Ever since he was saved in 1964, Harry "Bud" Yoder has been on mission for the Lord.
Not long after his conversion, he began preaching occasionally on Sunday nights at the church he attended and it became more regular as part of his education at Eastern Bible College in Bel Air, Md., in 1966. After ministering in West Virginia and Virginia, he helped start the Christian Church at Cogan Station in 1981 and "retired" from the pulpit after 26 years in 2007 at age 71.
In addition to preaching, which he said he still is ready to do at any time, Yoder helped form HOPE Missions and has traveled throughout the world spreading the Gospel and helping build churches.
For six decades, from the 1960s to present, Harry “Bud” Yoder has been involved in the ministry of spreading God’s message. Here Yoder sits in his office recently at the Christian Church at Cogan Station, from which he retired as the lead pastor in 2007.
Later this year, Yoder is going to Russia for what will be his longest mission stint ever away from home.
Last October, Yoder and Ron Savits, the pastor at Newberry Church of Christ, who coincidentally led Yoder to the Lord, spent two and a half weeks in Russia working with the Mission to Russia Inc.
"Ron taught the history of revivals and I taught discipleship. We were only a week at each church (in Kostroma and Gus Khrustalny) so you could only sell the sizzle, but you couldn't teach the whole principal or the process.
"They had the discipleship program (developed by Yoder while he was the lead pastor at the Christian Church at Cogan Station) translated into Russian, and after I had been home about two weeks I got a letter from them asking me to come back and really teach them," he said.
Russians open to Gospel
"They're very hungry for the gospel and very teachable. ... At Kostroma, I'm going to work with 12 leaders during the week individually and on Saturdays we're going to do seminars with some others who are five hours away by car," he said.
"It's the principal that you're better off to teach 10 men to fish than to do the work of 10 men because there's no success without a successor. If we can duplicate ourselves, if we multiply through delegating in other people, then they can take the principal for evangelism and put it to work in their land. God is going to depend on the nationals to do that," Yoder said.
The biggest difficulty he expects is with communication.
"It's very difficult. Everything is through an interpreter. They have people to interpret on the weekends, but during the week we have to hire a professional interpreter for $20 a day. That's an added expense we've never had in mission work," he said.
Yoder will be housed at a school run by his host church.
"The longest I've been away is six weeks to Burma and China, a couple of years ago. It's (going to be) a long time, but if you're busy it isn't bad. Daily, I'll be busy, and I like to write (he's authored a book "From My Window ...") and study anyway. And I couldn't do it without (his wife) Becky's support," Yoder noted.
Due to other commitments, Yoder at present is missing his first HOPE Missions building trip.
"I've always gone. (Two weeks ago) Larry Sheddy and I took a group to the airport in New Jersey and left them (to catch a flight to the Dominican Republic). It was kind of different coming back," he said, admitting sadness, "because I like to go.
"But we have good teams and they know what they are doing. They're veterans now. We have Tom Hixson, from Pittsburgh, who had a team in Santo Domingo in January and Keith Rodriguez, from Reading, is heading this trip. And we have Jim Potter and Tim Montgomery from (Christian Church at Cogan Station) who are stepping up to the plate," Yoder continued.
After a Dominican trip a year ago, Yoder led a group that went to Laramie, Wyo., to help restore a building to be used as a church; in June he spent three weeks preaching and teaching in Poland, and went to Russia in October. In addition, HOPE Missions sent two tractor-trailer truck loads of supplies to communities in Mississippi and Missouri recovering after tornadoes.
At a crossroads
"I'm getting more and more requests to come and teach and preach. I'm kind of at a crossroads. I didn't retire. I just changed gears, really.
"One of the great things, the blessing, is that I preached here 26 years before I retired and this is still my home church. It's worked out well with the
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staff that came on and that I can operate out of here. That always doesn't happen when the former pastor retires. Usually, they have to move. But I've been blessed to stay here," Yoder said recently, while sitting in his office at the Cogan Station church.
"I have to turn down things. I really need to go back to Burma, and we have a real good work going on in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. One of the things I've found is that you've got to go back and keep encouraging these people and that has become part of the process for me, too," he said.
"Christianity in Cambodia, Thailand, Burma and China is really growing. It seems the more they persecute the better they do.
"I've been able to meet some really interesting people over the years. There's a lot of unrest right now in Burma but they still are doing a lot of work. I got an email from a friend (there) who was ministering to refugees and he said they had more than 500 conversions and started seven churches.
"I've always said that God never wastes a crisis and crisis presents all kinds of opportunities for Christians if they'll respond to God's call," Yoder said.
"There's always a need. We're never done. I'm an evangelist at heart and years ago I thought about full-time evangelism, but I realized that the real work was in the local church. You can do more. As I look back, I think that's where the real sending power comes from. Everybody can't go on a mission trip, but everybody can participate, whether financially or giving food or whatever. The local church is the power base for the kingdom of God," Yoder said. "The need never seems to stop. It's always there, so we're not finished."
Least of all Yoder.
"For older men (and women) who have been in the ministry for years, they have experience and contacts and, maybe, maybe, the last years are or can be the most productive. Instead of staying home and sitting down, there are all kinds of needs out there," he added.