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Mike Yaconelli - A Personal Obituary
Stocki shares his thoughts on the joyous life and tragic death of speaker, writer, Youth Ledership guru and hurricane of fun Mike Yaconelli...
Died October 30, 2003
It was with deepest sadness on Friday morning that I heard about Mike Yaconelli’s death
on Thursday as the result of a car accident the previous day near his home in California. I found it very hard to believe that such a wonderful whirlwind of energy could be snuffed out. I want to send his wife Karla, his father, his children and grandchildren as well as the Youth Specialties family and the worldwide network of Mike’s friends my love and prayers at this time.
For thosee who did not have the pleasure of coming across him Mike Yaconelli was the a co-founder of an American Youth leadership teaching ministry called Youth Specialities, some even call him the pioneer of the youth ministry genre. He was a wonderfully funny and challenging international speaker and he was a writer who founded the magazine The Door and whose books included Dangerous Wonder and Messy Spirituality.
Yac was one of those people that I had the limited privilege of meeting on only a few occasions in this life but they were big moments. More often than not all the time we had was a passing “hello, how are you” walking from seminar to seminar at Greenbelt but those short greetings belied our lack of quality time. They were always very warm exchanges and there was always a deep empathy, like we were in the same war, fighting the same battles of love and life and justice and I certainly was strengthened in the fight by simply knowing he was there, that we were on the same team and somehow he believed in what I was about.
Three years ago this very weekend Mike was with us in Belfast and he guested on my radio show and spoke to my students at Derryvolgie Hall where I live and work as the Presbyterian Chaplain at Queens University. We had a fantastic night and he inspired, provoked, challenged and inspired students to follow Jesus no matter what anyone else said, as only he could. He taught them to be honest with their quirks, foibles and ailings, to know in the depth of their being that they were lavishly loved by God and to risk everything to suck the marrow out of the life that God had created and redeemed them to have. As always it was impossible not be reinvigorated and realigned.
I am particularly thankful for my time with him at this years Greenbelt. It so happened we had more time together than usual and my memories of our connections are uncommonly strong. Mike came on my late night chat show and he frustrated me by not answering my questions as I wanted. I am sure he was frustrated that I didn’t ask him the questions he wanted to answer! There was one moment when I went off on a tangent with singer Brian Houston sitting in the audience about the characters of Father Ted. I looked round at Mike, who was sitting on the stage beside me, totally confused and told him I would get back to him. I will never forget his face, bemused with what was going on around him but totally connected and adding to the mad humor with that vitality of spirit that was like being with a 61 year old who was going on 16!
The last morning of the festival I was honored to be involved in a game show type deal put together by Simon Mayo and his brother Jonathan. It was called Never Mind the Toilets (various forms of loo loom large in Greenbelt legend!) where myself and poet Paul Cookson took on Mike and singer Martyn Joseph. It was superb fun and my mind has vivid photographic memories of Martyn reading out a verse of Song of Solomon to Mike and Mike trying to guess Martyn’s charade for The Second Coming. Hilarious! Wonderful! Thankful!
The saddest memory now is our parting when Mike shouted after me that we would definitely do that job together. I had approached Mike about writing the foreword to my next book _The Rock Cries Out; Finding Eternal Truth In Unlikely Music_ which should be out early next year. He had been more than delighted to agree. I spoke to my agent on Monday about us contacting Mike about getting it written. Forty eight hours later there was a car crash on the other side of the world that made that impossible.
Yet, that is simply a few pages of paper. His family have lost so much more. If I cannot imagine his exuberance being there outside of my immediate presence what of those who lived with that sense of joy and search for God’s love and meaning on a daily basis. I can only try to imagine their loss. My heart goes out to them.
And Mike? Well, it is far from frivolous to turn our mourning into his joy. Yac has just lit up heaven! And heaven will have lit him up even more if that is possible. One of the things he was saying on my Greenbelt chat show was that he was beginning to take things much easier and stepping back from Youth Specialties and his Church so that he could spend more time with Jesus. Mike, you now have all the time in the world. Enjoy!
Steve Stockman 11/7/2003