Extended Family: One Fuller Alumnus Helps Another
Earlier this year Mark Duris (PhD '03), a clinical psychologist who lives near Tacoma, WA, was grateful to hear that he had been approved for the special surgery he needed for a debilitating condition. Yet there was a catch. The only place the surgery could be performed was Houston, TX, where Mark didn't know a soul. He could stay at a hotel, but his doctors required that a friend or family member pick him up after surgery and be available in case of need.
Initially Mark planned to have his son fly down with him. Then he began to think outside the box. Might there be a Fuller alum in the Houston area who could help him? "Because of the interest and care shown to me while I was a student--and the feeling that I was part of a larger family--I wondered if one of its members could come to my assistance in a time of need," Mark says.
That's just what happened. Bert Jacklitch, associate director of Fuller's alumni/ae office, sent an email to Houston area alums about Mark's situation--and Jack Burke (MDiv '57), with his wife, D'Ann, promptly responded. The Burkes, who have devoted their lives to ministering to international students, are no strangers to providing hospitality. "We like to help people when there's a need," Jack says.
For Mark Duris, the Burkes demonstrated that help in several tangible ways. Before Mark's trip, the Burkes reassured him by phone and email that they were ready to help in any way they could. They prayed for him. After Mark's surgery, they took him to lunch and then to his hotel and made sure he had all he needed. Several days later, Jack picked Mark up at his hotel and brought him to the Burke home, where D'Ann had prepared a delightful brunch for him. Jack then drove Mark to his post-surgery follow-up appointment, waited at the hospital for him, and drove him the 40 miles to the airport for his trip back to Seattle.
"They were two angels who graciously did way more for me than I was asking," Mark says. Having the Burkes' support took a lot of the anxiety away from a stressful situation, he notes. "If my son had come, it would have been a financial strain plus a missed week of work for him," Mark says. "I also considered just doing it all on my own, and trying to drive myself, but that wouldn't have been easy."
It was a comfort, he says, to know he was not alone in Houston, and the Burkes recognized the importance of that emotional support as well. "We didn't want to think of someone coming all alone to have surgery in a strange city," D'Ann says. "It was easy for us to be there for him."
A friendship has been forged between Mark and the Burkes from their time in Houston together. They have stayed in touch and hope to connect again sometime in person, either in Texas or Washington. And Mark is eager to pass on the blessing he received. "The Burkes' extending themselves to me in the way they did helped sensitize me to the fact that I am part of a larger family--one that I feel proud and thankful to be a member of," he says. "It also reminded me of the importance of being available to other Fuller family members by sharing my time, care, and concern for them when a need makes itself known."