Kathy Derleth, vice president of clinical services for Diakon’s Senior Living Services operations, grew up a pastor’s child and was exposed to missionary work early on. She loved the teamwork, sharing the gospel, and helping those less fortunate than herself.
In fact, she dreamed of becoming a missionary but, as can happen, she was drawn in a different direction and became a registered nurse in 1981. Since then, she has worked in hospitals, physician offices, and long-term care facilities, squeezing in mission trips when she could, including trips to Peru, China, the Ukraine, and Nova Scotia.
Derleth joined Diakon in 2014 and was delighted to discover that the organization shares her passion for helping individuals both near and far. Sometimes, in fact, Diakon supports that “far” assistance through its Love of Thy Neighbor Fund, which provides additional paid “vacation” days for approved trips.
When Derleth’s daughter, Goisi , a 21-year-old nursing student at Bob Jones University, expressed an interest in going on a medical mission trip, her mother applied to the Diakon fund.
This summer, Derleth, who is a mother of two and grandmother of three, her husband, Jim, and Goisi set out on a 10-day medical mission trip to Trujillo, Peru—a dusty beach town with a population of approximately 750,000. The trip, organized by Medical Mission Outreach, consisted of 72 individuals, who administered medical care and spiritual guidance to nearly 3,000 people. They also ministered to pastors at a Baptist seminary and to a small orphanage nearby. They even had two days to tour, shop, and enjoy Peruvian cuisine.
The group consisted of doctors, nurses, translators, and people that helped set up, take down, and organize the effort. All of them worked long hours, sometimes from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. They set up free mobile clinics at two locations and treated babies, adults, and the elderly—and even had the pleasure of telling one woman she was pregnant.
Each patient was assessed so that his or her individual needs could be addressed. Sometimes, that meant providing education; sometimes it meant providing free vitamins or a free, one-month prescription with a script to refill that prescription; and sometimes it meant referring them to someone better equipped to help them. One day they brought in a local dentist to help with patients’ dental needs.
“We ministered to both body and soul that day,” convincing the man to seek help.
Everyone was welcome, with some people walking many miles down the mountains just to see them. Common issues included parasites, the result of the poor condition of drinking water, and diabetes.
One man in particular touched Derleth’s heart—a young cab driver with a large family to support. He arrived at the clinic with a bad infection in a toe. The doctors realized that if the condition wasn’t treated immediately, the man would lose his toe. Unfortunately, what he needed was beyond the scope of what the clinic could provide, so they advised him to go to the hospital.
When the man said he did not have the money to go to the hospital. Derleth prayed with him and his family, finally convincing him to get the help he needed. “We ministered to both body and soul that day,” she says.
In addition to providing medical treatments, the group helped a local church—El Calmino de Cristo—with its mission. The church was established approximately one year ago by Jesus and Tracy Altuna, a long-time friend of Derleth’s and a nurse from this area. The two had made their first mission trip to Peru in 2002, which is where Altuna met her future husband a few years later.
Derleth and her family arrived home, she says, with a new appreciation for what they have and a “heavy heart for those who don’t have what so many of us take for granted, but a little seed that you plant can grow.”
She hopes the connections they helped to forge with El Calmino de Cristo will continue to provide support and spiritual guidance to people in need.
Each month, MMO visits a different country offering love and care to those in need. The group seeks “to use medicine as a means to meet the physical needs of others, while sharing the loving Gospel of Christ.” More information is available at http://www.medical-outreach.com/.