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Celebrating the life of Yvonne Woods (1915-2014)

I was saddened to hear this week of the death of a dear friend, Yvonne Woods, widow of the first IFES General Secretary, Stacey Woods, and herself an honorary Vice-President of IFES from 1995 to 2003. She died on 7 April 2014, aged 98. Yvonne had been suffering with Alzheimer’s for the past 18 months and had become very frail. I give thanks that she was at peace with her Lord and was ready to go to heaven.

I have fond memories of my most recent visit with Yvonne almost a year ago. Her mind was certainly failing, but we were able to talk of her memories of IFES and, most preciously, to pray together.

Yvonne was a prayer warrior for IFES and for many of us, including my family. She got to know my wife Halymah at World Assembly in Canada in 2007 and since then she has been our dear friend, praying for our children by name and from time to time writing a personal note to us.

It was a joy to me that Yvonne took part in World Assembly 2007, which saw the handover from Lindsay Brown to me as IFES General Secretary and where we also celebrated 60 years of IFES ministry. At that time, Yvonne was already over 90 years old, but she was full of energy, grace and love, both for those around her and for students. It gave us a small glimpse of the faithful and godly support she had been over many years to Stacey and their three sons: Geoffrey, Stephen and Jonathan.

In 1934, four years before Yvonne and Stacey’s marriage, Stacey received an invitation to become General Secretary of the Canadian Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship. He oversaw the development of student ministry in Canada, and pioneered the work in the USA.

She was full of energy, grace and love, both for those around her and for students.

I recently read the continuation of that story in a talk that Yvonne gave in 2001 at the IFES International Office in Oxford, then at 321 Banbury Road. She was speaking at the dedication of a new resource room in memory of Stacey Woods. (You can read the full address in English here.)

'It is very exciting to be here in Oxford. It is a strategic place! Here in 1946 the members of the International Conferences of Evangelical Students were invited to gather. This was the turning point that led in the following year, 1947, to the official formation of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students at Harvard University in Boston, USA.

I remember well that summer. We, as a family, had sold our home in Toronto, put our belongings in storage, and were planning to go to Australia, my husband’s country, for an extended visit. Meanwhile we were all at an Inter-Varsity Training camp on an island in northern Ontario, Canada. My husband left us there when he went to Boston. When he returned, he said, ‘There will be no visit to Australia. If I travel anywhere, it will probably be to England. I have just been appointed General Secretary of the new IFES!’

Once Stacey had handed over leadership of the North American student movements, he and the family relocated to Lausanne, Switzerland in 1962. This helped IFES to be seen as a truly global organisation and also enabled Stacey to focus on his passion for teaching God’s Word to students from Eastern Europe. He worked to acquire Schloss Mittersill, an Austrian castle, as a place where IFES could connect with Eastern Europeans before the Berlin Wall came down.

If you would like to read more about Stacey Woods’ story, I recommend Don MacLeod’s book 'C Stacey Woods and the Evangelical Rediscovery of the University' (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2007).

I thank God for Yvonne and Stacey Woods, for their faith and for their witness to us. I thank God that today, as then, he is transforming students around the world for his glory. I thank God that he has called us to be part of his ministry.

Yvonne closed her talk in 2001 with a reminder to us all to ‘continue to walk in humble dependence on our Almighty God and on our Saviour Jesus Christ, who died to redeem us, and on the Holy Spirit, who is at work in us to transform us into the image of God’s Son’. Then, she said, as we look ahead and experience what God will do, we can sing, 'To God be the glory, Great things He has done!'

 

Please feel free to add a comment below to leave a message of condolence, or share your own memories of Yvonne.

There are tributes to Yvonne on both the InterVarsity/USA website and the Inter-Varsity Canada website. A memorial service for Yvonne Woods was held on 15 April 2014 at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA, USA. Please make any gifts to InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, designated for the ‘Yvonne Woods Memorial Fund at Cedar Campus’.

 

Comments

David Montgomery. Director, IFES Ireland

Obviously a wonderful and inspirational life. I was familiar with the ministry of Stacey from my time in Canada and also through the biography of good friend Don Macleod. With her passing it truly is the end of an era. Thank you from all in Ireland.

KP Devkota

Truly a wonderful woman of the history of IFES. I could see her in Toronto during the WA 2007. Deeply saddened to hear the demise of such an inspirational person. But it was god for her to be with our Lord and God. Let her life speak more to us and challenge us to carry on the unfinished task of IFES.

Ahoga Augustin

Un adage populaire a dit: "derrière un grand homme se cache toujours une grande femme". Yvonne a été cette grande femme qui a fait que le monde universitaire mondial a connu le message de la bonne nouvelle. Stacey n'aurait pu accomplir ce grand ministère sans toi. Tu resteras un modèle pour la face cachée du ministère au sein des GBU.

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John Criswell, InterVarsity Christian Fellows

I, along with so many others, am grateful for the life and witness of Yvonne Woods, our first lady of the fellowship. May God continue to raise up godly women and men like her to lead us into the future!

John Criswell, InterVarsity Christian Fellows

I, along with so many others, am grateful for the life and witness of Yvonne Woods, our first lady of the fellowship. May God continue to raise up godly women and men like her to lead us into the future!

Fernando Costa

O Movimento Missionário Estudantil é feito de pessoas e suas histórias com Jesus. Celebramos a Deus pela vida de Yvonne e pela inspiração que ela deixa aos estudantes que querem levar a proclamação do Evangelho a sério. Amazônia - Brasil.

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Carlos Pérez

Es un gran gozo formar parte de una gran familia, y gracias a las historia de esta hermosa familia Woods hoy se sigue haciendo historia a nivel mundial en las universidades. Para Dios sea la honra y la gloria, y agradecemos por la vida de Yvonne Woods que ha sido de mucha alegría para nuestras vidas. Nuestras sinceros saludos desde CEC Panamá.

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Caroline Joy Venton

It touches my heart to read things wonderful things my Aunt did in her life and all the wonderful souls she touched while she was here on earth with us. I always enjoyed her and Stacey coming for a visit and staying for a family meal. She was a kind and gentle woman who fear the Lord with all her heart and I know her years of prayers for me and my brothers has been very special. Mark, Mike and I lost our mother at a very early age and it was wonderful to have wonderful women like this in our life. Please let me know when the service is to be in Toronto, she will come to rest with my mother at the same cemetery. God Bless Her Wonderful Life.
Caroline Joy Venton
389 Victoria St. S.
Kitchener, Ontario
N2M 3A4

Hyacinthe K. AKLOMBESSI

Les devanciers s'en vont l'un après l'autre. Aujourd'hui, Yvonne nous quitte. Mais son engagement dans l’œuvre nous a atteint aussi au Togo. Notre responsabilité est de bien transmettre le témoin. En attendant de nous voir au ciel, sachons rendre hommage à de telle personne qui ont dédié toute leur vie à Dieu, par notre fidélité au Seigneur dans la vision.

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Jennifer Stamford

Dear Yvonne who was so kind and gracious, she made me welcome when I first attended church after my conversion. She had recently been widowed and lived alone but her house was a place of christian happiness and encouragement. Those memories of us all from the church at the beginning of my new life were often at Yvonne's house. I am so thankful to the Lord who had planned that I would meet her. I look forward to meeting her again in glory.

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Zaher & Ranaa' Haddad - FCSI

A wonderfull and godly woman that we had the chance to meet in World Assembl 2007. We have beautiful memories from her although we met her for a short time. Blessed is her memory and the fruit that she left behind.

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