Today is Monday, December 18, 2017

Special Memorial Scholarships

Nicholas Castle: Nicholas Castle was a U.S.-China Friendship Volunteer who taught English at Tongren University in Guizhou Province, China. He died unexpectedly in February 2013 at the age of 23. His tragic loss was felt by the many students and colleagues he had befriended in the local community.

"(People) talk about his passion and desire to alleviate global poverty and inequality," said his father, David Castle. "Nick didn't just talk about these things. He joined the Peace Corps and went to a remote part of the world to make a difference in other people's lives."

To celebrate Nick's life and honor his memory, a special scholarship was established by the Zimmer Foundation. The Nicholas Castle Memorial Scholarship is awarded to an English major who is committed to academic excellence and who has shown exemplary leadership in the school community.

Like other Zimmer Foundation scholarships, the Nicholas Castle Memorial Scholarship offsets the cost of tuition, room and board at Tongren University. The scholarship is renewable for three years, provided that the recipient continues to show superior academic achievement.

Israel Yoder: Shortly before his death, Israel "Izzy" Yoder penned a short note on a piece of scrap paper entitled "The Man I Wanna Be". In scrawled writing he detailed his desire for wisdom, to always be thoughtful and encouraging; to be a man of his word, to have and be known for personal integrity. His last stated desire was simple: to leave a legacy of love. In all of these goals, Israel was an undeniable success.

Born in Indiana, and the eldest child of Daniel and Laura Yoder, Israel was well known for his playful smile, quick wit and boundless energy. At the tender age of 5 he asked Jesus to come and live with him; and at 12 he was baptized by his father. Home-schooled by Laura, Israel graduated high school at 16, and that summer he travelled to Florida to work with his grandfather in the lawn care business. It was there, in Sarasota, that Israel came into his own as a man of God. Attending Church of Hope, he continued to read and study on how to be an influential leader. His leadership style was one of blessing through encouragement. His personal walk reflected the knowledge that he was not perfect, but he had a simple trust in the Lord's forgiveness, given him through the sacrifice and shed blood of Jesus Christ. He extended that grace to everyone he came in contact with. It is impossible to say the name "Izzy" to any of the young people who knew him, and not be regaled with stories of kindness, generosity, empathy and love. Israel intentionally lived each day emulating his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He reached out to the hurting, spent time with the lonely, and encouraged the weak and scared. With a ready smile and an open heart, Israel changed the atmosphere wherever he went.

Not surprisingly, Israel was about the Lord's business when he lost his life in a drowning accident. On a missions trip to Haiti with several other young adults from the church, Israel was extending his heart for the lost and hurting from local regions to worldwide mission fields.

The shock and grief of Israel's death was not unexpected; perhaps what could not be anticipated was how the Lord would use his home-going to fulfill his greatest wish - to point others to Jesus, and to leave a legacy of love.

The "LoveLikeIzzy" movement was born out of the desire of Izzy's friends to honor his life in a tangible way. A memorial page on Facebook is filled with daily posts from people of all ages, many whom never even met Izzy, whose lives have been totally transformed by his example, and all the stories which continue to circulate and inspire. In his death, Israel Yoder was granted his wish to leave a legacy of love, magnified to a level possible only through God. The mantra of the group is "Love like Izzy, because he loved like Jesus." Because Israel loved wearing the color pink, the bright pink shirts and bumper stickers are prolific in Sarasota and beyond, even being spotted now in other countries and remote areas.

Israel was a faithful son, an adoring older brother to his 4 siblings, a stalwart friend and a budding leader. But most importantly, he was a man dedicated to reflecting the love of his Savior each and every day of his life. Israel is survived by his parents, Dan and Laura; sisters Naomi, Abigail and Ana, and brother Caleb; as well as thousands of friends looking forward to meeting him again in heaven.

"Are you going to heaven? Because I don't want to be there without you!" ~ Israel Yoder (December 4, 1990- April 5, 2012)