There isn’t a single person on this earth who loved softball more than Yogi Durbin. He often joked, even from the pulpit that we shared at Hope Church, that if he had his choice, he wanted the Lord to take him right there on the softball field. Everybody always laughed, but I think that’s what he actually hoped for. He wanted to die doing what he loved, able-bodied and of sound mind. In a tragic way, he got his wish. Yogi had a massive heart attack after a softball game, and though he lived for another two weeks, from what I understand his last living memory was of being on the softball field, playing the beautiful game with people he loved. When he finally did pass from this life into the arms of Jesus, he was surrounded by his family, who loved and admired him deeply. May God be with the whole Durbin family.
Yogi loved people. He was a pastor in the truest sense of the word. Whether it was after service on Sundays, in his home during the week, or, most importantly to him, doing hospital visitations, Yogi loved the people that God brought to him. He was always looking for ways to help people, especially those who had fallen on hard times. But he wasn’t the kind of person to just cut a check and trust that money would solve someone’s problem; he was ready to jump into the lives of people who seemed to chronically find themselves in hard times. His instinct wasn’t to judge them, but to lead them out of their often self-inflicted troubles, if he could. That takes a lot of work. And commitment. Not many people have the patience to love people that way.
Yogi wanted everybody to meet Jesus. He loved Jesus, and knew that, no matter what else is going on in your life, if you’ve got Jesus you’re going to be alright. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and Yogi was gripped by the reality that the only way to God the Father is through Jesus the Son. He didn’t want anybody to miss out on that because the consequences are eternal. What Jesus offers is better than anything that the world can offer, and he was deeply saddened by how many people choose the world over Jesus. That’s why he was in ministry – to preach the Gospel. And he did. He preached the Gospel and expounded the Scriptures faithfully, like a good servant of Jesus Christ. He did not preach as many do today, to be approved by fallen men and women who are captive to the world’s way of thinking. He taught as one approved by God, and who sought only God’s approval.
Yogi led Hope Church well. When we arrived there, the church was in a difficult place. But there were good people there, and we brought good people with us. Together, with the Lord’s help, the Spirit’s power, and Yogi leading the way, we made Hope Church work. That sort of thing isn’t supposed to happen. You’re not supposed to be able to take a church on the downswing, combine it with a church plant, and make it not just survive, but thrive. But that’s what happened. Hope wasn’t Yogi’s largest church or his most fruitful ministry, but it is a significant part of his legacy. While my time there did not end how or when I would have liked, it was an honor to serve with Yogi for those three years. He was not afraid to make hard decisions, and he always did what was best for the church. He left that church a lot better than he found it, and that is quite an accomplishment.
Finally, Yogi deeply loved his family. He was so proud of his kids and grandkids. He always spoke of them in glowing terms – especially the grandkids. He was the consummate Grandpa, a true Poppy, full of energy and life for those sweet little souls. We didn’t get to see the family together often, but I imagine the little ones swarming him at first sight, climbing all over him, and I can see his face beaming with pride and delight. My heart breaks especially for them, because in this life they have lost a good Poppy, a faithful protector, and a mutual source of joy and happiness. But I hope they know that his face toward them will never change, an eternal grin and sparkling eyes. Yogi’s body may have been taken from this world, but the love and delight he had for his family remains with them for the rest of their lives, until it is fulfilled in glory when they all meet again in the presence of Jesus Christ.
“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”