In a Child's Eyes


This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived.

It was four years before I re-entered clinical medicine. I had graduated medical school and entered a family medicine residency program all while being a part of the Air Force. Over the span of two years my world was rocked by severe depression and while I knew that God was the reason I was still alive, my perspective was wholeheartedly focused on my little kingdom rather than His much larger one. I completed 32 months of the 36 month residency before the depression incapacitated me. I eventually went through an Air Force medical board, and was medically retired from the Air Force. Recovery was a long and tedious process for both my husband and me.

 After I was able to take up the mantle of clinical medicine again, I realized that I needed a change. I had grown weary of reading in the New England Journal of Medicine about the 60- or 70-something year old person with diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol etc. I thought to myself, “I want to try to prevent these diseases.”  So I found myself drawn to pediatrics. God used this time to do instrumental work on my heart. Before I restarted residency, I was blessed to be part of a Bible-believing church in Centerville, and was involved in a wonderful ministry called Grace Works—a ministry for children with special needs. It was here where God softened a spot in my heart for these children and their families. My favorite program was Date Nite, a night held once a month to take care of special needs kids so their parents could have a night out for themselves.

 When applying for pediatric residency, I listed Dayton Children’s Medical Center at the top of my list, because my husband and I already lived in the area, and they have a tremendous program. I had mixed feelings when I learned on “Match Day,” when Residency Match released its results, that I had matched at Advocate Christ Medical Center/Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois. It was not an unfamiliar place—32 years prior, I was born there. My family still lived nearby. I would be going “home” to live for the first time in 15 years; but my husband could not go with me. He still had one more year in his Air Force emergency medicine residency at the Wright-Patterson Base. We believed that God had this in His hands and had a plan for me in Illinois. True trust in the Lord was starting to take permanent residence in our hearts.

God gave me a clear vision to start a Date Nite program in Oak Lawn. He provided the means and opened door after door to achieve this hope. By the time I graduated the residency program, the Date Nite Respite Project was supporting up to 30 special needs children at each event, allowing their parents and caregivers a night out knowing their children were in good hands. God provided enough volunteers every time. The joy of serving God’s precious children and their families in this capacity was indescribable. I began to see how God wanted me to use my gifts as a pediatrician to work for His Kingdom. While working in private practice in Springfield, I had many opportunities to show God’s love and compassion to families who were in need, whether that need was financial, emotional or spiritual. I was able to pray with teenagers, moms of small children, and my staff. This was not the mission field of Guatemalan villages or some remote, third world country. But this was where God placed me, and where He gave me opportunities to show the love of Christ to His hurting and needy people.

This is what Jesus called me to do: to use the gifts given by my heavenly Father and the life experiences He brought me through to love and help heal His people, to bring His new creation here, right where I lived. My husband is still in the Air Force and received an assignment to be the commander of a medical squadron in Japan.  I planned to go with him and minister to the people in Japan. We were very excited about the opportunity and felt God’s hand moving in it. I gave notice that May 31, 2014 would be my last day at the Springfield office. I had to prepare to move overseas. But God had a different plan in mind. Because of my history with depression the Air Force denied me clearance as a dependent in Japan. So we stayed in Dayton. Perhaps for another year or only a few months. Wherever God opens doors we will gladly go.

While I find myself without a typical job, but with plenty to do. God gave me a husband in 2001, and we have been through quite a bit already, but now I can focus on serving him for the glory of God.  I can also put more efforts into serving at Kiser Public School in Old North Dayton with my pediatric skills. When I first stepped foot into the building, it was love at first sight. Randy Chestnut, pastor of Hope Community Church, partnered with Apex to serve there, and he jokes that I caught the Kiser fever. Right now, only God knows if I will re-enter the “traditional” workforce as a pediatrician. Perhaps that is where He will have me. Or perhaps not. I may work for His Kingdom in a less traditional way, from the American cultural perspective. I now am beginning to understand and obey God’s call to surrender it all to Him: my marriage, my job, my skills, my free time, my soul, my everything.


Author: Leanne Mihata as told by Robin Zastrow

Our Redeemer Lives


“What I love about Madi working with this age group,” says Phil, “is that if they ever say, ‘I can’t do it,’ she will be able to say, ‘Yes you can because I’ve overcome this.’ It will be such a wonderful way to share her story.”

