After graduating from Wheaton College in 2011 with a double major in international relations and business economics and a minor in French, Josiah accepted a job with Samaritan’s Purse. As an assistant construction manager in Shichigahama, Japan, he worked to help rebuild homes devastated by Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
At six-foot-three and with a varsity-football-player-physique, Josiah earned the nickname “Popeye” one night during a visit to a happy new Japanese homeowner whose proffered slippers were no match for Josiah’s size-fourteen feet. The two enjoyed a good laugh over the discrepancy.
On his second night in Japan—August 11—Josiah met his fiancée Rebekah. Rebekah was working with Samaritan’s Purse as a field office manager also involved with rebuilding homes.
“We worked really well together,” Rebekah recalls. “Our work was filled with good conversation and lots of laughter. One of our coworkers would say, ‘You were together before you were even ‘together.’”
Following their wedding, the couple aspired to work in Liberia, where they had applied for positions with Samaritan’s Purse.
Classmate Allison Althoff ’11 remembers working with Josiah on the editorial staff of the Wheaton Record.
“He was the advertising/circulation manager and was always the one to pick up extra distribution duty for someone who had class or too much homework,” Allison wrote in an online article on July 20, 2012. “The warmth that emanated from his beaming face every time I came into the office was comforting…and his laid-back demeanor was welcoming in a place that thrived on deadlines and pressure.”
An honors student, Josiah loved to exercise his keen mind and to ask penetrating questions about the human experience. From a young age, he earned the nickname “the philosopher” from his friends.
Josiah also loved football. Ever since he met a band of Wheaton football players during their ministry trip to Dakar, Senegal, Josiah wanted to be a part of the team. Although he had never played football before in his life, Coach Mike Swider was so impressed with his “passion and yearning” that he accepted Josiah onto the team during Josiah’s sophomore year.
“He only played once,” says Coach Swider. “But he didn’t care. He was part of a band of God-fearing brothers. It was one of the single most influential parts of his Wheaton experience, and one in which he learned the importance of community, perseverance, selflessness, and resilience. Once he became a player he changed; he grew up at Wheaton, and Wheaton football played a significant role in his growth.”
“Josiah was forever grateful for the opportunity that God gave him to play Wheaton football,” say his parents Joel and Elin Bubna. “Although his name was never in the paper, that was okay with him because…the main thing was to be around a group of men who were serious about their faith. He stayed with football until the end. It was a commitment he had made.”
At Josiah’s funeral, Wheaton football players and coaches past and present gathered to sing the American Negro spiritual the team sings when concluding football chapels every Friday: “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.”
Since losing Josiah, the journey for Josiah’s parents, Elin and Joel, has been filled with “questions, groans, and laments.”
“I am not sure we will ever fully recover from this loss or fully understand God’s ways,” writes Joel, “but as I continue to write [in a journal addressed to Josiah since his childhood], I believe the Lord will allow us to one day see his redemptive plan.”
In the fall of 2013, the Class of 2011 renamed their scholarship fund the Josiah Bubna Memorial Scholarship in honor of their classmate. The fund provides financial assistance to Wheaton students from international backgrounds, supporting the College’s Strategic Priority of globalizing a Wheaton education.
The Class of 2011’s decision to dedicate a scholarship for international students to their son brought comfort to Josiah’s parents because the scholarship “fits the message of Josiah’s life.”
“It is almost impossible for international kids to afford Wheaton,” they said. “Wheaton was such a gift. We never would have been able to send Josiah to Wheaton but for the grace and generosity of others who gave.”
Hear Josiah deliver his senior football chapel address >
Hear “My Brother, My Hero, My Friend,” >> a song written and sung by Caleb Duttweiler ’11 with vocal accompaniment by Josiah’s sisters, Angele and Nadia.
For a tribute by International Christian Fellowship of Dakar, including links to Joel’s eulogy, visit International Christian Fellowship of Dakar >>