Hands of Hope
Dayton resident and Awana volunteer Dr. Grant Starrett is using his medical training to help those in desperate need of healing

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The medical missions team to Niger, Africa that included Grant and Karen Starrett

Dr. Grant Starrett leads the Awana program at Centerville (Ohio) Grace Brethren Church. He also is an infectious disease physician at Good Samaritan Hospital in Dayton, Ohio. A doctor for seven years, Grant recently experienced a very different environment in which to practice medicine: Niger, Africa.

Grant and his wife, Karen, a pediatrician, were part of a medical mission trip comprised of eight doctors. They served for three weeks in clinics and at Galmi Hospital in Niger.

“It’s a mission hospital well staffed with missionary doctors,” Grant explained. “It’s in a remote village in southern Niger. Christian doctors from all over the world serve. It’s a privilege to work with them. It’s what the Church is all about.”

Bringing hope to the hopeless
This mission trip to Africa was Grant’s fifth and Karen’s first. Grant hopes to serve in Africa on a bi-annual basis, using his training and passion to serve those in need to impact God’s kingdom.

Niger, one of the largest nations in West Africa, is also one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world. The United Nations states that Niger is one of the least livable countries worldwide. The average life expectancy is 44 years. Poverty is rampant, and Niger suffers from the world’s highest infant mortality rate.

Diseases take the lives of many young people. But God used Grant to help save the life of a young girl while he was in Niger.

Healing hands
Dr. Starrett helped heal this 11-year-old girl of bacterial meningitis during his mission trip One day while Grant was working in a clinic, an 11-year-old girl was carried in who was almost unconscious. Grant performed a procedure and determined she had bacterial meningitis, a life-threatening disease. She was sent immediately to the hospital and given drugs that saved her life.

“Seeing this girl a few days later, smiling, sitting up in her bed and eating was one of the highlights of my trip,” Grant said. “For me, this trip showed me how fragile life really is and how dependent on God we need to be. I saw several people die, even infants, and it was very sad. But I also saw many victories and how much God loves us.

“Jesus and the apostles used word pictures. One I’ve always liked is jars of clay. God is the potter, and we are the clay. He can make us what He wants us to be. I saw the fragility of life and how easily we’re broken. But God can use that to remind us He’s in charge and has a plan.”

Awana kids part of the mission team
Grant and Karen, who also serves in Awana, are in their third year of leading Awana at their church.

“I serve as an elder, too, at my church and we had been seeking the right tool for our children’s ministry,” Grant described. “We took the plunge with Awana three years ago and started with about 15 kids. Our clubs have tripled. We now have about 45 kids coming each week.”

The Starretts decided to somehow involve their Awana kids in the mission trip. They asked each child to bring a stuffed animal for a sick child in Africa. With a suitcase full of medicine and stuffed animals, Grant and Karen distributed the gifts from their clubs to kids on the other side of the world.

A child in Niger holds a stuffed animal donated to him by a child from Grant's Awana club

“It was neat to help the Awana kids understand that they were a part of God’s team in Africa,” Grant said. “Hundreds of people made it possible for our team to go to Africa. and our kids played a part in making it possible.”

‘Awana contributes to our kids’ spiritual growth’
Grant participated in Awana for several years during his elementary-school years at the same church he still attends. He grew up in a Christian home and trusted Christ for salvation at age 6. Christ has been and continues to be the leader of his life.

Now as a parent of a 9-year-old daughter and sons ages 7 and 4, Grant desires to see them walk faithfully with God. All three of his children attend Awana.

“Awana is one valuable component of many that is shaping my kids’ spiritual lives,” Grant stated. “Parents are the biggest influencers on their kids’ lives, but seeing the Christian life modeled by a variety of adults is very valuable to their spiritual growth, too.”