You've done it again. Unexpected. Unconventional. Unforgivable. You can't just walk out on us like this. But, of course, you did it in true Yaconelli fashion. In your truck and seemingly out of control. You always fostered that image, though I don't think for a moment you ever were. Especially out of HIS control.
The first time we talked it was at the second National Youth Workers Convention. The last time, it was in the new office facility when we talked about messy spirituality as you were finishing the book. I savor those moments and all the ones in between.
Your departure, I feel, will mark the end of an era. Perhaps the golden era of the professional youth worker. You symbolized what was good, and sometime bad about youth ministry (remember the creative put downs in Ideas I or II?). Yet, you never let us take ourselves too seriously. I just pulled out your "Obituary" to the Jesus Movement (The Wittenburg Door, October 1971). "It died," you said, "because it allowed Organized Religion to make the rules." Rules don't feed. While everybody else was still "freaking out" for Jesus you saw beyond the hype.
May be that is what finally got to your heart as you drove home on the day of my first grandson's birth. Rules still stifle our walk with God. Who's going to be around to make sure the rule makers don't have their way as our grandson, Elijah, grows up?
Leon worked for my father's family. As a black man in the south he loved "Mr. Roosevelt." When FDR died, my father asked Leon what his thoughts were and Leon replied, "Well, I guess we will just have to trust the Lord, now." Many of us have depended on your voice to debunk the foibles of American evangelicalism while seeking a more vital spirituality within the Christian tradition. Now you are gone. I guess we'll just have to stand up on our own two feet and trust the Lord, now.
It has been a great ride.