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Ebola puts local church's mission trip on hold

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Woody Roland

The growing Ebola outbreak in West Africa has put the plans of one local group on hold.

For more than 10 years, Autumn Ridge Church in Rochester has helped the Compassion Evangelical Hospital in Guinea, Africa. At least once a year, Autumn Ridge sends a team of volunteers to the hospital to provide supplies and expertise.

But this year, the church is postponing the trip and carefully monitoring the Ebola outbreak, which began in Guinea.

"I feel horrible that we can't go out there and continue to do our mission, God's work, because of this virus," said Eugene Frank, a retired Mayo Clinic radiographer.

Ebola has been around since at least 1976. The current outbreak was first registered in February in Guinea. So far, the virus has killed more than 900 people and is being reported as the worst outbreak yet.


Originally, Frank; Woody Roland, the pastor of missions at the church; Ivahn Dockter, a retired IBM employee; and Jean-Claude Richerd, an X-ray equipment expert from San Diego, were planning to travel to Guinea in October.

Frank said they hope to repair a broken X-ray machine and install an antenna to allow cellphone signals to reach inside the hospital.

"There is no other X-ray machine in the area," Roland said.

There is also a lack of people with skills to fix it.

In fact, Frank said a lot of why the church continues to travel back every year is to provide skills not found elsewhere in the nation.

"There is nobody in that country that can do what we do," he said.

Last December, the church sent a team of Mayo Clinic doctors and nurses to teach, perform surgery and hand out eyeglasses.

But Roland said they also hope to have a lasting impact, beyond the time they spend in the country.


"You want to be able to create an environment where they can do it themselves," Roland said.

But, for the time being, the team is remaining in the United States.

"We feel that we can't achieve our goals if, for lack of a better term, we are dead," Frank said.

The Compassion Evangelical Hospital has not yet reported any Ebola cases.

Both Frank and Roland, said that they were not extremely concerned about contracting the disease. Unlike the two American missionaries that are being treated for Ebola, the Autumn Ridge team is not planning on having direct contact with patients.

In fact, Frank said he is more concerned about snake bites, mosquitos and other contagious diseases in the region.

Roland agreed that Ebola is a dangerous and serious disease, but there are other problems in the region that are killing as many people — and that need as much attention.

"We shouldn't run scared because there are so many other needs," he said.


Roland said the team is waiting for the number of Ebola cases to peak and begin to drop off. They hope to travel in late November or December.

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