I am heartbroken this morning.
Todd DeKryger, a physician assistant and the medical director of the Hospital of Hope where I worked in Togo for three months last year passed away yesterday.
He had malaria, and then some other infection that they could never find or treat. When his condition worsened, they arranged for him to be airlifted to a hospital in Germany with his wife, Jennifer.
Shortly after he got to Germany, his conditioned got even worse, and the doctors couldn’t bring him back.
Todd gave his life every day in Togo as he worked in the OR, managed an entire hospital and outpatient clinic, and took 24 hour call — sometimes for weeks at a time if there wasn’t a visiting surgeon to share the call schedule.
I have zero doubt that Todd is dancing in the presence of Jesus today, hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant” spoken over him.
My heart aches for Jennifer and for their four sons, and for the patients and staff at the Hospital of Hope. Todd’s death leaves a big silence and a big hole.
Todd’s death is a reminder.
It’s a reminder of how fragile life is — when I was in Togo, I contracted malaria, too, and was hospitalized for a few days. By God’s grace, I got better and was able to even go back to work for a few weeks before my time in Togo was up and I traveled home. But I am realizing now more than ever how real the possibility was that I could have lost my life — and if I serve in the developing world again (which I hope to do!), how real the risk will be. Remembering how fragile life is also reminds me to love on the people around me while we’re all still here.
Todd’s death is a reminder of what it means to give your life away. Todd was a physician assistant and served for a while overseas when he realized how important and impactful surgical skills were, so he returned to the U.S. and did a surgical residency so he could be a greater help to people at the hospital. Then he and Jennifer and their boys moved to Togo. They own a home that’s inside the hospital compound. “Our whole life is here,” they told me when I was at their home for dinner this past summer. Todd was ALL IN when it came to serving in Togo. He cared for patients and staff and his family with every fiber in his being.
Todd’s death is a reminder of what people face in the developing world every day — thousands of people die each day from infections that hospitals lack the resources and sophistication to diagnose and treat. I witnessed countless deaths like this during my time in Togo. It’s horrifying to watch someone slip away right in front of your eyes and be helpless to do anything more to save them.
Todd’s death is a reminder that God is calling all of us to serve him with our heart, mind, body and soul. When I was working there, I asked Todd if he wanted me to blog about the Hospital of Hope to raise money for them. He said, “Honestly, Sarah? Instead of money, I’d rather have people come. I’d rather have people actually come and help.”
Todd’s death is a reminder that God is good and faithful. Not only does God say these words about his servants when they enter eternity; we can say these words about God in life and in death. I don’t know why God took Todd home, but I do know that God continues to be good and faithful, and will continue to care for Todd’s wife and kids in Todd’s absence.
So, in memory of Todd, consider making a donation to the Hospital of Hope so they can continue to have the resources and medicine to save patients’ lives.
And consider committing your whole self to God — give your life away to whatever God is calling you to do, whether it’s caring for people in Togo or another country in the developing world, or your workplace or your home or your neighborhood or your kids’ school…
Consider what God will say about you when, as my friend Allan says, you take that last short step into the arms of Jesus.
“Well done, good and faithful servant.”
I’m sure Todd is hearing those words, along with thunderous applause, this morning. I hope each of us hears those words said about us, too.
“Well done, good and faithful servant….enter into the joy of your Master.”