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Joshua Casteel (In Memory) bio picture
  • "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.

Finding Peace

Hello Everyone,

I know it is late and although I’ve been battling headaches again and I should be sleeping, I just felt unsettled enough that I didn’t think I’d be able to sleep anyways so decided to update those of you who may still check out this site about a few inspiring things that have happened in the week since his memorial.  And I wanted to also let you know that I want to continue a site for him to post ways in which God continues to keep Joshua’s passions and desires alive, I’m assuming through those of us whose lives he touched and to whom God gives similar passion to carry on different aspects of his work.  I have talked with and heard from several of you of possible ideas, so I would like to keep those of you who are interested abreast of what’s happening.  Naomi suggested we just keep his site: for simplicity sake. So that is what we’ll do.  I’m not sure just how we’ll set it up but that will come in time.  So stay tuned.
I just wanted to pass on a couple of really encouraging things that happened this week.  I got a letter from Dorothy Day’s granddaughter,  Martha Hennessy, I hope I got that spelling correct.  She works for the Catholic Worker House in New York City.  For those of you who are not Catholic, Dorothy Day is a quite famous or well known woman in the Catholic world, as she started the whole Catholic Worker House movement in the US.  She wrote me a very nice letter of condolences as well as praising Joshua for his work, especially in the peace movement.  But one very interesting fact that was noted in her letter was exceptionally helpful to me.  She stated that August 25th, the day that Joshua passed away, was Dorothy Day’s birthday.  Since I have been struggling to some degree with the time and place of his passing, somehow that fact really eased my frustrations and gave meaning in a positive way to the exact day that he died.  I can imagine her welcoming him along with his dad and somehow it just doesn’t seem to be random or unplanned by God.  Whatever the reason, it has been very helpful to us to know that fact.
Also, I finished reading a book I picked up at the airport on the way home from NY, believe it or not, entitled ‘To Heaven and Back’ by Dr. Mary Neal.  I’m so shocked that I have been able to read but it has been a source of real comfort and the Lord has spoken to me through it several times.  She drowned in a kayaking accident and was under water for a minimum of 45 minutes and in that time she had an experience with angels and with Jesus who ultimately tells her it’s not her time yet and that she needs to come back to earth.  Very interesting book and she has many other experiences that are quite miraculous and also very difficult.  One of those is losing her oldest son at the age of 19.  Of course I identified, but he was a person whom she described to be very much like Joshua and there was much to be gained and shared within the pages of her story.  I actually e-mailed her and am hoping to hear back from her.  It was one real highlight of my week.
But God has been faithful and has provided someone to spend some time each day this week with me and we even were able to clean the entire house (which hadn’t been touched since June).  I was also able to reduce stacks and stacks of mail and business things down to one file folder…this equals a very good feeling of ‘some’ control and organization in my life.  And just spending time with friends has been so helpful.  Each day is hard and stands alone in how it goes, so having that support has been vital.  Being alone in the house for long periods is very difficult.  So I’m very thankful.  I’ve also continued to receive cards, texts, and phone calls and had my lawn mowed, all of which has really helped to lift my spirits. Just more expressions of love to help heap balm on an aching heart.
What I have found to be the hardest is dealing with the reality and memories of all of Joshua’s suffering.  But what God is showing me is that was and is a central part of His plan for him.  I believe Joshua knew this, but as his mother, watching it and being with him right up to the end was the hardest thing I have ever had to do and probably will always be. Like Mary, only a mother can know the depth of anguish at seeing your son suffer, even if courageously.  I am trying to allow God to use it all to give me the love and compassion that flowed from her heart.
But when I put together and reflect on his life as a whole, what he went through seems to make more sense and it is accepting this reality and looking and hoping for redemption of his suffering to take place somehow, sometime, somewhere in the future that gives me hope and keeps me sane.  This grounds me and gives me hope and strength to go on…though missing him like crazy.  He was just so enjoyable, fun, encouraging, interesting and spiritually and intellectually deep…there’s just so much to miss.  As Bishop Gumbleton, a former recipient of the Bishop Dingman Award that Joshua received this year, stated in a very thoughtful letter to me, “when I was around him I just felt happier, peaceful, grounded.”  He spoke the words I think many of us felt and as his mother, those qualities added to a deep love and soul connection makes for a terrible ache in my heart and soul.  Only God can soothe such a loss.  And I have to say that He is being very faithful so far.  I’ve made it through a whole week and I know that’s a real accomplishment for now.
Also, for those of you who wanted to attend his memorial but couldn’t for one reason or another I thought I would post Father David O’Connor’s homily which we all felt beautifully portrayed and honored Joshua and all that he held dear.  I hope you are blessed by it as we were. (It will come in a separate posting as I need help from Naomi to do it correctly).
My prayers are with you all as I know each of you are grieving in your own way and to the degree that you knew Joshua and was touched by his life…as he was by yours.
With Love and gratitude for the blessings we all shared together throughout this journey,

