Dr. Kari Egge was a saint, though she would never use such a title. She lived her faith in her vocation. Her death this week stirred all kinds of memories for me, since she was active in the high school youth group at St. Andrew’s Lutheran Church in Mahtomedi when I first came on their staff. Kari’s brain was always working, asking deep questions that I could rarely answer. Yet she had a passionate heart that saw the needs of the world. She went off to college at George Washington University and then into Humanitarian Aid work with such diverse organizations as the Peace Corp, Catholic Relief Services and the American Red Cross. She played key leadership roles in responding to various disaster’s world-wide from the drought in Southern Africa to the tsunami in Indonesia. She received her doctorate in Public Health from Tulane where she studied HIV/Aids and how to treat it in the developing parts of the world.
I remember one particular conversation with her when she was home visiting her parents. I had an idealistic view of her relief work, thinking how wonderful it must be to help people in need.
Her response brought me back to reality, “Much of what I do is simply handle the bureaucratic mess. I am often tired and overwhelmed; we are usually short of key supplies or personnel and the local government often restricts everything we try to do.”
“So, Kari, what keeps you going?”
“I am not sure, but often some good comes. Some people are helped . . . or lived who would have died. I sense God has a hand in that.”
Kari could have lived a very productive, meaningful life here in the United States. She had a sharp mind and wit, a fun spirit, and caring heart. Instead of staying here, she heeded the call to meet the critical needs of people in distant lands. She lived out Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
When she was diagnosed with terminal cancer she did not dwell on her approaching death (though she did make some rather grim jokes about it), but rather how it affect her two young children, Dylan and Isabelle. She loved them, her parents and the many friends she made around the world. I will miss her.
Lord Jesus, grant comfort to all who grieve the death of Kari Egge. Thank you for her faithful witness of compassion.