GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A Grand Rapids church is raising money to help the family of Todd DeKryger, who was working as a medical missionary in Africa, when he became ill and later died.
DeKryger, 46, was initially treated for malaria and typhoid. When his condition didn’t improve, he was moved to a hospital in Cologne, Germany where he died Friday, Feb. 26, with his wife, Jennifer by his side.
It is still unclear what caused his deadly infection, said Jeffrey Burr, pastor of Forest Hills Baptist Church.
The church has set up a fund at fhbcgr.org to assist DeKryger’s widow and their four boys, Will, 16; Grant, 14; Luke, 12 and Drew, 8.
DeKryger, a surgical physician assistant, was the chief of staff at Hospital of Hope in the Togo’s northern city of Mango.
“He was certainly the heart of the hospital,” said Burr. “It was really his vision to see the hospital established in that part of the country.”
The hospital’s opening in early 2015 was such a big deal that the nation’s president, Essozimna Gnassingbe, came to the grand opening and met with DeKryger.
Since it’s opening, the hospital has treated more than 10,000 patients, many coming from the surrounding countries of Ghana, Benin and Burkina Faso.
“The nation of Togo is mourning Todd’s loss,” said Burr, referring to the thousands whose lives were touched by DeKryger rather than any formal action by the country.
The opening of the hospital had been a goal of DeKryger for years, after he moved his family to the West African country in 2005 to do mission work.
For years, he worked at Hôpital Baptiste Biblique, a facility of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism, in the southern part of the country. In 2013, the DeKrygers moved to northern Togo to build the new hospital, also associated with ABWE.
Forest Hills Baptist Church has been the missionary family’s main sponsor. The 300-member church, at 3900 Fulton St. E., sends $1300 a month to support the family.
DeKryger grew up in Kalamazoo, where he graduated from Kalamazoo Christian High School, and later earned his medical degree at Western Michigan University.
He and his wife, Jennifer, who had done mission work in Hong Kong, wanted to share their faith while providing healthcare to those in need.
“They served the physical needs of the Togolese people,” Burr said. “But their goal was to compassionately communicate the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ.”
The family was overdue to take a furlough back to Michigan because they were so committed to serving the Togolese people, he added.
In a message to the church, Jennifer wrote about her grief and her husband’s sacrifice:
My heart is overwhelmed with unspeakable grief – for myself, our boys, our extended family, our spiritual family and the Hospital of Hope team. I cling only to the gospel and the certain hope of our salvation through Jesus Christ. I long for the men, women and children of Togo to know the Savior that Todd served so faithfully. Even in my pain, I am confident that our sacrifice – that Todd’s sacrifice – was worth it. I believe that the great commission is a cause worth dying for. And in the midst of my grief, I fix my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.