Memorial Service Details

Friday September, 7, 2012:

Wake and Visitation: Cedar Memorial Funeral Home Chapel (near the flower shop), 4200 First Ave, NE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52402

4:00 – 7:00 pm (Wake 4 – 4:30)

Saturday September 8, 2012:

Memorial Service: All Saints Catholic Church, 720 29th Street SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403

10:00 a.m.

Luncheon and celebration of memories following the service.

September 4, 2012 - 11:00 PM

Tony and Janelle Copper - Kristi, Naomi and family,
Sewers so sorry to hear of Joshua’s passing. We no longer live in the area but will be keeping all of you in our prayers.
Joshua was an example of the type of young men we need in this world to stand for righteousness.
Tony and Janelle Cooper

September 8, 2012 - 7:19 PM

Titus Peachey - 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.

No More Pain

Yesterday Joshua went home to meet his Heavenly father and to embrace again his earthly father. We miss him with all of our hearts and every ounce of our beings. We cling to the promise that we will see him again. His body is healed and for that we rejoice.

When we finalize plans for his memorial service and celebration of his life we will post more information. Thank you all – Rebekah

August 26, 2012 - 12:40 PM

Adam Witte - I had the honor of being Joshua’s teacher at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids for a short period of time. I am greatly saddened to hear of his passing.

Even as a young man in high school, Josh had a curious intellect that, as his teacher, was both daunting and inspiring. I watched, from afar, as he followed his own path of discovery, getting periodic dispatches of his progress when we would bump into one another (almost always in the produce section of the New Pioneer Co-op in Iowa City). I was so proud to see him take not only a road less traveled, but to cut a new path out of the wilderness for others to follow.

He will be missed.

August 26, 2012 - 1:50 PM

Jeffrey J Weiss - There is only pain and tears on this end, we Love all of You

August 26, 2012 - 5:57 PM

Rose Eggert - I was a classmate of Josh’s in the summer of 2008 for The Iowa Writers Workshop. I am so sad to learn of his passing. He definitely stood out as a writer and as a classmate, sharing his thoughtful insights freely and passionately.

Joshua introduced me to the work of James David Duncan, in his comments on one of my stories, so I would like to quote him here in Josh’s honor:

“and God took his line in hand and drew him into Himself. That was fine with Hu. That is what a friend is for.”

– David James Duncan, The River Why

With deepest sympathy, Rose Eggert, classmate

August 26, 2012 - 7:08 PM

Lynn Bakula - My deepest sympathies to you. I first met Joshua at the Cedar Valley social justice retreat in 2009. I picked up his lenten reflection “The City of God.” I was very inspired by his talk and his writing. Even though it was a dated lenten reflection I have kept the booklet and have used it for further reflection. I also heard him speak this past spring in Cedar Rapids. I am deeply saddened by the passing of this great mind and person.

August 26, 2012 - 11:36 PM

Dave & Jennifer Syverson - Deeply saddened to hear the news of Joshua’s passing. Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

August 27, 2012 - 10:58 AM

Rachel Evans - I was deeply saddened to hear this news about Joshua. Although I never knew him personally, I came across his story this year through an academic research project I have been conducting at the London School of Economics on Conscientious Objection and Global Citizenship. Despite surveying many COs, Joshua really stood out- his deep faith, firm principles, integrity and moral courage were both humbling and inspiring. My thoughts and deepest sympathies are with Joshua’s friends and family.

August 27, 2012 - 3:50 PM

Nan Levinson - I’m so very very sorry. The world needs people like Joshua and it’s a sadder place without him.

August 27, 2012 - 5:03 PM

Rachel Turk - Joshua, thank you for being a part of our lives.

August 27, 2012 - 8:02 PM

Titus Peachey - So sorry to hear the news. I have been greatly encouraged and inspired by Joshua’s life and his journey of faith. Wishing you grace for each day as you grieve, remember and celebrate.

August 28, 2012 - 1:23 PM

John Finamore - I met Joshua when he was a student in my Greek class. He was a gifted language student, as we all know. He sent me regular updates (as he did for many of his friends and family) from Iraq, and we met again when he returned to the university to join the Writers’ Workshop. I was moved by his compassion and humanity, and I can’t believe that he is gone from this world. He touched the lives of many and will be missed. He will always remain in my heart and mind.

