Our Story

God said I wasn’t praying big enough. So we started praying bigger and God brought a truck to us to reach remote areas.

I felt the Holy Spirit say, “This is not the end. There is more to come.” We now have 5 vehicles to take medical care, humanitarian aid, and the gospel to wherever God sends us.

–Mark DeFrates

Meet Mark DeFrates

Co-Founder & President
Hands of Care International

Pictured with daughter Lyla, and wife & HOCI co-founder Irene

Mark DeFrates is originally from Illinois and grew up in Wyoming. He loved the outdoors and adventure, working on ranches, and crisscrossing the United States performing in Drum &  Bugle Corps. As an adult he accepted Christ at 23 years old, and went on to operate a successful HVAC business. However in his late 30’s, God started placing road markers that would eventually steer him into a life of serving the Lord in ministry.

It started with a missionary visiting his church and giving a moving presentation of his time in Indonesia. Christians were being horribly persecuted there for sharing the gospel, and this missionary was doing more than putting food on their plates. Mark felt he could get on board with this. At the end of the service as he headed over to speak with the missionary, two people (one of which he didn’t know) stopped and told Mark he was going to be in Africa on a mission trip. It was strange and Mark ignored it for years.

Little did Mark know that God was using the next 7 years to prepare his heart, even to the point of getting rid of a lot of clutter in his home and not knowing why!

Mark started joining on mission trips for the next 10 years and witnessed God’s faithfulness in providing for his finances and safety. It was on a rooftop in Africa when he had his “Ah-ha, I get it! This is what I was born for and created to do!” moment. At that point Mark suspected he’d put his focus on India, but God proved otherwise after extending what was supposed to be a brief stint in Kenya.

In 2013 Mark married the love of his life, Irene– a beautiful Kenyan woman whose family worked with Mark in missions. They continued serving the Lord helping orphans and schools, addressing healthcare, and other humanitarian efforts while also sharing the gospel.

Mark and Irene started Hands of Care International as a 501(c)3 nonprofit in March 2020. Today they operate with their team along with their daughter Lyla. Their hearts are serving the people of Africa that live in remote areas and have major needs for medical care and medical outreach.

God called Mark to transition from “boots-on-the-ground” to “overseer” of HOCI which he does from their home in North Carolina with regular visits to Africa. In hindsight it is clear to Mark how he ended up where he is on this journey. Life on a ranch instilled a toughness in him to handle the harsh remote environments and bring people to Christ. Mark was wired for this and is faithfully living out his calling!

Our story from our hearts to yours