Dr. Dean and Keitha Thomson want others to get the satisfaction that they receive from mission work.
So much so that they’ve established a grant through the Nebraska United Methodist Foundation to fund mission work by individuals and organizations throughout the Great Plains Conference.
“We consider it a brand-new program,” NUMF Executive Director Jackie Urkoski said of the Thomson Mission Grants. “They are pioneering this effort, and we are so happy to be involved in this way.”
Dr. Thomson, a family practice physician in Nebraska City since 1981, and his wife have hosted mission trips to Jamaica twice a year, often with medical and nursing students, from the early 1990s until the onset of COVID.
“We felt it was important that, early in their careers, if they could experience the joy of mission work or the importance of mission work,” he said. “We had people who were in other fields and decided they wanted to go into medical service because of that.”
The trips, Keitha Thomson said, also include “a lot of middle-aged people who always wanted to do something, but didn’t have the means, and didn’t have the know-how.”
“They were so grateful for the experience,” said Keitha Thomson, a retired registered nurse and school nurse.
She quoted one physician who said he makes the trip because “I get my soul shined.”
“What particularly thrills us is making students more care-giving professionals,” Dr. Thomson said. “Even in that short time it makes them realize the world is bigger than just their little corner.”
The group returns to the same area every year, where they have built a clinic and treat residents for diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.
“You’re seeing the same people over and over. They’re friends, they’re family,” Dr. Thomson said. “It’s good to see them again and see that you’re making a difference in somebody’s lives.”
Some of those on the trips, the Thomsons said, had only previously been to Jamaica on a cruise.
“They said, my goodness, that’s not the way we’ll ever come again,” he said. “They didn’t see the real Jamaica, the people, the real culture. When they came with our teams, they got involved in the community and that neighborhood. It’s just exciting. We want more people to have that experience.”
The Thomson Mission Grants fund doesn’t have to be for mission trips, Urkoski said, but has a wide net for any type of mission work by individuals and churches.
And, in a rare case, the grants can be obtained for mission work in Kansas as well as Nebraska.
Urkoski said the NUMF office continually receives calls asking if mission work can be funded.
“The fact that the Thomsons stepped up, and they were able to fill this void for us, is just wonderful,” she said, “and I hope other people follow suit.
“It’s great now when we get those phone calls to say yes, we do support mission work.”
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