August 28, 2012 - 5:14 PM

Sarah Kay Ndjerareou - The words of B.B. Warfield powerfully reminded me of the essence of Joshua’s life:

“Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, His followers, not away from but into the midst of men. Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort. Wherever men strive, there will we be to help. Wherever men fail, there will we be to uplift. Wherever men succeed, there we will be to to rejoice. Self-sacrifice means not indifference to out times and our fellows: it means ABSORPTION in them. It means forgetfulness of self in others. It means entering into every man’s hopes and fears, longings and despairs: it means many-sidedness of spirit, multiform activity, multiplicity of sympathies. It means richness of development. It means not that we should live one life, but a thousand lives–binding ourselves to a thousand souls by the filaments of so loving a sympathy that their lives become ours. It means that all the experiences of men shall smite our souls and shall beat and batter these stubborn hearts of ours into fitness for their heavenly home. It is, then, the path to the highest possible development, by which alone we can be made truly men.”

Joshua lived a thousand lives, with a beautiful, beaten and battered heart he was bound to a thousand hearts and was truly a man after God’s own.

Bedside Photo

Still smiling through it all! We love you, Joshua and the Casteel family. - Chad

August 23, 2012 - 8:58 AM

Mary Alice Dias - Kristi, thanks for writing this. After Matthew died, I felt the same way about God; but I can’t say that I have forgiven God for taking Matthew and healing him in Heaven; my prayer was for here on earth. I am still struggling with that — Yes, I know all the facts in my head; but my heart still misses Matthew terribly and God hasn’t taken that from me yet (4 yrs down the road now). I have offered it to Him many times; but the hurt is still there and I wonder why Matthew was only with us for 24 yrs. No answer has come and I don’t think there will be. My faith is not what it once was — but I still believe in God and His Glory — but I haven’t seen it manifested in my life or the lives around me.

August 25, 2012 - 7:06 PM

Leola Beebe - Hi Joshua,

Our family is praying for a miracle for you and your family. Stay strong in the Lord…we pray for rest and strength for you all.

With much love,

Prayers for Joshua

[Reposted from CaringBridge]

I’m writing this with a very heavy heart as this may be our final plea for prayer for God’s healing for Joshua.  As you know he was in the hospital for 10 days with Pancreatitis and came home still filled with the 22lbs. of fluid they pumped into him.  He was not only miserable but much more sick than we realized.  This last Sunday evening (again the night before our scheduled oncology appt. and a set of scans), he was in such misery we decided to bring him back into the ER again.  He was also getting more mentally confused and having a hard time staying awake or communicating.  We found out he was dangerously low of sodium.  He also had a dangerously high heartbeat so Mon. am. he was admitted again, only to eventually find out that his cancer has spread considerably throughout his abdomen and organs and even a spot on the lower right brain sometime within the last two weeks.  Rebekah and family were here for this last crisis and admittance, but they had to go back home yesterday without knowing some of the facts we know today.  Naomi flew in last night and was here to talk to the attending Dr. this afternoon. And then the Dr. called me tonight after I got back from resting for a few hours at the Lodge.  The medical realities are heartbreaking and almost more than my heart can handle.


Even more heartbreaking for me is seeing my son who by nature is passionate, strong, loving and so compassionate, intelligent and so eager to learn and to teach, musically talented, adventurous and loving to work out and be involved in sports, loving to write and to read, a wonderful communicator willing to share his faith and to live it out, now laying beside me, unable to communicate or process hardly at all, (even though when I came in tonight and gave him a hug, he was able to squeak out “Hi Mamma” ,his affectionate name for me, and later “I love you”).  The medication he’s on is keeping him somewhat comfortable, if he doesn’t move, but also only able to sleep fitfully.  He has to be woken up for everything.  Even though this has already been such a long road and I have seen him fight with everything he has, with such strength and courage, as concerned about my wellbeing as his own if not more so, I still can’t believe what lies here beside me, a ‘shadow’ of the son I know and love.   This picture  is all too familiar, as you all know, as we went down a similar road with Rick.  Thankfully he never had pain, but the loss of all he knew and was by nature, was stripped from him as well.  Somehow, there’s such a sense of unreality about it all.  His illness just still doesn’t seem possible and yet we’ve both lived this trial out together with the girls, for 10 months.  And this is our reality.


