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Yoder, J. Otis (1914-2003)

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Mennonite Weekly Review obituary: 2003 Sep 15 p. 6

Birth date: 1914

text of obituary:

Radio ministry founder dies at 88

By Robert Rhodes
Mennonite Weekly Review

When Myron Augsburger was a student at the former Eastern Mennonite College, he was often taken to revival meetings by one of his professors.

Augsburger said J. Otis Yoder, a Greek scholar and evangelist who aught at the Harrisonburg, Va., college and seminary from 1947 to 1968, would ask him to help lead the singing. it was the first of many partnerships between Augsburger, later the president of what is now Eastern Mennonite University, and Yoder, who died July 18 at age 88 at Mattawana, Pa.

Though he spent 21 years in the classroom, Yoder's ministry became even broader after he left teaching. As founder of the Heralds of Hope radio ministry, Yoder's preaching eventually spread around the world, with broadcasts still heard in six languages.

Yoder's nephew, J. mark Horst, now directs the ministry, based at Breezewood, Pa.

"Otis was a very conservative man in his thinking," Augsburger said Sept. 5. "I'm thankful for his contribution among all our diversity."

Augsburger said Yoder brought knowledge and enthusiasm to his classroom teaching, gifts that extended to his broader ministry as well.

Yoder j otis 2003.jpg
"He was a very effective teacher, a good professor of Greek," Augsburger said. "Otis was a good New Testament scholar."

Instead of freighting his sermons with complex theology, Yoder opted for Scriptural depth and authenticity.

"Otis' style was simple in terms of exegesis," Augsburger said. "And in other countries we've found that it's easier for them to translate [and understand] him."

Yoder's willingness to take his message personally to faraway places also enriched his ministry, according to Augsburger.

"His travels abroad are far greater than many in the Mennonite church know about," Augsburger said.

Yoder, born in Colorado in 1914, was the youngest of Levi and Mary Hershberger Yoder's seven children. He grew up in Midland, Mich., where he was ordained to the ministry in 1938.

He served Mennonite churches in several states and earned a doctorate in theology and New Testament languages after his ordination.

He joined the faculty of Eastern Mennonite College and Seminary in 1947. After leaving the college, he founded Heralds of Hope, preaching his first radio sermon on June 2, 1968.

The ministry's weekly 30-minute Voice of Hope program is heard in seven states, featuring a sermon, commentary and a cappella singing. The weekly 15-minute Hope for Today broadcast, which debuted in 1975, is aired in Canada, Asia, Africa, the South Pacific and the Middle East.

Along with preaching sermons for broadcast, Yoder — billed as "Uncle J" — also read stories for The Children's Hour, a daily program he recorded for 21 years.

On June 23, 1939, Yoder married Isabelle King at West Liberty, Ohio. Survivors include a son, John O. Yoder; a daughter, Constance Heatwole; a sister, Elsa Arbogast of Harrisonburg, Va.; five grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

A memorial service was held July 24 at Chambersburg (Pa.) Mennonite Church. Burial was in the Lindale Mennonite Church Cemetery at Harrisonburg, Va.

Mennonite Weekly Review obituary: 2003 Sep 29 p. 5

text of obituary:


The report of the death of radio evangelist J. Otis Yoder (Sept. 15) should have stated that his wife, Isabelle, survives. Also among the survivors is a daughter-in-law, Arlene H. Yoder.

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