My friend, Jerry Umanos, died yesterday. He was a pediatrician, working with CURE in Kabul Afghanistan. A guard at the hospital opened fire on Jerry and four others as they entered the gate to work. Two other doctors died with Jerry.

To know Jerry was to love him. I spent some summers working with him at our church bible camp in Michigan. Later we would spend Family Camp 1 every year together with friends. Jerry married Jan Schitema, a waitress at camp. They were perfect together. They had a son, Ben, the spitting image of his Dad. Jerry became a doctor and helped start a clinic in Lawndale…one of the poorest, underserved areas of Chicago. Jan was a social worker. They saw and met the needs of two of the kids Jan saw through work, kids with special needs, and made them part of their family.

In 2007 Jerry went to volunteer with CURE in Kabul. He came back a changed person, knowing that God was clearly calling him to be there. He and Jan went back to work in Afghanistan…for several years. Later when Jan again decided to work with the Chicago Public School as a social worker, Jerry continued in Kabul. He would work for many months and then come back to the clinic in Lawndale to work and earn enough money to return to the CURE hospital.

Jerry was unassuming, funny, caring, humble, loving, had an infectious laugh and a ready grin. He eyes told everything and most often had a twinkle. He and Jan lived what they believed…simply, without judgement. Never have I known any two people who more lived out their faith in concrete ways.

I woke the other morning, went to the computer and pulled up CNN. There was a huge banner, “breaking news” American pediatrician, Dr. Jerry Umanos and two others killed in Kabul Afghanistan today.” “Oh, my God, oh my God” I cried outloud as the tears streamed down my face. For a few minutes there was a vain hope that this was not true but in seconds FB went wild with the news.

The memories flow and come from a simpler time. Camp time in Michigan. Jerry, with his Filippino heritage made the perfect Hawaiian King, riding into the beach for our weekly camp pig roast, or was it hot dogs?. I can see it still in my mind’s eye, him trying to have a poker face…

His son, Leydon, trapped the women in the common White House (read toilet/bathhouse) by waiting outside on the lawn, with hose in hand, to drench anyone who tried to get out. I see Jerry wading in to wrestle the hose from him; I can hear him laughing, both embarrassed and enjoying this practical joke.

Jerry sitting outside in his lounge chair “working on his tan” which was always the inside joke with this dark complected guy.

If a measure of a man/person is what is said and written about them upon their death, well, then Jerry stands tall among us. To read the tributes that flood FB, local, national and international news is to flesh out the person I remember growing up with. But none of the tributes are surprising, although Jerry would view them with an “aw shucks” attitude.

His wife, Jan, read a statement the day of his death. She reminded us that Jerry always wanted to be the hands and feet of Christ. She wanted us to know they loved the Afghan people and have no ill will towards them or even the shooter. “None of us know his story” she said with compassion. It was stunning and simply the perfect tribute to make.

The world, the Afghan people, his friends and family have suffered a unmeasurable loss. But we are also better for having known him and the pleasure of calling him friend.

Peace to his memory.

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