Running His Race: Jose Castanon’s Story
By Blake Bramblett
CLEVELAND, Ga., TMNews – Jose Castanon, athlete and psychology major, tells a remarkable story of how God redeemed him and then called him to Truett-McConnell. From a turbulent childhood, Castanon grew to understand that he needed to trust in God’s plan for his life.
Life in foster care
“I didn’t grow up with my parents” Castanon explained. “For the most part I grew up in and out of foster care. I grew up in a group home from the age of 11 until I graduated, which was when I was 19.”
He always longed for his parents to be more involved in is life, and he admits that his rocky upbringing did have its difficulties; “It wasn’t easy, being honest.”
He solemnly added, “There were bonds I wasn’t able to build with my parents that I wish I would have been able to build.”
However, no circumstance is too difficult, and no wound is too deep for the healing power of Christ. Castanon went to church with every set of foster parents that he was placed with. This cultivated a love for God in his heart, and an immovable desire to know Him more.
He said, “I enjoyed going to church. I enjoyed learning about God and the Bible and what His plans were for each and every one of us.”
Castanon remembers expressing a desire to his mother to attend church with her, and it wasn’t long after he started attending regularly that he received the gospel personally.
“I got saved at the age of nine,” he said. “It was an emotional day. I could feel God, and I knew that [He] wanted me to be a vessel for Him. I wanted to push towards Him more than things of the world.”
A surprising journey
Castanon’s journey to Truett was unconventional, to say the least. But through disappointment, God redirected his path leading him to Truett-McConnell.
“During my sophomore year, I ran a race up here [at Truett-McConnell] with South Georgia State College. My coach was showing me four year schools, places that I might be interested in,” he explained.
After the cross country race, Castanon talked with Jarret Holland, TM’s cross country coach, for about an hour. Castanon was interested in Truett-McConnell, but Coach Holland made it clear that he had to improve his running time. When he did, Castanon could give him a call.
A week later, Castanon felt he had improved his running time and reached out to Coach Holland and waited to hear his advice.
In the meantime, Castanon was offered a scholarship to run for Thomasville University. He signed on with TU, but after he did, he immediately knew he had made the wrong decision. “I had this feeling in the back of my heart and in the back of my head saying; ‘Jose, you made a wrong decision.’”
God was calling him to Truett-McConnell.
A few months passed by, and Thomasville University called Castanon to inform him that they had completely dropped the cross country and track program.
“I was upset, but that was God’s way of telling me that Truett-McConnell was where I needed to be.” Castanon got back on the phone with Coach Holland, and made his way to Cleveland, Ga.
He explained, “From an athletic standpoint, all the teams room together. Truett-McConnell wants us to build stronger bonds, not only as teammates, but also as followers of Christ.”
Castanon continued, “I have been with my roommates for two years and the bond that we have is probably stronger than any other team in the whole nation because we stay together. All the sports [here] are like that.”
In addition to running cross country, Castanon has added another sport this year: wrestling.
Describing the TM community, he added, “Everybody knows everybody here. There is always somebody to greet you with a smile. It shows you that even if you are having a bad day, somebody’s smile can brighten your day.”
God’s plan and purpose
“Growing up as a foster kid, you want to be able to give back. I want to be able to help others that aren’t as fortunate as I was,” he said. As a person who has first hand experience of foster care, Castanon has unique knowledge needed to help kids in similar circumstances.
“I chose psychology [as a major] because I want to give back to kids that were neglected, and kids that feel like they have no ‘say so’ and no power in the world. I am proving today that even if the stakes are stacked against you, God has a way, “ Castanon explained.
He added, “ I am a year and a half from graduating college, and I was told growing up that I wasn’t going to graduate high school.”
Castanon’s favorite verse and constant encouragement is Jeremiah 29:11. “He as a plan, and I can see His plan worked out through my whole life,” Castanon observed.
God causes the weak things of the world to shame the strong, and uses the undervalued of the world to show His glory. Castanon’s life is a testament to Dr. Caner’s familiar adage: “God doesn’t call the equipped, He equips the called.”
Blake is a senior Psychology and Missions major and freelance writer for the college.
Photo/Adam Roark/TM Design Manager