Derrick Darlow’s short, stocky frame and broad, beard-framed smile were a much-loved and familiar sight in areas of desperate need in Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth) — until his passing in September.
Together with his equally-dedicated wife Diane he pioneered mercy missions in the city, beginning in his Walmer home in the 1980s — until the neighbours complained– and growing into Jerusalem Ministries and the Human Dignity Centre which served, housed, restored and uplifted desperately needy people from the streets and Walmer Township.
Speaking at his memorial service last week, Iris Veto, a ministry partner in Walmer Township, summed up Derek well, describing him as “a husband to widows, a father to orphans, and a friend to the lost”. On reflection I would add “a lover of Jesus”.
Other Derrick traits that were recalled at the service included his love for his own children and grandchildren, his humility, his tenacity, his practical ingenuity and his no-nonsense tough love approach — no doubt honed during years of living with and caring for streetwise addicts. Some of Derrick’s “problem children” returned to the streets but many were restored and some were baptised in the pool at the mission house, White Lodge.
A remarkable story that was shared at the service was how he made a commitment to Jesus at a Gospel crusade at the age of 10, then went home and told his parents who attended the service that night and also made commitments.
Failing health in recent years forced him to retire from full-time ministry but he never stopped caring for and reaching out to people and to the end he dreamed of a new project — running a rehab centre on a farm in the Humansdorp area.
On a personal note, I was privileged to know Derrick as a dear friend. We did not connect often but what comes to mind when I think of the times we did is his hearty chuckle after sharing about some of the things that were happening in his life — things that would leave less stout-hearted and faith-filled people in tears.