For Dr. Jack Kline, busy days are ahead.
On the home front, Kline and his wife, Ashley, are expecting their first son in July. On the work front, construction is expected to soon begin on a brand-new hospital in central Guatemala that will be staffed by Kline and his physician partners.
The Scott County native is one of several founding partners of DOCS for Hope, a non-profit health care organization that is believed to be the first of its kind in North America.
One part health care and one part mission work, DOCS for Hope’s full name is Doctors of Committed Service for Hope Worldwide. The organization was born of a group of first-year family medicine residents who discovered that they shared a common goal of serving as missionary doctors in developing nations.
Based in New Hampton, Iowa, DOCS for Hope both offers that service abroad while also practicing family medicine stateside.
“Some of us went together and discovered we had some of the same passions,” Kline said last week while visiting family in Oneida. “The more we went about the process (of becoming trained in various areas of medicine), the more we thought we ought to look at doing this together.”
And so they did. Currently there are five couples who are a part of DOCS for Hope, including the Klines. All of the guys are doctors, while three of their wives are, as well. Ashley Kline is a dental assistant while another of the wives is a physical therapist. The group’s rotation includes nine months in rural, northwest Iowa and three months overseas stocking a mission hospital, with one couple always abroad.
For Kline, a 1995 graduate of Scott High School, medicine was something that came natural. The son of Jerry Kline, who recently retired after a lifetime in the medical field, and the late Dr. George Kline, Jack Kline knew from a young age that he wanted to practice medicine. And even before he completed his undergraduate studies, he knew that he wanted to work in the mission field.
After completing his bachelor’s at East Tennessee State University and also attending seminary school, Kline found himself partnered with doctors in residency who shared the same passion he shared.
Once their non-profit organization was up and running, DOCS for Hope set about the task of finding a place to base their operations stateside, with the requirement that it be a rural area in need of the assistance that the group could provide.
That place was almost Scott County. In fact, the group narrowed their focus to Oneida and New Hampton after a widespread search. Kline called it a “hard decision.” But, as it turned out, negotiations with St. Mary’s Hospital fell through — the “rug was pulled out from under us,” Kline said — and the decision was made for the group.
It was a decision that turned out to be for the best. Kline met his wife, a native of New Hampton who was working at a dental clinic in the city of 3,500, after the move to Iowa. And the town, he says, is very supportive of the group.
“When we got our non-profit status about a year ago, New Hampton hosted an event for us and brought $36,000 just that night,” Kline said. “They’ve done that every year for three years. There’s a lot of support there for us. The community has embraced us very, very well.”
Kline describes New Hampton as being very similar to Oneida — with corn fields instead of mountains. The two towns are similar in size, and New Hampton, like Oneida, is located about an hour from the nearest major city.
In its three-and-a-half-year existence, DOCS for Hope has worked in several nations, including extensive work in Zimbabwe. For the past year, the group has been in Guatemala, practicing “suitcase medicine,” as Kline calls it.
During that time, DOCS for Hope’s goal has been to build a hospital in the impoverished nation. Recently, that goal moved much closer to reality when the group partnered with Adonai International Ministries in Guatemala and Physicians Helping Physicians Abroad.
The first step is to raise funds needed to make the project happen — about $500,000, Kline said. A fundraiser has been scheduled for April 26 in New Hampton, and the group has already raised around $100,000, which has allowed the physicans to make a downpayment on the tract of land in central Guatemala where the hospital will be built. Most of the governmental regulations have been cleared as well.
“We just felt an instant connection with Guatemala,” Kline said of the decisions he and his partners made to establish their own mission location there. “We considered Haiti, but it just didn’t feel right. Guatemala felt right. We made an instant connection and we knew it was the right spot. We felt it was an open door where the Lord would have us to be.”
Kline, who makes it back to Scott County “about four or five times a year” to visit family, still has many connections locally. His brother, Mark Kline, is president of First National Bank, and his sister, Elizabeth Burress, owns Highland Veterinary Hospital in Oneida, where she practices veterinary medicine.
Anyone wishing to support DOCS for Hope’s effort can do so through their website, docsforhope.org.
A Conversation With Dr. Jack Kline
Independent Herald: Growing up, when did you decide that you wanted to be a doctor and follow in your parents’ footsteps?
Jack Kline: When I was in the first grade at Huntsville, about seven or eight, we had this log cabin that we played on. It would probably be illegal today. A kid fell off one day and they called Dad (Dr. George Kline) to come and take care of him. I remember him being in a lot of pain. From that point on, I just wanted to follow in Dad’s footsteps and care for people like he did.
IH: When did you realize that you wanted to go into mission ministries?
JK: In the 1990s, our church (White Rock Baptist in Huntsville) went on a mission trip every year — Romania, Congo, Phillipines, places like that. The year I had a chance to go was Romania in 1998. There were six of us — Pastor Jim West, Tim Smith, Tim’s brother Aaron, Ashley Ellis, Jason Jeffers and myself. After that trip, I knew the rest of my life I needed to be involved in mission work. To see the Gospel on the front lines and to also see a level of poverty I had never seen before impacted me in a way I had never been impacted and I’ve never been the same since.
IH: Can it be difficult sometimes to go to work with the same group of doctors day-in and day-out?
JK: Sometimes, but not usually. We’re very close friends. The reason we’re in Iowa is because we’re good friends and we want to do DOCS for Hope. Otherwise we would all be back in our hometowns practicing medicine. Getting to go to work every day with best friends is a real blessing.
IH: Would you ever consider coming back to Scott County?
JK: I’d like to come back someday. I’ve worked on the other members of the group some. From a need perspective, I feel like Oneida fits what we do. I’ve worked on selling them on Scott County. But, ultimately, it has to be a group decision and whatever we decide, I’m happy with. The New Hampton community has embraced us very well and we get lots of support there.