The battle we face here in Togo is often one of finding the peace and solitude among the peaks and valleys of the sovereignty of God--reconciling the unwavering truth of the The Gospel with the emotional waves one’s heart can ride upon during the storms.
I cry aloud to God,
aloud to God, and he will hear me.
In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord;
in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying
my soul refuses to be comforted.
When I remember God, I moan;
when I meditate, my spirit faints.
Our leader, our visionary, our friend Todd Dekryger lost his life to severe malaria and its complications on February 26 after arriving in Germany via an air medical evacuation. His amazing wife was by his side and wrote this amazing letter to us all in the short time that followed. There have been countless blog entries and articles honoring his life and death during the last week. Even as I type, I’m not exactly sure what is appropriate to share--what is there left to say…..
You hold my eyelids open;
I am so troubled that I cannot speak.
I consider the days of old, the years long ago.
I said, “Let me remember my song in the night;
let me meditate in my heart.”
Then my spirit made a diligent search;
“Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?
Has his steadfast love forever ceased?
Are his promises at and end for all time?
Has God forgotten to be gracious?
Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”
Todd loved Peter, the disciple of Christ. Peter always said the wrong thing at the wrong time, yet he seemed to be the disciple that yearned to be closest to Christ despite his shortcomings. I believe that Todd was encouraged by that daily. The truth is that Todd wasn’t a superhero, as none of us are. Missionaries are often elevated up in Christian circles as being “larger than life” or spiritually superior. Todd would laugh out loud at that notion if he were still here. Todd was obedient to the Lord’s leading in coming to Togo, recruiting a massive team to help start a new hospital in the middle of a region lost without Christ. His invitations to join the Togo team were irresistible, as I experienced. After hearing Todd talk about Mango and the Hospital of Hope, you knew that the Lord was going to do great things whether or not you came...but you walked away not wanting to miss out on being a part of it.
There are too many things I could say about the week leading up to Todd’s death. The true miracles of how God made it possible to get Todd on the airplane to Germany. From the small rope attached to a semi-truck that had to pull our military ambulance 2 hours to reach the airplane after we had broken down on the side of the rode; the nurse that called a friend in Kara to meet us on the tarmac with 2 blood donation bags so that he could get transfused on the way to Germany, the fact that 2 of us bringing Todd to the airplane happened to have matching blood types…..
When the call came in the middle of the night that someone was coming to pick me up at a friend’s house and bring me to the hospital compound, I knew. But we rode in silence until we arrived at the Dekryger house. That dear missionary friend just turned around and embraced me. No words were necessary.
Then I said, “I will appeal to this,
to the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
The truth is that each day gets better. The truth is that each day is hard. Todd and I used to always laugh say, “If you die, I’ll kill you.” It was our way of letting each other know that we were in this for the long-haul. No matter who came and went, we were going to make sure that this hospital kept going. ISIS, Ebola, whatever. We were staying.
But the Lord had other plans. The Lord has other plans.
The nurse on the medevac plane was named Melanie, the name of Jennifer’s (Todd’s wife) mom. I thought it was such a sweet detail that the Lord orchestrated so that Jennifer could not feel so alone on that airplane ride. As we were loading Todd into the plane, I turned and noticed her eyes filled with tears. I knew she was overwhelmed by how sick Todd was. I knew she was overwhelmed by the thoughts that all of our hope was placed on her skills for the voyage to come. I took her by the shoulders and through my own tears said, “Thank you so very much. We can’t thank you enough. I know you are overwhelmed but it’s okay to feel weak. Christ’s strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. Our hope is in Him, not in you. It will be okay.”
She embraced me as if we were long-time friends unaware if we would see eachother again.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
There are reasons why, as doctors and nurses, we are not supposed to care for people that we know. But on the mission field, there is little choice. Many of us took care of Todd during his illness which we needed, in order that we were making objective decisions and not emotional ones. Despite Todd’s death I don’t look back and second guess his treatment here or the timing of our decision to send him to Germany. This isn’t our pride in thinking what good doctors we are, but instead due to the hundreds of folks praying for us every day--praying that the lies of the enemy do not discourage and incapacitate us. The Hospital of Hope will continue on because this work was the Lord’s from the beginning. Todd was faithful to the work, but more importantly he knew that the Lord used imperfect people to proclaim the perfect and complete work of the Cross. He knew that compassionate medical care and healing was only half of the story. He knew how to love people, how to forgive and how to be forgiven. He knew that he would see Jesus face to face, and his work would be done.
We miss you friend, but the work here is not done. The Lord is still calling his lost sheep here in Mango and beyond. By God’s grace, we continue what you helped start. By God’s grace, we will see you soon.