Super Senior from Nevada County finds passion helping people in Philippines
Special to The Union
You can’t eat a Bible.
That’s a favorite saying of Terry Hertz, a Nevada County man who has made more than 50 mission trips over the past 35 years to the help millions of desperate people living in the Philippines.
He calls his charity work “Primary Healthcare Evangelism” because it’s a means to an end.
“I feel we’re purchasing lives,” Hertz said. “We save the life of a child in the hospital and the parents are so overwhelmed that they try to give us pigs and chickens. We’ve opened their hearts and earned the right to tell them the truth of the gospel.”
There actually is no “we” even though he’s incorporated his nonprofit, “Daring, Caring and Sharing Ministries, Inc.” Hertz used to take teams of six to eight people with him to the Philippines, but he decided to fly solo about 10 years ago.
That’s also when this 69-year-old Super Senior decided to focus his missionary work at Philippines General Hospital, its two children’s wards and pediatric oncology ward.
“Bed space is free, but medicines aren’t,” he said. “We coordinate with doctors to figure out which patients have the best prognosis and worst desperation. We go to the pharmacy, fill their prescriptions, and deliver them. There are gazillions of people in terrible shape. The ones we help are the lottery winners.”
It’s common to see destitute Filipinos rummaging for food at garbage dumps. Rats and cats roam everywhere in the slums of Manila. The polluted air is thick with diesel fumes and smoke. Hospitals are under-staffed and under-funded. Hertz has watched hospital workers try futilely to sterilize gauze and syringes for repeated re-use.
“It’s so disturbing and the children will make you weep, with tumors this big,” said Hertz, indicating the size of a baseball. “A lot aren’t going to make it, period.”
Hertz has paid for all manner of surgeries and treatments, from tumor removals and chemotherapy to cleft palate operations. He’s delivered kegs full of vitamins. Hertz estimates he’s paid for $90,000 worth of medications, vitamins and treatments, donated more than $42,000 worth of medical equipment and spent $165,000 on travel and expenses.
His missionary work is entirely self-supported by his personal savings.
“I abhor asking people for money,” he said. “I could never be a fundraiser.”
Until two years ago when he retired, Hertz funded his outreach with profits from his western-themed furniture-making business, Alpha Omega Western Furnishings. Part of the company was based in the Philippines, where Hertz opened a shop in 1984. Eight to 12 carpenters would “rough out” his designs, and every couple of years he’d ship the furniture and décor to America.
“I’d put an American-quality finish on it,” he said. “It was quite lucrative. It’s like being a Lexus dealer. You don’t have to sell a lot. Our cheapest piece sold for $1,000. A three-tier chandelier cost $15,000.”
Hertz took his first trip to the Philippines in 1983 with a group called Youth with a Mission. Hertz said he fell in love with the warm, generous people.
In 1986, he married a Filipino woman and they had a daughter. Hertz raised the girl by himself from age 7 on after his wife passed away. Because his daughter now struggles with substance abuse, he’s raising his 10 year-old granddaughter, Johanna. Johanna accompanied Hertz on his April visit to the Philippines.
“I thought she was old enough to go, and it was a great experience for her,” he said. “It was like she was Little Miss Philippines.”
Johanna met the family she didn’t know she had, including 47 relatives living in the jungle of one of the more than 7,000 islands of the Philippines.
It was an arduous trip for Hertz and Johanna from Manilla to the remote mountain where their relatives live: a five-hour bus trip to the port, five-hour journey by ferry, 90-minute jeep ride, 45-minute trip in motorcycle sidecars and a 30-minute hike up the mountain.
“She loved every aspect of it,” said Hertz. “She didn’t care about the dirt or despair, heat or humidity. Johanna said, ‘This feels like my neighborhood.’ We’ll go back as soon as we can, probably after the rainy season ends in October.”
So that he can spend the majority of his money trying to alleviate the misery he sees in the Philippines, Hertz lives a modest life. His car and truck are both more than 20 years old. He lives in a small cabin near Nevada City.
“I’ve lived there 45 years, and I know where all the termites are,” he laughed. “Why buy a bigger house and get someone else’s problems? I live frugally but comfortably.”
Hertz grew up in Garden Grove and graduated from the University of Redlands in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Neuropsychology. While in college, he took many vacations to Oregon, often with a detour through Nevada City. He moved here in 1975.
“Nevada City was the cool place to go,” he recalled. “It was a fairytale town in the mid-70s.”
Hertz says he enjoys going to the river and the movies, but he doesn’t spend a lot of money on personal pursuits because of the poverty and anguish he’s witnessed.
“It spoils you for regular life,” said Hertz. “You can’t feel comfortable in our system of catering to yourself and gathering things for yourself. The longer you’re overseas, the harder it is to come home. It’s reverse culture shock. It’s hard to explain the vast richness of our country.”
While Hertz knows he can’t solve the world’s problems or cure the many societal ills he encounters in the Philippines, he knows he can make a difference.
“Giving to other people is amazing. Helping people is satisfying. It’s the Great Commission from Jesus.”
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a Super Senior feature, contact Lorraine at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.
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