When you are gone, what will people say about you? What will they say about how you loved? How you lived? How you handled loss?
What will they say about how you worked? How you played? How you spent your time?
What will they say about who mattered to you? Who didn’t? And who you had conflict with?
What will they say about what you valued? What you didn’t? And what your priorities were?
What will they say about how you treated your family? Your friends? Your enemies?
What will they say was the defining moment of your life? Your greatest accomplishment? Your biggest failure?
What will they say about your relationship with your friends? Your family? Your coworkers?
These words, these comments, these opinions of others are the true definition of who we are. Not what we perceive ourselves to be or the image we try to project, but how we impact others. Who they interpret us to be. How they read our life.
Oh, I don’t mean if only one or two people see or say something about you. But if, at the end of your life, people from every area of your life confirm and reconfirm similar attributes about you, then you truly have a picture of the kind of living epistle you really were. (2 Corinthians 3:2)
Such was the case with a very dear friend of ours Bishop J.E. Yonts Sr. who passed away just three days ago.
Facebook is lit up with what others are saying about this 86-year-old icon of faith:
Jason Beardsley “He told me a number of times ……you can’t keep a good man down and you can’t keep a bad man up …when you let him go he will fall ….”
Jerry Ashcraft “What an amazing man. If ever there was someone to look to as an example of a Christian, he would be someone to look to.”
Tony Singh: “My family is one of many that has been greatly impacted by the life and ministry of J.E. Yonts. There are words that he spoke to me personally, that I shall always treasure. Words that truly helped me in the most complicated of times.”
Dan Gwaltney “I have never known a man quite like your Dad, He was a builder of people who, in turn, built churches by the grace and help of God. He saw potential in people that, even those of us who benefited, did not see. I thank God for Jack Yonts and the entire family.”
Kelle Ann Bashqawi “My life will never be the same again!!! Thank God, my life will never be the same again ~ because my Pastor Yonts, instead of retiring, came to Chicago to start a church! ~ So thankful he listened to God, a man, so full of God, so full of truth, so full of faith, so full of Love, if only this world had more people like him, if only the world could have known him!
Goff Sr Paul “Sunday morning’s coming my friend…. I had coffee every sunday morning with you… I sure am going to miss you Bro. Yonts.”
This is just a small sampling of what others are saying about Bishop J.E. Yonts Sr.
Bishop Yont’s life mattered. Not just when he was in the limelight, but when there was not a single person to witness his acts of kindness. Not with just people of importance, but with “nobody’s from nowhere” (a famous phrase he often used when referring to himself. )
My husband and I are in the group of the “nobody’s from nowhere”. We spent most of our lives as lay people and came into the ministry late in life. Our role has always been to support, to uphold, to be the Aaron or Hurs to the pastors in our lives. Yet Bishop J.E. Yonts never one time treated my husband as the “2nd or 3rd man” that he was. Instead he drew my husband into his inner circle. He had coffee with him. He went to breakfast with him. He took him on short ministry trips with him. He was a friend to him.
In one form or another, if you were to read the tributes about J.E. Yonts Sr. you would hear similar stories of his extension of himself to others. What others are saying about J.E. Yonts Sr. now that he is gone are the same things they said about him when he lived. His life was a living epistle that ministered.
That is what I want others to say about me. Not how many books I write or how many positions I hold. But was I a Christian? Did I minister? Did I make people feel like they mattered?
When my time comes and my Eulogy is read or people are talking about my passing on Facebook or Twitter, will others affirm that my own living epistle was as good as I thought it was? Will they want to honor me by putting my picture in place of their own profile picture as they have done with Bishop Yonts?
I don’t know.
But I do know that Bishop J. E. Yont’s life… and death… has inspired me to pray more, to die to myself more, to become the kind of person that others will have good things to say about.
What about you? What will they say about you? What do you hope they say?
Epilogue: Bishop J.E. Yonts was an international figure and held several important offices during his lifetime as a licensed minister with the United Pentecostal Church International. He had a huge impact within the UPCI and in the many communities where he planted churches. Here are the details of J.E. Yonts Sr’s accomplishments as listed in the Order of Faith Hall of Fame on the UPCI website.