My friend Joshua Clutterham died yesterday. My readers may not recognize that name, but Joshua contributed many photos of Turkey and Greece to our collection. Joshua died at the age of 41 from a rare form of cancer. He leaves behind his wife Meredith and five sons, ages 10 to 3.
I met Joshua when he was a student in our IBEX program in the year 2000. The memory that endures above all others was our excavation with Shimon Gibson near Zova. Some of our students were put to work in three squares, and Joshua was part of the infamous “Square B,” a team of six I constantly teased for having the lowest output of all. Could they not even find a potsherd? Of course, they did as well as the other teams, but the good-natured teasing bonded the group and “Square B” would live on for several years to pull pranks and “honor” me in various ways. They seemed to especially show up on my “B-day” with various reminders, and as time passed, Joshua carried on the tradition by calling me every year on my birthday.
Joshua loved Israel, and somewhere around 2006, he came to study at Hebrew University and the Jerusalem University College. My memory is fuzzy on some of the details, but we enjoyed a number of outings together, including an adventure on Mount Carmel, a hike through the cliffs of Michmash and Geba, and a camping trip to Aijalon. We talked about everything, including his desire to find a godly wife.
For reasons I can no longer recall, Joshua ended up effectively joining the IBEX group for the spring of 2007, my final semester teaching at IBEX. He was an advanced student who served us in various ways. One of the ideas he dreamed up was to film all of my on-site teaching as I guided the students that semester in the Land and Bible class. And so we purchased some equipment, and Joshua became the cameraman for a few dozen trips that year. Joshua had the idea to edit the footage, along with my photos, into a virtual tour series. In my mind, I thought that the filming would be valuable for my children to watch if I was not able to show them the land. Though the tour series was never completed, as Joshua soon went on to study for several seminary degrees and I entered a doctoral program, I have always been grateful for Joshua’s preserving a record of those special days.
Joshua also became distracted by a beautiful woman who had entered his life. I remember Joshua telling me about Meredith during a visit to our home in Texas. He was smitten. She was in the M.A. program in Biblical Counseling, and Joshua was at the time a graduate assistant in the program, one that he would go on to become the director of. Before long, I was being invited to Florida to stand alongside Joshua when he committed to love and cherish Meredith until death do them part. I couldn’t have been more happy for them.
When my family moved to California a few years later, Joshua and Meredith were living in a tiny little granny flat near The Master’s College, and whenever I visited I was always amazed at how Meredith managed to keep everyone sane as their family grew from one son to two and then three. Joshua was a tireless worker, not only directing the MABC program but always furthering his education, particularly in his passion for the Old Testament and the land of Israel.
When the opportunity arose for him to travel to Turkey and Greece, he was eager to go but in need of funds. The solution we came up with was that he would take photos for BiblePlaces in exchange for the shortfall. Joshua came back with beautiful photos, a number of which grace the covers of various volumes in the Photo Companion to the Bible series. Many dozens of his photos can be found throughout the Photo Companion (look for photos beginning with “jc”), and I frequently marvel at what a blessing those pictures are to our team’s on-going work. His photos have been published elsewhere as well, including in the ESV Archaeology Study Bibleand What the New Testament Authors Really Cared About.
I certainly had mixed feelings when Joshua told me that he had received an offer to become a professor, and later Vice-President, at Brookes Bible College in Missouri. I knew that this was a great opportunity for him, but I hated to see him and Meredith leave. A few years later, our family was driving through the Midwest, and Joshua suggested our families spend an afternoon at the City Museum in St. Louis. We all had a blast running around the most interesting “museum” I have ever been to. Then together we caravanned to the Ark Encounter in Kentucky for a fun time with all the kids exploring this massive ship.
We regularly stayed in touch, and Joshua continued to dream some big dreams. He was considering various PhD programs, and he was planning a new online program for Brookes. He led trips to Israel, became a pastor, and their family grew to five boys. When my birthday rolled around in December, I knew that one person would always remember and call me.
When I last spoke with Joshua by FaceTime two weeks ago, he was in the hospital and in tremendous physical pain. While his faith was always strong, he was praying for a miracle. He wanted to live—for Meredith and for his boys. They needed a father, and Joshua took so much joy in being with them and raising them to love the God he loves. One of the last things that Joshua was able to do outside of his home or church was to take one of his boys camping. Who was going to do that if the Lord took him?
That reminded me of an earlier camping trip I had with Joshua. Dear friends of our family in Jerusalem had five children when the husband died suddenly of a heart attack. Here were five young kids without a father. Not long after, Joshua and I took their boys (and mine) camping out near the ancient city of Aijalon in the Shephelah. We played soccer, went on hikes, explored caves, and had a great time. I have pictures of Joshua carrying them around on his shoulders, teaching them to build a campfire, and chasing after them up the mountainside. I’m sure that neither of us would have ever imagined that one day he would leave five boys behind, in need of a father figure to take them camping.
Joshua will be remembered by many as a faithful and deeply caring man. Though he was highly educated and deeply knowledgeable in many fields, he stood out for his compassion for others. In the final sermon he gave at his church a week ago, sitting in a chair on the stage in pain, his focus was on his beloved brothers and sisters in the congregation. He earnestly wanted them to treasure their faithful Messiah, and he encouraged them by highlighting Jesus’s words to Peter: “I have prayed for you” (Luke 22:32). This same Jesus is even now at the Father’s right hand praying for his people, Joshua told them. Joshua had no doubt that Jesus was interceding for him, though he knew that it might not be the Lord’s will to heal him.
I will miss my friend. And my heart aches for Meredith. She has always been so strong, balancing care for Joshua and pregnancies and homeschooling and running the household. The Lord could not have given Joshua a better partner and friend. Joshua’s legacy will endure—through so many counseling students at Master’s, Bible students at Brookes, and church family at Clayton. Even our readers here, though perhaps never hearing his name before, will continue to have their lives and Bible study and teaching enriched by the beautiful photos he took at Corinth, Philippi, Assos, Delphi, Miletus, Perga, and more. Though his life was far too short, his impact is deep and far-reaching. Surely his memory will be for a blessing.