In dedication to Cephas Yoder, I am in the process of starting an non for Profit foundation called the Cephas Yoder Foundation. Click the Link for more info.
Two Weeks after I left the Amish, I was on my way home from work in my little blue car. I woke up upside down in a creek with my head hanging in water and my seat belt holding me up just out of drowning reach. 3 days later I was released from The University Hospital in Columbia, Mo with only a crushed ankle, a seat belt burn, and a few other scratches. I reflect back now on how close my life had ended at 22 yrs old, and how I walked away from hitting a concrete wall at 63 MPH head on. I can only thank the lord for letting me live.
9 years later I am sitting in my office at work in the finishing stages of selling a car and my phone started ringing. Out of respect for my customer, I didn’t answer, but when it rang from 5 different people in several minutes, I suspected the worse.
Cephas during a photo shoot July 2011
I got my person into the finance office, and listened to my first voicemail. Cephas Yoder, one of my best friends since I had left the Amish, had just had a bad car accident and was pronounced dead at the scene. I sat in my office in stunned silence for probably 15 minutes trying to make sense out of this. Nothing made sense.
Cephas left the Amish faith from a small community in Dixon, Mo. and had been out for about 3 yrs. Cephas has one brother, Gideon Yoder, who is several years older, who left the Amish as well. The first time I met Cephas, I was blown away by his big ideas of how far he was going to go in life and how big his dreams and goals were! I almost felt obligated to try and keep his feet on the ground by telling him how hard it is to do some of these things, but realized soon that he isn’t easily deterred. Over the next several years I watched as Cephas got adjusted into the outside world, and we became good friends. We rode together to Joplin, Mo to survey the damage done by the tornado in the spring of 2011, and then later he went along with us to help rebuild some of it up. I will never forget how I was inside the one house hanging sheetrock and he was working in the back yard cleaning debris and he came inside to get me to come back there to admire what he had done. As a surprise to the home owners, he had dug a hole into the ground, carried many rocks over, and made a really nice little underground yard water fountain. I wasn’t there to see the expression on the home owners faces when they got home, but the excited expression on Cephas’ face was priceless!
If I could describe Cephas in 3 words it would be these. FEARLESS, AMBITIOUS, and CREATIVE.
There are many things about this death that I questioned for some time. Anyone who talked with Cephas realized shortly that he had huge dreams, and was very confident of achieving them. On one cold snowy day when he was snowed off work, Cephas came into my office to talk to me about some of these dreams. We probably sat there jokingly arguing for 3 hrs about some of them that I felt were unrealistic, and I kept trying to get him to start writing them down on paper step by step and that way he could track his progress. The biggest disagreement we had was on the matter of building credit. He was convinced that one doesn’t need credit in life. I tried to convince him that in order to achieve all these dreams, one first has to establish some credit so as to be able to get a loan for the equipment. We made a standing, written bet on this because he was going to be a multimillionaire by the age of 25. And he was going to do it without credit. The bet became that if he did this by 25, I would have to not only eat my own underwear, but also my own words and credit opinion. If he was unsuccessful by 25, he would come back in and buy a vehicle from me and try it the credit way. This was something we brought up every time we spoke, and I’d always get my calculator out and tell him, “Hey, according to my calculations, you should have about $278,000. sitting in your account by now. How’s that going for you”? All in good fun, and I feel that if anyone could’ve done it, he had as big of a chance or bigger than any ex Amish I know. Now we will never know what could have been. One thing was for sure though. By setting his sights so high, he was achieving dreams many people never could have!
A Group of Ex Amish that gathered to remember Cephas
In conclusion, there are several things that bother me here that I wish I could change. The first being that When we went to his funeral, (which was held at his Amish family’s home) the preacher’s used him as an example to the rest of the Amish church as the lost son who went out into the world, fell upon evil ways, and now, varily I say unto you, it is too late to repent, and a soul is lost. I long to go make his Amish family and community aware of what a great kid he was, and that he was not at all the kind of kid to be an evil person, but rather a really good example to the rest of the Ex Amish community.
The second, As is often the case with someone who is taken from us at so young of an age, sometimes the memory fades and years down the road he is all but forgotten. This friend was a very unforgettable one, and I have truly never been as heart broken at the loss of any one friend. I, for one, will make sure that he is remembered and any ex Amish youth that leave in the future will hear his name and what a great person he was!