Kansas family dedicates Peru memorial to daughter
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Nearly three months after returning from a mission trip in Nepal, Lexi Darrah died on Jan. 4, 2018. She was 21.
Her family is honoring her memory by carrying on Lexi’s gift of helping others.
Lexi was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when she was 2 years old, meaning she was insulin-dependent and had to deal with the blood checks and shots every time she ate, her mother Kris Darrah said. That dependence became a huge burden as she got to her teenage years.
She attended Maize High School, the Classical School of Wichita and graduated from the Highlands Ranch Academy program at Teen Challenge in Kansas City.
The years following her graduation were a roller coaster, her mother said.
“She just did everything all the way, nothing halfway,” Darrah said. “That often brought her to some dark places that she didn’t want to be. She battled taking care of her diabetes....
“She didn’t want to be different,” Darrah said. “She just felt burdened by that so much. She was in the hospital several times, but she always pulled through until this last January.”
Darrah said following one trip to the hospital, Lexi went home after things were seemingly under control. A few hours later she died, the Wichita Eagle reported .
The Darrah family will always remember Lexi’s loving side.
“She was the life of the party,” Darrah said. “She was the oldest of my four kids, so she was often the ringleader, coming up with some creative game or activity. She was adventurous. She loved to laugh and was definitely a free spirit.”
A cover photo on Lexi’s Facebook page reads, “The trick is to care about everyone, while not caring what they think.”
But that isn’t always easy. In high school, Lexi began experimenting with drugs and rebelling from taking care of herself, Darrah said.
Darrah said in March 2017, Lexi was living with some friends in poor situation, not working and struggling with what she wanted to do.
“She got a Bible and one night she found some verses and ... she just didn’t want to do that anymore,” Darrah said. “She told us about it the next day and she was like, ‘Mom, dad, I’m going to get out of this place on my own, I’m tired of this lifestyle.’ So we told her of course we would help. We went and got her stuff and brought her home that day.”
Lexi found an organization called Youth With A Mission, an international mission organization.
Darrah said Lexi wanted to lead with that lifestyle. She wanted to share her story and help others avoid the mistakes she had made.
“She was on fire. She was very passionate,” Darrah said. “Everybody was so attracted to her and loved being around her, no matter what. She had a way with people.”
After Lexi completed three months of training in Kansas City with YWAM, she spent three months in Nepal on a mission trip.
“She always had a heart for the underdog,” Darrah said. “She could relate to the people that were struggling there and maybe weren’t so open to what was being done there, but they listened to her. She had been in those tough places, so she could relate to them.”
Cassidy Darrah, Lexi’s 20-year-old sister, said she and Lexi traveled to Peru on mission trips twice.
“I have some really good memories with her for both of those times,” Cassidy said. “She worked so well with the kids. They all just started swarming her. She had such a big heart for them and was so good to them.”
The Darrah family, along with Jason Reiswig of Missions in the Amazon, launched The Lexi Darrah Memorial Fund in March.
Six months later, the fund has raised $5,442 of its $8,000 goal.
The money will be used to build a bakery and a community center in Concordia, Peru.
A PDF by Missions in the Amazon tells the story of Mario Curitima, the leader of the church in Concordia, which was established more than 10 years ago.
By 2015, the church had over 50 families and held regular services with 300 villagers. Concordia’s main industry was fishing, but an oil spill killed a lot of the fish and the government wasn’t cleaning it up, Darrah said.
The Missions in the Amazon document states that because of these spills, the village is not expecting a good fishing harvest for the next year and a half, which will force villagers to find work in other villages.
“Through the use of a bakery, a self-sustaining business model, opportunities will be created that will allow for a majority of the families to become financially stable, thus ending the migration out of Concordia and establishing it once again as a pivotal village along the Marañon river,” the Missions in the Amazon document says.
The community center will be connected to Curitima’s house and serve to train young adults in skills that will allow them to work from inside the village, such as sewing, business management, fishing and forestry.
“Each village has a strong point,” Cassidy Darrah said. “There are some villages that already have bakeries, where it’s just an oven basically. No cupcakes or anything, just bread.”
Construction for the memorial began in April.
Reiswig updated the Lexi Darrah’s Missions in the Amazon Memorial Fund Facebook page on May 9 with pictures of the bakery and community center during construction.
Silver writing above a bread-kneading machine reads, “Dios es amor.” God is love.
The addition of the bakery would give the church a consistent source of revenue and ensure that the village has a food source throughout the region, regardless of floods during harvest.
Cassidy Darrah visited Concordia with her siblings Macey and David to see the bakery and help with its dedication.
The next step is to build the serving area, or community center for the village.
The Darrah family bears another connection with the Peruvian village: the pastor of the church had a 20-year-old daughter who died in November.
“We’re both going through this loss,” Kris Darrah said.
To celebrate what would have been Lexi’s 22nd birthday on Aug. 7, the Darrahs decided to put together a last-minute charity event, benefiting three charities that influenced or were influenced by Lexi.
Kris Darrah said the family was overwhelmed by the support as almost 200 people turned up at the event.
“When she passed, I was devastated because she had so much potential for helping people,” Kris said. “I was just sure that she was going to have this lifetime of being able to help others.”
The funds raised at the event will go to the Missions in the Amazon, Great Plains Diabetes and Parents Helping Parents, a support group for parents whose children are struggling with substance abuse.
“You just don’t imagine that you will ever go through that with your kids and it catches you so off guard,” Kris said. “You think that there’s nowhere to go, you know, where do you go? This organization is just other caring parents who can relate to what you’re going through and be adequate sources available to parents. Mainly, it’s just a listening ear.”
There’s no easy solution to addiction, she said. Whereas a lot of people think it’s about self-control, it’s a disease where the mind turns against itself, she said. As much as they want to stop, their brains won’t let them.
“It’s a very difficult path to walk and we want to be there for other parents who might be going through it,” Darrah said. “There’s so much shame around addiction, but it is part of her story. We want to help others know that their voice is heard.”
Parents Helping Parents will start Sept. 10 at Reflection Ridge Clubhouse, and continue the second and fourth Mondays of every month.
Cassidy Darrah said Lexi is still impacting lives.
“Her legacy is just to be yourself,” Cassidy said. “She was just not afraid to be herself, to not care what others think. She would speak her truth and stand up for her beliefs.”
Even through her death, people are being helped and lives are being changed, Kris said.
“We miss her and we love her, but hopefully we can keep her memory alive through helping others.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com