Unique Ministry Brings 'Powerful' Performance

WILMORE, Ky. — Artist and “America’s Got Talent” finalist Joe Castillo drew both laughter and tears from a sold-out house at Asbury University on Friday evening with the simplest of materials and a heartfelt story.

Artist Joe Castillo performed for the community at Asbury University.
Artist Joe Castillo performed for the community at Asbury University.

Using only sand and a light table, Castillo created a constantly evolving panorama of scenes illustrating patriotism, the creation of the world, the Nativity and the Passion of the Christ, all set to music and projected onto a large screen. The presentation — held at the historic Hughes Auditorium on the Asbury campus — was part of an annual gift from Asbury to the surrounding community.

“The images were powerful, but the music made the presentation even more powerful,” said Wilmore resident Ralph Yoder.

Castillo, a familiar local figure from the time he spent earning two graduate degrees at Asbury Theological Seminary, rose to international prominence through last summer’s television show, “America’s Got Talent.” He currently lives in Richmond, Ky., and travels around the United States and the world to share SandStory®, his unique artistic outlet.

“This was such a cool thing for the University to do,” said Christina Johnson, a Wilmore resident who attended the free event with her husband and four sons. “Our boys would not have gotten to see something like this otherwise.”

In the months since “America’s Got Talent” aired, Castillo’s popularity on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter has soared. The faith-based inspiration for his work, however, has much deeper roots. He became a Christian after a chalk artist shared the Gospel with him at a Christian camp in Mexico, his native country. After his father died when he was 16, the family moved to Florida, where he continued a family tradition of artistic expression.

“By the time I got to art school, I was a Christian, but I had no interest in doing Christian art,” he said. “I figured all the great Christian art had been done.”

Castillo chose instead to go into advertising and built a successful agency in Nashville, Tenn. It was a pastor who convinced him to put together a presentation in which he drew scenes from the life of Christ which, when finished, formed a picture of the face of Jesus. Over time, he established WordStory®, a ministry in which he used his writing, teaching and artwork to impact youth camps and churches; ArtStory®, a technique for illustrating Biblical stories by creating 4-foot-by-8-foot murals of the passages in front of a live audience; and SandStory®, his current creative venture.

After the performance, Castillo met with fans for nearly two hours, snapping photos and signing prints of his artwork.

“It’s incredibly humbling — there are so many people who are talented and work hard, and I don’t know that they get the affirmation that I do,” he said. “But God doesn’t waste any of our experiences. Whatever we experience in childhood, the teen years, whenever — all of it can be used.”

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