Occasionally we meet people who change the trajectory of our lives for good. Often times they become our spouses or close friends, but in other cases they’ll make a profound impact that lasts a lifetime even though it happens in a short amount of time. The latter describes the impact my friend Dean Yoder had on me.
It was 4 and a half years ago when I stepped off a plane in Haiti and met Dean face-to-face for the first time. I had spoken with him once or twice prior to organizing my own little missions trip with his organization, Christian World Outreach, but had no idea what to look for when I got to the island nation. Fortunately, finding a 73 year old white male in the Port-Au-Prince airport wasn’t too terribly difficult. What followed that meeting was a week of mentorship that I never anticipated, planned for, or requested in preparation for my trip. Now I’ve written about the trip in several different posts, so I’ll spare you the details. But I do want to share more about Dean.
This particular trip to Haiti was my first trip to a third-world country. To put that in perspective, Dean had been spending decades going back and forth between the United States and Haiti and Africa to build and grow CWO. Needless to say, there was a lot Dean could teach me and help me understand about missions. For example, did you know that investing in relationships is far more important than saving time or money in a third-world country? If you think about it for a minute, time is usually our most valued resource in the US, but I digress.
Each day was spent getting up, having breakfast at our guest house, going to CWO’s center, experiencing Haitian life and serving the Haitian people. When the day began to wind down, we would return to the guesthouse to eat dinner and spend some time reflecting on the day. Each day, Dean would help me process and understand the blend of poverty, culture, and humanity I was witnessing every day. He never imposed his views on what we saw, he just let me form an opinion about something and help me develop a belief around it. We did that for 8 days before we went our separate ways (though he did work with me on collecting supplies for Haiti after the earthquake and helped me get Skate Across Indiana going).
Sadly, Dean passed away on Saturday from an ongoing battle with cancer. When I reflect on the time with him in Haiti, it was short yet profound. I remember one of the people at the guesthouse asking him when he was going to retire. He simply said, “I’ll retire when I get to heaven.” Sure enough, that’s what he did. Dean was a perfect example of living life on mission. The mission wasn’t over until God said it was. I admire that among many other things about Dean. I’m grateful for him and I can say without a doubt that the legacy he has left will have an impact for years to come.