ELKHART, Indiana (Mennonite Mission Network) – After 94 years of a life dedicated to education and advocacy, Vernelle H. Yoder of Berne, Indiana, passed away Sept. 26. She was born July 26, 1924, in Adams County, Indiana, to Ida (Habegger) and Raymond Yoder.
Yoder graduated from Fort Wayne Bible Institute with a bachelor's degree in education, which she used to enrich the international church. For more than 40 years, she served in education as a missionary with the Commission on Overseas Mission of the General Conference Mennonite Church, a predecessor agency of Mennonite Mission Network. In the Colombian towns of Cachipay and La Mesa, she taught and directed in two Mennonite schools. She also worked in Bogotá in a variety of education-related ministries.
Vernelle is especially remembered for her work in La Mesa. In describing the history of the school, Colegio Americano Menno (American Menno School) includes in their timeline: "1959 Miss Vernelle Helen Yoder, North American missionary, arrived as director to stabilize the school and manage the legal recognition and approval of the study program."
In 2015, the school named their auditorium the Vernelle Helen Yoder Auditorium and placed a dedication plaque that reads: "Her testimony of faith, love and commitment with the educational ministry of the Mennonite Church of Colombia has inspired the work of the new generations."
With her dedication and love she touched the lives of many young people, as well as the teachers and broader community. Peter Stucky, a mission colleague and friend, wrote: "Vernelle was a brave and cheerful person with an infectious laugh. We in Colombia are very thankful for her life, and for the years she spent here in the service of the Lord Jesus."
Linda Shelly, director for Latin America at Mennonite Mission Network, said, "We know that Vernelle left a strong legacy in the Colombian churches, and will continue to live in the lives and ministries of the people with whom she lived and worked."
A member of First Mennonite Church in Berne, Yoder is described in her local obituary as having a heart for people in need.
Yoder is survived by her sister-in-law, Barbara Yoder of Berne, and nieces and nephews, Marilyn Averhart, Ray Yoder, Robert Yoder, Beverly Piper, Keith Yoder, Kevin Yoder, and Kyle Yoder.
She was preceded in death by her parents; five brothers, Raymond, Jr. in infancy, and John, LeRoy, Jerry and Harry Yoder; two sisters, Ilva and Evanna Yoder; niece, Linda Carpenter; and foster brother, Elwood David.
Her memorial service took place Oct. 1 at Swiss Village Retirement Community.