Monday Morning Breakfast with Rick Yoder: Choosing the Road Less Traveled

Where Northlawn, West Dining Room

Duration 1 hour 30 minutes

On MONDAY morning, March 11, 7:30 – 9:00 in EMU’s West Dining Room, Rick Yoder will share his life-story with us.

Graduating from EMC (1969) Rick took an MCC assignment in Jordan—opting for that amazing blend of adventure under the rubric of service! Caught in the midst of a civil war he faced his first major ethical dilemma: “Will we,” asked Rick and MCC colleagues protected in a hotel, “be held hostage? Will we [separatists, trusting in the nonviolent way of Jesus] allow the US 6th Fleet to provide security for us?” As a kind of reality check proving his independence from that ubiquitous U.S. Imperial War Power floating in the Mediterranean Sea and keeping watch above its own (U.S. citizens), Rick burned his draft card, then sent the charred remains to his Draft Board back home. One is reminded of the young Martin Luther: Struck by a lightening bolt, on his way home from law school, which instinctively Martin believed to be his end, he cried out, “So hilf mir Gott! Ich werde Dir ewiglich gehorsam sein!”

In the meantime MCC assigned Rick to impoverished Afghanistan (pre-Soviet Union era) to serve in a 15-bed hospital. Here he observed children with deadly diarrhea returning repeatedly for care. But no one was pursuing the root cause of the disease. Here in Afghanistan Rick joined other idealist, adventurous Anabaptists like Dan Terry (whose story many of you know through film and Jonathan Larson’s narrative). Training at EMC was like a pallid canvass, tattered at the edges; but civil war in Jordan and living in an economically under-developed Afghanistan provided the stark and stormy oils of an educational mural depicting the emerging “real world.” This was the political caldron in which were forged the conscience against systemic evil, the profound convictions that violence and poverty are embodied in social structures, and that the “kingdom of God” had less to do with soul-saving than with social transformation—a theme echoed in many a presentation in Rick’s Economics and other classes during his nearly 20 years on the EMU faculty (1985-2006 with intermittent leaves of overseas service).

After Afghanistan the issue was “prevention versus cure” i.e., structural transformation in the form of public policy. With that vision Rick returned to the States and headed for graduate school (Masters degrees in Public Health, and, Public and International Affairs & Ph.D. in Economic Development, Public Policy and Public Administration at the U. of Pittsburgh). On his way to visit his parents in Florida (where his father had taken up a pastorate), Rick stopped at EMU. Here he was asked, on the basis of his recent Middle-East experiences, to have a “debriefing session” with a young EMU grad, Carolyn Yoder (no kin), who was under appointment by MCC for service in Egypt. “Romance,” says Rick, “was not on my mind.” But this was, in fact, the beginning of what is now a 40-year relationship; and after rearing three daughters it is still blossoming. The story has many forks; some within the range of rational choice, others more dependent on people-connections, on commitments beyond analysis and on intersections with detour signs. For Rick it began on a dairy farm in Elverson, Pa.; it wound through Dayton, Ohio where for 15 years his father sold vacuum cleaners to keep bread on the table while pastoring a small congregation. Enter Carolyn on the scene: It has taken them for longer and shorter terms to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Nepal, Jordan, Kenya, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and most recently for three years to Arminia. Some of this has been under the auspices of NGOs. But much of it has been through sub-contracts, with USAID—redeeming the Empire’s assets.

Rick Yoder: Always caring, ever looking at the structures beneath the “appearances,” at the causes behind the consequences, never losing personal touch with others on the road less traveled. Please share this announcement with your friends interested in Rick’s life and story. Next month’s presenter and story-teller is Joe Lapp—one-time EMU board member, then president. Join us Monday morning at 7:30. Coffee and pastries will be provided. If you wish to eat a full breakfast please go through the cafeteria line then bring your food to the West Dining Room.

Intended Audience General Public


Contact Information

Name Anabaptist Center

Phone # 540.432.4465