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Missionaries head back to Central America

A church fundraiser on Saturday will celebrate Cinco de Mayo and help raise money for the trip.

By JACKIE RIPLEY

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 4, 2001


LUTZ -- They'll travel in trucks up treacherous mountain roads, spend their nights in sleeping bags in the most primitive of shelters and spend their days doctoring, teaching and building. And they'll come home richer for the experience.

"I've always gained more than I've given," said Jean Cooley, co-pastor of Tim's Memorial Presbyterian Church in Lutz and one of 18 parishioners headed to Honduras this summer as part of a church-sponsored medical mission. "Spiritually, one grows tremendously to see the faith of folks who live a very different life from our North American lifestyle."

On Saturday, the church at 601 Sunset Lane will hold a fundraiser to help pay for the mission and at the same time celebrate the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo.

Dinner, which is $10 for adults and $5 for children, starts at 7 p.m. and is followed by games, door prizes and dancing to Spanish music. The fundraiser is open to the public.

The Presbytery of Tampa Bay, which is the regional oversight body for the Presbytery in Tampa, began making medical trips to Central America about six years ago. In addition to providing medical and dental care, they help build churches and schools.

During this trip, which will be July 21-28, missionaries will divide their time among three villages where a doctor, nurses and a dentist will provide medical and dental care. Members will also help in construction and Bible study.

Cooley estimates about 120 people will be treated in each of the villages. The dentist will pull teeth and the doctor and nurses will perform basic medical triage.

"When we show up in the morning, school lets out for the day and we set up a chair outside for the dentist and people will start lining up," Cooley said. The "dentist will numb people in line and start yanking out teeth."

The mission trips to Central America have resulted in 13 Presbyterian church communities, said Al Lewis, missionary program coordinator.

"It's a matter of notching down your life to see how other folks live," Lewis said. "It's about getting involved with people."

- Jackie Ripley can be reached at (813) 226-3468.

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