ELKHART, Ind. (WNDU) – Playing from the heart, this professional musician, who certainly prefers the saxophone, is playing with a force beyond himself.
“I mean, this, this is a big, there’s a big hole in my life,” Dean Swihart said. “Jackie touched so many lives, and it is only the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ that fills that void. The scriptures say that we are perfect in Christ, which to me means that He fills that void. As if you were pouring water into a pitcher, he fills all the gaps, in that opening”.
Dean Swihart opens two weeks after a Car crash in Elkhart County kills four peopleincluding his wife of 27 years, Congresswoman Jackie Walorski.
“You know, considering the circumstances I’m doing pretty well, but that comes from our faith,” Swihart said.
Faith was the foundation of his wife’s life.
“It was a part of her that maybe didn’t say anything about it,” Swihart recalled, “but it was on our minds the whole time. We prayed so many times that this job with Congress wasn’t, you know, an opportunity for us to get big heads. ‘Oh, I’m married to the congresswoman’ or ‘I’m the first guy’ or ‘Well look what you’ve accomplished in your life.’ It was always about the Gospel.”
That was evident on their first date on August 1, 1994.
“And during the course of the night, I asked her, ‘Hey, you know, I did some missionary work in college, would you consider selling all your stuff and being a full-time missionary abroad?’ Try it out on a first date and see how it works,” Swihart recalled. “And she turned her head to the side and said, ‘Yeah, I could do that.’ And I thought, wow, I didn’t scare her.”
Far from scaring her, Jackie Walorski became Jackie Walorski Swihart less than a year later. By 1999, the couple had sold their house and cars and set off to help heal Romania, a nation still crippled by communism, which had fallen a decade earlier.
“There was no shortage of need,” Swihart said. “And there, in every direction you looked, there were hungry people, thirsty people, people who needed clothes.”
About halfway through their four-year mission, which was not without security risks, Jackie and Dean founded their own nonprofit organization, Impact International Ministries.
Collections from the church in South Bend and other generous donors helped support the Swiharts, Dean and Jackie, and their Christian ministry so they could spread the faith to a people reeling from the old regime, particularly the Roma, an ethnic minority.
Impact International also helped meet basic needs, such as funneling vital medical supplies to burn victims.
“A lot of [the Roma] he would burn his children with boiling oil, boiling water to disfigure them. And I mean little kids. I mean a year and a half old. Throw a pan full of boiling fat at it. Because when their child looks horrible and they’re begging on the street, everyone feels sympathy for that child, and a severely disfigured child is going to earn more money for the family to survive.”
A life-changing moment for Impact International came when Jackie and Dean needed to help Romania’s only burn unit find life-saving antibiotics because the country’s government had stopped paying for the medicine. Otherwise, the children were going to die.
Thanks to an email call, the Swiharts raised enough money overnight, went to buy the drug made by Eli Lilly at a pharmaceutical warehouse, where Dean says Jackie learned the power of impacting one person: the manager. store, which was very reluctant to sell them antibiotics.
“And he started sobbing and he said, ‘You’re killing me with your money, you’re killing my business. But I have to think that you said that I have two little boys at home, two little girls. And I have to think someone would have the backbone. If this was happening to my son, I would want someone to have the courage to go in and put up with someone like me,’” Swihart said. “And part of what Jackie said, and she said, ‘You know, I can’t do anything about your government, government problems right now. But then she spoke prophetically, she said, but maybe she can one day.”
Walorski Swihart went on to serve in the Indiana statehouse and later on Capitol Hill. As a congressman, he earned Romania’s highest civilian honor.
But the ministry she and Dean started, Impact International, had to sit idle during her time in Washington.
“How can I say this? She still ministered a lot,” Swihart described. “Wherever she was, she was in the ministry. And that’s the way we see it.”
Jackie’s ministry as a congressman came to an end on August 3. But her family didn’t forget the one she and Dean started abroad.
“Because if we don’t do it, who is going to do it?” asked David Walorski, Jackie’s older brother.
David is a board member of Swihart’s ministry, Impact International. The ministry plans to start locally and help people, whether they have lost hope, faith or their home.
“When someone’s house is blown up, and they’re standing on the street with nothing. You know, Jesus said, don’t go out there and hit people over the head with a Bible, I’m paraphrasing this, but he says go help those people,” David Walorski said. “And you know, what, they may not see things the way you see them, they don’t have to see things the way you see them, minister God’s love to them, you know, tell them you care about them, that you love them. them, that you are there to help them, all these things.”
“So you’re connecting all the dots, you’re ministering to people where they are,” added Dean Swihart. “It’s about paying attention to people and not just walking past them blindly.”
August 3, 2022 illustrated the power, and impact, of one person.
“So at the funeral, we had Jackie’s date of birth on the side,” Swihart said. “And on the other hand, we had the date that she was perfected. That was the best way I could explain it because I will see her again.”
To donate to Impact International, just click here contribute through PayPal @ImpactoIntl .
Monetary donations in the form of a check can be mailed to:
Impact International Ministries Inc.
post office box 141
Osceola, EN 46561
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