But now what?  What about the prayer that I sensed so strongly from God at the beginning, to pray for a miracle of healing along with all of you who know and love him too?  These last several months but especially this last week, as I told the girls, feel so much like Mary’s walk to Gethsemane.  Agony and heartbreak are the words that come to mind.  But even in the midst of it is also encouragement, love, and faith right up until this morning. God has put truths, people, and concrete encouragement, to hang on to the prayer he asked us all to pray and believe in.  (After so much bad news and the obvious decline he found himself in yesterday, God gave me a foreign Christian man as a taxi driver who not only encouraged me to continue believing but also prayed for Joshua’s healing).  That has been a reality throughout this whole journey and feels more real to me right now than what’s before my eyes.  I’ve heard the facts and I see the result of those facts in his dying body, and yet (after having several meltdowns about the potential result of his illness) I have to say, if I’m being honest with myself and you I will be the MOST taken aback and surprised if he doesn’t pull through this…if Jesus doesn’t come to Him in all His glory and heal him.  And that is based not on a theological belief that demands it, or a mother’s denial and desperate desire to have her son saved, but on what God has done in very real and personal ways to encourage us to continue to believe what we heard Him say in the beginning.


And yet If God does in fact choose to take Joshua soon, I know it will take a very long time and some very hard soul searching with Him to understand what this journey and all of His seemingly clear direction was all about.  But do I think it will cause my faith and trust in Him to lesson or be in jeopardy?  I can’t imagine it and I certainly pray not.  He has been too real to me for the better part of my life and I have seen and experienced far too much of Him to doubt His love for me, even amidst the fear of a broken heart that feels like it could never heal in the absence now of my son.


So like Abraham I am going to believe every step of the way up the mountain, knowing that God has the power to bring us back to life and the hand with the sword might be stopped at the last second.  But I will also be with Joshua, trusting in God’s ultimate plan, as did Mary, on this road to Gethsemane.  Whether the resurrection happens this side of heaven or in heaven, I won’t know until its come.  But this I do know, I will draw on every bit of strength in me to accept and trust in God’s choice.  And so I ask you all as well, to pray in faith right up to the end for his healing, and then rest in the reality that God is God and we are not.  And if we end up praising God for a literal miracle of healing, we’ll do it together joyously.  If, on the other hand, God chooses to let him join Christ on the Cross through all of his suffering and his resurrection will be as Christ’s…in heaven…as was his dads, my prayer is that your faith will not fail either, but be strengthened in all the ways you were able to be a part of this journey and all that you saw God do to pour out his love on Joshua and all of us as a family.

None of us would have made it through this without all of you and I know God knew that when he so graciously put you in each of our lives individually and as a family.


I want to say for all of us, from the bottom of our hearts and souls, thank you, thank you, thank you.  We love you all and love God more because of each one of you.


With heavy but thankful hearts,

Kristi, Naomi, Rebekah and families



PS.  Just seconds ago as I was finishing writing this in the dark, Joshua rustled, turned to me and said in his usual fashion…as if everything is normal…”Hey”.

Then laid back down and went back to sleep.

August 22, 2012 - 3:28 PM

Herrens - Kristi, and all of of you!!! You all write so well & will keep praying as you have written. We love you…hugs….to Josh too!

August 22, 2012 - 3:28 PM

Herrens - Kristi, and all of of you!!! You all write so well & will keep praying as you have written. We love you…hugs….to Josh too!

August 22, 2012 - 4:14 PM

Michael Langer - The prayers of the Langer family, and One Ancient Hope go up for healing and mercy.

August 22, 2012 - 8:10 PM

Allison Reid Haack - Kristi, Rebekah, Naomi, and Josh….. We are praying without ceasing and praising God for the faith that is on fire within you. Christ is glorified in your struggle….. Our hearts are breaking for you. Love, Allison Reid and Marcia Reid.

August 22, 2012 - 11:14 PM

Tammy - I am praying too, and this one thing we know, Jesus loves you and knows the desires of your heart.

August 23, 2012 - 9:21 AM

Bridgit (Duff) Brandt - I was a classmate of Joshua’s, although a year ahead of him I think. I have been praying for him (and you all) through this journey, and will continue to do so. I wanted to share my morning reading with you:
2 Corinthians 5:1-10(NLT)

New Bodies
5:1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies.[a] 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are here in this body or away from this body, our goal is to please him. 10 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.

Much love and prayers to you all, through Christ Jesus our Lord. May Joshua be healed, whether in this old body or a new heavenly one.

August 24, 2012 - 4:34 PM

Julie Marshall - NOthing is too difficult for our God! Praying for that 11th hour physical healing! Sending you all hugs of comfort and love – Julie Marshall

August 25, 2012 - 9:02 PM

Shawn Storer - Know of our prayers for you this night. – Shawn and the Catholic Peace Fellowship.

August 25, 2012 - 11:06 PM

CTN - Rest in the presence of the Most High, good and faithful servant.