By AUDREY BLACKWELL
What started out as a conversion by his parents to the Christian faith in the early 1900s in the Philippines ended up a lifelong continuation of the works of that faith by their son, Dr. Pedro “Pete” Obregon, 85, of Venice.
Obregon has been giving back and doing medical missions work for over 30 years, some of it in the states at several homeless clinics, and much of it out of the country in such places as Rwanda, Mongolia, Bolivia, Dominican Republic and Panama. He has trained many doctors worldwide and plans to continue to live out that mission.
His mother had been a nurse, and Obregon received his undergraduate degree at the university part of the hospital complex — Central Philippine University in Iloilo, Philippines. He went on to medical school at Far Eastern University in Manila, Philippines, where he earned his M.D. degree in 1960.
He then came to the United States and completed his residency in Chicago, IL., at Masonic Hospital, which is related to the University of Illinois.
He said he left the Philippines because Ferdinand Marcos was dictator of the Philippines at the time.
Obregon moved to Columbus, Ohio, for the opportunity. He moved his family there — then wife Raquel and their two children — daughter Lyndell and son, Marc. He opened a practice and worked there for 30 years. Unfortunately, his wife died in 1981.
A new beginning
Obregon continued on with his practice and the medical missions work, and in 1988, he met the woman who would be his wife and partner in medical missions. He was a general surgeon at a Columbus hospital and operated in five different area hospitals there. He served as chief of surgery at St. Anthony (now OSU Hospital East) and Columbus Community hospitals and as vice chair of surgery at St. Ann’s, where he and Judy met. He was on the faculty of the Department of Surgery at Ohio State University, in Columbus.
Judy was divorced and lived as a single mother of two boys, — Bill and Bryan — and had never done missionary work. She worked as a respiratory therapist at the hospital, and she and Pete met at the nurses’ station. In 1989, Pete asked her to go with him and a nurse on a mission’s trip to Honduras, and she went.
“It was awesome,” the now 73-year-old Judy said. “It changed my life, my perception of people in a Third World country.”
One thing Judy noted was the behavior of the children. Even after having walked a great distance to get to the mission hospital, the children were quiet and well-behaved.
“I saw a lot of hard stuff there, and Pete and I decided this was it for us. It was what we wanted to do together,” she said.
They were married in 1990 and now have a blended family with 10 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. They continued with the medical missions and in 1993 began work with Medical Missions International (MMI), an organization “called to bring spiritual and compassionate health care in this world of need,” a program brochure reads.
They eventually moved to Venice, Florida, in 1993 after having visited friends here.
“They took us to look at a model home in Lakes of Jacaranda and we loved it and moved here,” Pete said.
Judy said she did not renew her respiratory therapy license in Florida but did become a registered medical assistant. She said she enjoys assisting her husband during their medical mission trips.
“I set up the operating room, and he comes in and does the important work,” she said with a smile.
As a couple and medical team, they were inducted into the Medical Missions Hall of Fame at the University of Toledo (Ohio) in 2014. In recognizing the couple, MMI said this: “They personify those who honor others by serving those in need. … following the biblical injunction ‘love thy neighbor.’”
In 1993, Dr. Obregon was appointed medical director of MMI for Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Because he was acutely aware of the larger need of helping the underserved in Third World countries, he gave up his practice to serve MMI full time. Judy was appointed the project director for Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
“We asked ourselves, should we keep the practice and make more money or do this missions work full time where we do not make any money, and we decided to do the missions work,” Pete said.
“Our hearts were into it. God called us both,” Judy said, adding, “I think that is why we get along so well together. We do the same type of work, no pay, it’s our lifestyle.”
Expanded missions outreach
They are adding others to their missions outreach.
“We take teams from our church (Christ United Methodist Church),” Judy said. “Five members are over age 80, and I wondered if it was wise for them to go, but they turned out to be some of our best teams.”
Rev. Mike Hudson, lead pastor at CUMC, said “Dr. Pete Obregon has been extremely instrumental on the church’s missions’ team. For the last two years, he has been spearheading our short-term mission trips.”
The church offers more than medical missions, they also help with light construction and evangelism.
“We work with the missionaries who are already there,” Hudson said. “If it is a medical need, our medical team does this. If they want us to do evangelism, they will tell our mission team members what they want us to do — maybe it’s blessing the person.”
There is a collection box set up for the medical mission trips that members of the congregation help to fill up with needed items that are noted in the church bulletin.
“They take suitcases and leave them there; they’re filled with clothing, shoes, medicine, whatever the plane limit allows,” Hudson said, adding, “Pete and Judy Obregon are treasures at this church.”
Larry and Carol Humes are members of CUMC and plan to go with the Obregons on the next mission trip to Dominican Republic, planned for the fall.
“Pete and Judy Obregon are two people who continually reach out in love to people in need,” said Larry Humes. “I first came to know them as Stephen Ministers, and you will not meet two more humble, unassuming individuals. They serve as inspiration to all who know them, and many have adopted lives of service to others based on their example.”
“I have always wanted to participate in a mission trip, and I am quite excited that my first trip to the Dominican Republic this fall will be alongside Pete and Judy,” said Carol Humes. “Having spent my career working as a registered nurse, I have great admiration for these two who have provided quality health care to those who might not have it otherwise.”
Rev. Denvil Farley, formerly a pastor at CUMC, met Dr. Pete and Judy Obregon in 2016 at the church. He once accompanied Dr. Obregon to Santiago, Dominican Republic. They partnered with a local doctor to ensure there would be follow-up care if needed.
“Dr. Pete wants to ensure the good we hope to do actually leads to good outcomes for the people we are serving, and having local partners helps him do that,” Farley said. “In working with patients, Dr. Pete was kind and gentle. As the day was winding down, I went inside where Dr. Pete was working. I found him surrounded by laughing and smiling children, with a clown nose on, making balloon animals for all of the children.
“Dr. Pete’s care and concern for others, his willingness to travel all over the world to provide medical care for those that would otherwise not have access, is because of his love for Jesus and his understanding that Jesus loves all of these people around the world. His motivation is to use his God-given skills and abilities to serve others and to share God’s love with them.”
To learn more about Medical Missions International, visit mmi.org.