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‘I challenge you to choose forgiveness’

Josiah Kilman’s father shares message of forgiveness during special chapel service
Josiah Malachi Kilman, 18, a freshman from Montana, was discovered unresponsive in his dorm room in the early morning hours on Saturday, Feb. 24.

The father of a Campbellsville University student who was murdered less than a week ago urged people to “choose forgiveness” during a special service in Ransdell Chapel Wednesday morning, Feb. 28.

“If Josiah was standing here right now… he would talk to you about forgiveness,” Joe Kilman said. “It’s the center of what Jesus is.”

Kilman’s son, Josiah, 18, was discovered dead in his dorm room early Saturday morning, Feb. 24. According to the Taylor County Coroner’s Office, preliminary autopsy results show the cause of death was asphyxiation by manual strangulation. CU student Charles E. Escalera, 21, was arrested on Saturday evening, Feb. 24, inside a barn located on the Green County/Taylor County line. He’s being charged with Josiah’s murder. He’s currently lodged in the Taylor County Detention Center on $2 million bond.

Josiah, originally from Montana, was a freshman at CU and a member of the men’s wrestling team. During Wednesday’s chapel service, Josiah’s father urged everyone gathered to yell aloud the emotions they had been feeling over the past several days.

“Anger,” one person shouted.

“Sadness,” another exclaimed.

Then, several audience members began to shout…








Joe Kilman said he’s felt every single one of those emotions since the moment he received the phone call telling him his son was dead.

“Emotions are one thing, but we have choices in life,” he said. “Forgiveness is a choice, people… Unforgiveness, that’s a curse… I challenge you to choose forgiveness. Because in that forgiveness we become the light of Jesus.”

He also expressed his extreme gratitude to the community of Campbellsville.

“The comfort that I have felt from this community is overwhelming,” he said. “By the grace of God, I stand here with the ability to talk to you. And it’s only by God, I’m here to honor my son. From the bottom of my heart, Campbellsville, thank you.”

Josiah’s sister, Noah, also spoke during the service. She shared that, for a long time, she hadn’t felt close with God.

“I just gave my life to him…” she said as the crowd erupted with cheers and applause.

“God is good, people,” Josiah’s father said as the crowd continued to applaud. “God is good and he’s working here. This battle belongs to the Lord. The enemy came and they thought they could snuff out a light, and it’s just set a fire across this nation. It’s set fire in our hearts. It is bringing people to Christ.”

Joe Kilman urged everyone gathered to use their emotions to pursue God.

“Josiah was a big rock being dropped into a small pond and that ripple is going from edge to edge like a wildfire guys,” he said. “Let it burn inside you… turn that anger, that fear, into pursuit for God. Search his word… Hold on to the promises. Because God is good.”

Travis McIntosh, CU athletic recruiter, counselor and alum, spoke about his friendship with Josiah during the chapel service. He said he met Josiah on the second day of the fall 2023 semester and was instantly intrigued by him.

“He challenged me…” McIntosh said. “The conversations that I’ve had with Josiah have changed my life.”

He said Josiah had a vision to become a shepherd for the wrestling team. And, during the fall semester, three of his teammates gave their lives to the Lord and were baptized.

“I praise Jesus for Josiah’s vision…” McIntosh said. “That young man showed me that nothing else matters but sharing the gospel, sharing the good news and leading people to Jesus Christ… I challenge you as Josiah would have challenged me… to be bold. Be bold in Jesus. Stand up. Pick up your cross and go seek the lost. And love them. And love them. And love them.”

Campbellsville University President Dr. Joseph Hopkins, who read Psalm 23 aloud during the beginning of the service, said moments like this show him he can’t fix what is broken.

“I can’t take away the bad things that have happened,” he said. “I don’t have magic words that stop the pain or begin the healing. But… the Lord, the shepherd, he does. He does.”

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