Virginia Depp packs mightiness in her hugs. Her tiny frame doesn’t speak to the strength behind her arms around you and it certainly doesn’t speak to the strength behind her heart. She welcomed me into her home with a tight, no-nonsense hug and then asked me to remind her of my name – you see, the Depp family’s story has seemed to have left them with the deep instinct to display wild love first, ask questions later; we should all be quick to mirror them.

Their story begins blissfully enough – a precious, two year old son and a beautiful, dark-haired baby girl.

“I was waiting for my white picket fence to be installed,” marvels Virginia. “I remember saying out loud, ‘my life couldn’t get any more perfect.’”

But soon, she noticed her baby having trouble breathing.

“She couldn’t seem to get enough air in through her nose,” she recalls.

After a CAT Scan, Virginia and Madi were on their way to Kentucky with family when the doctor called with what was hoped to be the diagnosis of a sinus infection.

“I remember sitting in the back seat next to my baby, doodling as I was waiting on the line for the doctor,” she says.

The doctor told Virginia to get to where she was headed, but to be ready to return to the hospital at 6 AM the next morning.

"I remember asking, ‘Is my baby going to die?’ and the doctor’s solemn response was, ‘I’m sorry, Mrs. Depp, I don’t know.’”

Phil and Virginia got Madi to the doctor while their son stayed with his grandparents over the next seven days.

“When he returned home, it was not the same place he had left – and it never would be, again,” says Virginia.

At one month, doctors discovered that Madi had a hole in the base of her skull that was allowing the sac of fluid surrounding her brain to dip into her sinus cavity. It was also found that Madi was missing a portion of her brain. Virginia recalls the doctors needing to pull text books out for information and statistics because they had never seen this before. She also recalls, quite early on, being told by a doctor not to rush out and put their house on the market, that there were organizations designed to help with the financial burden of raising a child with severe disabilities. Virginia shrugs her shoulders as she shares the memory, “It was in that moment,” she confesses, “that I realized nothing would ever be the same again.”

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Now, I could continue this story by going in to great detail over Madi, at 14 weeks old, being the youngest person in the world to undergo this surgery; you could read about Madi needing glasses at a very young age and it being a catalyst for her parents to speak into God having a bigger plan for Madi than they could’ve imagined. I could inform you of the ways in which roles were reversed in the aftermath of the surgical procedures – Phil became the cheerleader and Virginia sat in a valley; I could share the many extraordinary ways that the Depp’s were able to give testimony to God’s work in Madi’s story all over the country. And it would all be true.

Virginia and Phil had to trust that the Lord would lift them out of this pit and deliver them to the high places – and He did. And when they fell back down, He lifted them once more.

I could speak into these things and share smaller stories within the big one, but there’s someone you all should really meet . . .

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That dark haired little girl – who still remains the youngest in the world to have this surgery and who wasn’t expected to ever survive it? She’s a high school graduate; she has dark, wavy hair and big, kind eyes and a sweet, sweet smile.

She walked into the room about halfway through her story being shared; she kicked off her flip-flops, curled her legs up, and sat quietly and patiently – occasionally crunching up her nose in a knowing smile.

She beat the odds – by God’s radiant grace; she drives a car, plays piano and participates in sports. She’s also heading to college in the fall. When I asked where she was going, she replied softly, “The University of the Cumberlands for Middle School Education.”

Mom and dad nod proudly, knowingly.

“What I love about Madi working with this age group,” says Phil, “is that if they ever say, ‘I can’t do it,’ she will be able to say, ‘Yes you can because I’ve overcome this.’ It will be such a wonderful way to share her story.”

Virginia mentions a few verses from Psalm 103:

He redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion . . .” (4)

“Everyone has pits they end up in,” she says. “Sometimes we are pushed into our pits, sometimes we’re the ones digging the pit deeper, sometimes we decide to decorate the walls of our pit and nestle in – but no matter what the circumstance of how we came to be in the pit, we should all be crying out loudly to be pulled back up and trusting God to reach down to get us.”

The Depp’s are now able to show love and compassion to families walking through hardships – there is common ground to be shared with them because of where they’ve been.

“This is a crown we’ve been given,” admits Virginia.

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The Depp family knows the ways of bottom valley dwelling; they know the warmth that comes with being gathered out of them, too.

Just ask them – they know their Redeemer lives.


Author: Stephani Duff


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