Volunteer Physician Missing from Adventist Mission Trip in Ukraine
by AT News Team
Updates added at the end on May 16, 18, 26 and 31
A massive search is being organized for Thursday morning (May 16) to find Dr. Jay Sloop, a physician from Yakima, Washington, who was in Kiev, Ukraine, with a team of volunteers helping the Seventh-day Adventist Church set up a lifestyle medicine center there. The 77-year-old takes a walk every morning, usually with friends, but left the place he was staying by himself at 6:45 on Tuesday morning despite the fact that a roommate could not accompany him. He told the roommate that he would be back for breakfast in 45 minutes, according to The Spokesman-Review, a Spokane daily newspaper, but did not return.
Local police were called the same day, according to the Web edition of the North Pacific Union Conference Gleaner. By the next morning the United States Embassy, the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had been notified. Wednesday afternoon "the family believes they may have narrowed the search down to one park," the Gleaner announced. This park will be the focus of the search on Thursday.
"He was recorded on security video leaving," the Yakima Herald Republic quoted Jay Wintermeyer, communication director for the Upper Columbia Conference where Dr. Sloop has served as health ministries director since he retired from private practice in 2005. "His passion is for teaching lifestyle change to communities," stated The Statesman-Review.
The news media in eastern Washington have reported that Dr. Sloop has been staying in a hotel with other volunteers, but the Adventist Review news editor, Mark Kellner, stated that he was staying at the Ukrainian Union Conference office and had agreed to meet the others at the home of the local health ministries director. The Gleaner online edition states that the family has set up a blog to share information at sloop.net/wordpress, but Adventist Today has been unable to find that site on the Web.
"He's a pillar of our church," KEPR-TV, the CBS affiliate in Pasco, Washington, quoted Nita Hinman, a friend and Adventist church member. "He's a pillar of our community and I just can't say enough good things about him." Pastor Harry Sharley told the television station that Dr. Sloop's family was flying to Ukraine immediately. "It comes as a real shock," the pastor was quoted. "We are praying and hoping Jay Sloop is found well and able to return here to the Yakima Valley."
Dr. Sloop is a 1960 graduate of the School of Medicine at Loma Linda University. He completed residencies in internal medicine and obstetrics-gynecology at White Memorial Medical Center in Los Angeles. He is a graduate of Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. From 1969 to 2005 he had a private practice in Yakima and provided inpatient care and taught classes at Total Health Lifestyle Center. He has been in the Ukraine for the past three weeks, reported NBC television."
Adventist Today will update this story as it is able to talk to a family spokesman and information comes in from the search.
Additional on May 16
A search of Zamkova Gora park started at 8 a.m. local time on Thursday (May 16), according to Sloop family members in Kiev. There are a number of very steep areas in this park and the goal is to conduct a thorough grid search. On Wednesday evening the family appealed for anyone with rock climbing gear and experience to assist in certain areas. Jeff Sloop, a grandson of Dr. Sloop's, flew to Kiev from his student missionary assignment at Nile Union Academy in Egypt to assist with the search, Adventist Today was told by Russell Gilbert, a long-time friend of Dr. Sloop's in Yakima.
Gilbert called Sloop "a prince of a man," and said that he enjoys nature and has climbed Mount Rainier. Gilbert stated the he had climbed Mount Adams with Sloop. Dr. Sloop hasn't climbed mountains for a few years, Gilbert said, but he is still quite active. "He is in good shape for a 77-year-old. He walks often; leaving for a walk is not uncommon for him."
Adventist Today has confirmed that the blog which the family is using to provide regular information can be accessed here: https://www.sloop.net/wordpress/
At the end of the day in Kiev on Thursday (May 16) a family spokesman reported on the blog that only three people had been able to join the search that day. It was a rainy day there. No report of anything found.
Additional on May 18
Friday night (May 17) Dr. Jay Sloop's son Greg reported on the family blog that a large group of volunteers were able to complete a grid search of the park on Friday. No sign of Dr. Sloop was found.
Greg also reported that Dr. Sloop had made an ATM transaction shortly after he left for a walk in Kiev Tuesday morning, but it was for a modest amount and there was no sign of distress in the pictures or anyone in the background. “No bank transactions have been attempted … since,” Greg wrote. In addition, Greg said there have been no reports of a kidnapping.
“We are doing everything we can to provide all possible help and assistance in the search for Dr. Sloop,” the Yakima Herald qouted Pastor Victor Alekseenko, president of the Ukraine Union Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Greg wrote in the family blog that despite language differences, Adventists in Kiev have been working hard to help find the doctor.
Additional on May 26
Friday (May 24) Sloop's grandson Randy went to the police station and met with the lieutenant in charge. He was told that the police have decided this is a kidnapping or murder. It is no longer a local police case but has been upgraded to the national police.
The family members in Kiev, together with staff from the union conference and other volunteers have been following up reported sightings, but these have, repeatedly, turned up nothing credible. They continue to gather video feeds and review them.
Sloop's son Greg most recently wrote on the family blog, "This is really, totally and completely in God’s hands. Realizing we are powerless and that God is the one in control is hard – but it’s clear we’re not going to solve this ourselves. So, we keep asking for his intervention, and to help us realize his direction and the will to follow where he leads."
Addendum May 31
The family members who flew to Kiev have returned home empty-handed. The disappearnce of Dr. Sloop is still an open case for the police in Ukraine. A family representative stated that every lead has been followed-up, several different kinds of dogs have been used in the search, and repeated searches of the area where they thought Sloop might be have been completed by well-qualified, large groups. Nothing has been found. They do not have absolute proof that Sloop is dead, but everything has been done that can be done. No clue has surfaced to explain his disappearance.