Israel “Izzy” Yoder went home to be with the Lord this week at the age of 21. He was about the Lord’s business, on a missions trip in Haiti.
I didn’t know Izzy as well as some. But he and I met on many occasions. We shared pancakes at Perkins and I stole waffle fries from him at Chik-Fil-A. We joked about my mohawk color being cooler than his. We hugged nearly every time we met. If there was no hug, it was because he was running past me at “Izzy speed” down the church hallways – but I did get a flying high-five and a huge grin as he vaulted past. But for my limited experience with Izzy, I watched him.
I watched him deep in worship at the front of the church, arms thrust in the air, singing loudly -and a bit off-key – to his precious Jesus. I watched as he sat during service with his arm protectively around one of his sisters. I watched as he encouraged the “not so cool” kids to pass out papers, or help him with a project. I watched as he played horsey with 2 year olds. I watched him as he prayed with passion over the youth of Sarasota.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do…” (John 14:12) Izzy knew that it was not enough to believe in Jesus, it was not enough to love Jesus…he had to emulate Jesus. In the wake of the news I have been overwhelmed by the kids coming forward posting stories and words of encouragement they received from Izzy.
“I am proud of you, you are a great kid!”- Izzy
“You have inspired me every day since I met you” – Izzy
“Can’t wait to see you at the bonfire!” – Izzy
“Don’t be sad, Jesus loves you!” -Izzy
“Don’t be like me. Be like Jesus” – Izzy
So many kids inspired by this young man. So many lives touched. But perhaps even more inspiring is the sheer honesty that has poured out of this situation. Kids publicly declaring that they did not treat Izzy as well as he treated them, and they were sorry. People saying things they should have said while he was alive, but pledging to do so with others in their life. Adults openly admitting to a life of cynicism and jadedness, promising Izzy that they will move forward differently. In just 4 days, the movement has begun. The people in Izzy’s life challenging their church…the church challenging others in Sarasota…Sarasota challenging other communities – to “LoveLikeIzzy.”
John 16:7 “But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
I was at dinner with friends when I got the word about Izzy. Driving home alone, in tears and wondering like many how God could be in such a thing, the Lord reminded me of the above statement made by Jesus. As a human being, Jesus touched everyone he met. He accomplished his mission. Then God called Him home. But when the Holy Spirit came, the world continued to be revolutionized as God’s Spirit moved out further and further, through more and more people.
As difficult as it is for us to see in our grief, Izzy’s ministry has only just begun. This is not the end – Izzy’s wish of spreading the gospel of Jesus far and wide is about to explode. How awesome is our God, in His abundance and grace in granting Izzy his greatest wish in such a way! It is said that when we die, we are greeted by those who we helped get to heaven. Something tells me that Izzy will instead be greeting multitudes of people his legacy affected. The lineage of Izzy’s love is likely to be long.
John 13:23 “ One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side”. Last year, Izzy played the disciple John in the church Easter pageant. Izzy played the part in true Izzy style – he was loud and funny and right in the middle of the spotlight. But when his monologue was over, he stepped back and sat next to the actor playing Jesus, and laid his head down quietly on his shoulder. How fitting that Izzy played this particular disciple. I read today that when they found Izzy, his hands were “clasped as if in prayer, and his face was peaceful”. I have a theory. I think that in those moments, as Izzy was stepping back from the spotlight, he met Jesus and wrapped his arms around the neck of His precious Savior, lying his head on His shoulder.
If anyone deserved a personal escort from the King, it was Izzy Yoder.
“That I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection . . .” Philippians 3:10 I do not believe that Izzy’s journey into eternity happened during Holy Week by accident. Izzy’s death is superimposed over the message of the Resurrection Power of Jesus Christ. As we celebrate the empty tomb, we celebrate that Izzy has benefitted from the awesome sacrifice of Jesus and shares in His resurrection. The joy and beauty of this truth is evidenced by the sentiments of the youth who knew him – although there is sadness, there is an unmistakable hope in the blessed assurance of eternal life with the Lord.
In his own words from a now famous status:
” Will I see you in heaven? I HOPE SO. I don’t want to spend eternity without you :/”
So often Christians get caught up in doctrinal arguments and we forget the real truth of what Jesus told us to do. Izzy never did.
#LoveLikeIzzy ? Sign me up.
To join the movement, visit the Facebook page #LoveLikeIzzy.
To order a “Love like Izzy” t-shirt to help the family defray costs, please visit: http://IsraelYoder.businesscatalyst.com/ .Thank you.