconciliation and justice not only in our own lives but for others?

It only makes sense to me that Joshua would not stop reaching for more nor would he have lost his passion to change the world because he went to be with God. On the contrary, his passion must be increased a hundredfold as he reaches out, still praying for and inspiring us to make a difference, maybe in ways we’ve never thought about. And it’s safe to say, I’m sure, that he is really “in seventh heaven” doing it.

When Jesus was with his disciples He told them, “…and greater works than these will you do when I go to my Father”. I’m suspecting that there is a similar principle that applies to each of His children as they cross over to be with their Father as they too take part in the Spirit’s plan for the lives of those of us left behind to carry on.

So don’t be surprised if you sense his spirit right alongside God’s Spirit moving you to reach out and carry on with your own ‘faith in action’ this month. (And beyond) Again, please post or e-mail us if and when you do. And please don’t feel shy in sharing your actions. It will not only honor Joshua’s desires but it will inspire the rest of us to continue to reach for more and find our own passions that will help us do our part to change the world for the better.

I can’t say for sure that God sent me that dream. But what I can say is that He has used it to encourage and inspire me to attempt to live a life that pleases His Son and honors the life of ‘my son’. I pray that it will do the same for you.


We wanted to make a slight revision to our Faith In Action project (please read the preceding post) in memory of Joshua during this month of August. We asked that you would consider one act of kindness and compassion or acts promoting peace and justice in your sphere of influence to help continue carrying on the ideals and life that Joshua lived and believed in so strongly. We suggested doing this on or around August 25th, the day that the Lord took him home, and then let us know by posting on this site directly or by sending an e-mail to Rebekah to post of what those actions might be and any responses you might receive, if appropriate, as an encouragement to all who keep up with Joshua’s site and support his foundation.

We would like to suggest, however, that you not wait until Aug. 25th to carry this out or to notify us but rather use the entire month of August to do so and let us know all throughout the month what you have chosen to do or what you plan to do. We will post all of the responses we get on a weekly basis with an example from Joshua’s life as well. Also please feel free to add your own thoughts and commentary. We have already received some e-mails and will be posting the first week’s responses at the end of this week. And please let us know if you would prefer that your name/names not be posted. Otherwise we will share them along with your post and enjoy hearing from the vast community of friends that surrounded Joshua throughout life and his trial.

To all of Joshua’s and our ‘pastor friends’ or those in charge of or directing larger groups of people, we would encourage you to pass along the idea or website to your people in order to help increase the ‘possibility for good’ taking place.

Enjoy reaching out, caring, and loving those around you or doing what you can to promote greater peace and justice in our world. We know that you will be blessed as “it is in giving that we receive”. We look forward to hearing from you.

August 6, 2013 - 9:57 AM

Gail Coleman - As an associate member of Veterans For Peace, I attended Joshua’s memorial service and was very touched. Our chapter is planning a week of events September 15-21, in honor of the International Day of Peace-we call it Peace Week. It can be found at our home page,

Any act of kindness or way that we can spread peace to our brothers and sisters here, and around the world, honors his memory.