Derlys Gaster is from Valledupar, a city of 490,000 in Colombia. She attended the Universidad Popular del Cesar, a school with an enrollment of 19,000.
Now Derlys is living in McCook, Nebraska, population 7,560 — including her husband Jeremy, educational pastor at First Assembly of God.
The two met in 2010 during one of Jeremy’s repeated trips to South America under Missions Abroad Placement Service. Jeremy assisted AG world missionaries Everett Ward and Jim Mazurek, going to various sites on behalf of Latin American/Caribbean Library Services.
Meanwhile, Derlys worked for OneHope. The couple wed in 2013, settling in Jeremy’s native Nebraska. They had to cope with more than mere urban-rural differences.
“How can people who speak different languages, are from different cultures, and from different races be married?” asks Jeremy, 41. “There are so many differences, but when you have the same goal, you walk together.”
The unity, of course, is forged by their common Christian faith.
“Our goal is to please and glorify God in our marriage,” says Derlys, 37. “It is difficult for me to see differences.”
Still, Derlys faced plenty of other unfamiliar situations. She had little experience driving, had never seen snow before, and didn’t know how to speak English. McCook, where 96 percent of the residents are white, has few Spanish speakers. Today Derlys is quite conversant in her adopted language.
The couple, who are both bivocational, have settled in leading children’s programs at McCook First Assembly, where Jeremy says he experienced a call to ministry at age 14. The Gasters — who have a 4-year-old daughter Nicolette and 2-year-old son Jeremiah — especially focus on reaching unchurched kids.
Over time, Jeremy, who also works at a bank, saw many pastors come and go, sometimes under less than hospitable circumstances. In fact, current pastor Barry J. Johnson credits the couple with holding the church together through rough times before he arrived four years ago.
“They are steadfast and have been willing to endure when many other people would have left,” says Johnson, 59.”They have a good reputation in town.”
Part of that is due to the role of Derlys — who graduated at age 20 with a degree in surgical technology at the university in Colombia — as a part-time vocational chaplain at a dental clinic in McCook. Derlys provides spiritual care to the 10 women employees of Southwest Nebraska Dental Center.
“When they need to talk to somebody I talk to them,” Derlys says, who attended an AG Bible college in the Dominican Republic for three years after working for OneHope. “When they go through a crisis, I pray with them.”
Rich Shockey, executive director of Marketplace Chaplains for a five-state region including Nebraska, says he knew immediately upon interviewing Derlys that she would be a good fit for the dental office workplace. Shockey, who oversees 70 chaplains, says Derlys has fit in well in a homogeneous environment and has a wonderful mastery of the English language.
“Her worksite has received her with open arms,” says the 44-year-old Shockey, who is based in Kansas City, Kansas. “Derlys has a warmth, a calm, and a peace that is so hospitable and makes everybody feel at home in her presence. The feedback I received is that she is an indispensable part of their work family.”
Johnson says Derlys has made an impact in town on a wider scale.
“She has a heart for people,” Johnson says. “She ministers quite well to the few Spanish speakers in the community who are lonely and don’t speak English.”