Hundreds of people packed into the Yakima Seventh-day Adventist Church on Saturday afternoon to remember and honor Dr. Jay Randall Sloop.
Although in many ways the service felt like a funeral for a much-loved community leader, it was not a typical memorial. Sloop, a retired obstetrician, disappeared last May while on a medical mission trip in Kiev, Ukraine.
On the morning of May 14, Sloop — then 77 — headed out on a routine morning walk in a large park at the center of the city, known as Zomkova Gora. A security camera captured him strolling into the park, but there is no footage of him leaving through either park gate.
Volunteers and police searched the enclosed park several times, posted fliers around the city and checked with every hospital. The Ukrainian police classified the case as a homicide so they could devote more resources to the investigation, but no leads ever turned up.
Not knowing what happened that day has been hard for his family and friends. Sloop and his wife of more than 50 years, Sharlene, have three sons, six grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.
Despite the unknowns, they decided it felt right to acknowledge his absence from their lives and celebrate his life with Saturday’s service. The family called it a “A Celebration of a Life of Faith.”
“It’s difficult not having answers, for everyone,” son Richard Sloop, a Yakima neurologist, said at the service. “We know God sees what we cannot see. We don’t understand, but we can trust God completely to do what is right.”
The family members and colleagues who spoke reflected on Jay Sloop’s passionate faith, generosity and belief in the healing power of a healthy lifestyle. His faith played a strong role in his medical practice.
“He prayed with his patients before operations, he talked with countless patients about God,” his son, Randal Sloop, said.
The passion for health ministry led Sloop into medical mission work after he retired from private practice in Yakima in 2005, after delivering babies here for 36 years. He made trips to Russia, Romania, India, Greece and Ukraine.
Two church leaders from Kiev traveled to Yakima for the service. Victor Aleseenko, the president of the Ukraine Union of Seventh-day Adventists, told the congregation that Sloop had been so influential in their efforts to build a new medical center that part of the building will be named in his honor.
They presented Sharlene Sloop with a painting of the medical center.
“Jay loved Jesus and he was convinced that God can heal through a healthy lifestyle,” Aleseenko said. “Our medical center in Kiev will continue his ministry.”
Granddaughter Jenny Sloop said that despite all his work with his patients and his church, she was “pretty sure his favorite role was grandpa.”
He would take all the grandchildren on summer camping trips, teaching them to hike and water ski, she said, and was famous for giving advice whether you had asked for it or not.
Throughout the service, the focus remained on the positive legacy of Sloop’s life. Randal Sloop said they didn’t want to dwell on their loss, because they know that pain and suffering can be part of God’s plan.
“What’s unique about the life of my father is that he accepted that. He accepted it joyfully,” he said.