Sometimes the journey between hearing God’s call and fulfilling it is a long one.
Echo VanderWal discovered God’s plan for her life when she was 8 years old.
“I was sitting in a church service and heard a missionary speaking about the medical need in Zaire,” Echo said. “It was then that I decided that this is what God wanted me to do.”
It would be more than two decades between Echo’s commitment and when she set foot on African soil. Years of growth and study would prepare her educationally and spiritually for her work.
During her years of preparation, Echo met and married her husband, Harry, who also felt a conviction to serve the poorest of the poor in Africa. She enrolled at Kettering College to receive an education that would equip her for serving those in developing countries.
In 2000, Echo graduated from Kettering College as a certified physician assistant and started practicing in surgery in the Dayton area. After she switched to pediatrics, God blessed her and Harry with triplet sons. She worked and waited another six years – adding another baby boy to the mix – while Harry finished his residency in internal medicine and pediatrics.
“(Former PA department medical director) Dr. David Lim was very influential and encouraged me to pursue the goals I had set,” Echo said. “It was a long wait between the time I was called and the time I actually got to go. Dr. Lim told me to be patient.”
Today, the VanderWals have a mobile clinic ministry called The Luke Commission, which reaches out to people in Eswatini, in southern Africa. The family spends up to 10 months a year in Africa, where they travel up to three hours three times a week to conduct clinics. The VanderWals arrive in villages by late morning and often stay as late as 1 a.m. to care for people who have sometimes waited up to six months to see them.
The ministry not only helps care for physical issues – from eyeglasses to surgery – but also helps heal souls torn apart by the world’s highest HIV/AIDS rate. The couple has served more than 50,000 Liswati and passed out more than 17,000 Bibles since starting their ministry.
Echo fights for words to explain how such a devastating place can also be one of the most peaceful for her and her family.
“There is a lot of pain and heartache in this work,” she said, “but I can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I can think of easier lives, but I can’t think of anything better. There is a sense of peace and contentment that I wouldn’t trade for any position or money.”
by Julie Thompson