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Zambia missionaries raise funds to return to country

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
Nov. 21, 2011 at 5:21 a.m.

Vickie Rabino, right, holds up a basket and the corresponding winning number while Dan Reeves announces the number at an auction to raise money for missionaries traveling to Zambia  on Sunday at Central Church of Christ.

When Darren Tom returned from a two-week mission trip to Zambia last summer, he was determined to revisit Africa. The needs of the Tonga people were great; the poverty and illness he experienced there, unimaginable by American standards.

It was the second mission he and other members of Central Church of Christ took with the Abilene-based organization Zambia Mission - which provides volunteer medical, dental and vision care for more than 16,000 villagers each year.

Only a few months after returning home, Tom is already in fundraising mode, attempting to raise $25,000 to pay for five missionaries to serve God and thousands of Zambian villagers next summer.

On Sunday, about 100 friends and family of the mission team gathered at Central Church of Christ for a live auction fundraiser to help Tom, Jeff Neaves, Carlos Rabino, Vickie Rabino and Desiree Rabino get somewhat closer to their fundraising goal.

"We've raised about $1,000 so far. We're not too far in. But there's about 80 items here, so we're hoping to raise some money today," Tom said. "We still have a garage sale and barbecue fundraiser to do."

Once the team has raised the funds, the missionaries will join more than 100 American volunteers in Zambia for a two-week, rustic adventure in Kalomo, Zambia.

"We sleep in tents, and there's no electricity or running water," Tom said. "The days are long; it's exhausting. And it makes you want to go to bed early without lights."

While there, the missionaries will assist medical professionals test for malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, and generally support the operation of the clinics.

"The last three years I've been with them, those diseases have declined more than they thought it would. It's pretty bad, but it's gotten better," Tom said.

American doctors and nurses are teamed up with Zambian nurses and doctors to treat for illness, including fungal and bacterial infections, and worms contracted from the poor water and sanitary conditions.

"The people we see are hours from the closest medical care. They only get basic care when we go, but they really don't have any access to medical care throughout the year," said Ray Ferguson, a member of Hillcrest Church of Christ in Abilene. "We've had people walk three days to see a nurse for 15 minutes."

Ferguson was the guest speaker at Sunday's fundraiser, and will also be making the trip to Zambia next summer - his 12th trip with Zambia Mission.

"What we define as poverty here would be defined as wealth over there. Often times everything they own is on their backs; they really have nothing beyond that," Ferguson said, explaining why he continues to go back each year.

Ferguson emphasized the medical needs in Africa, but also said there's a spiritual need there, too.

Evangelizing "is a part of it ... Jesus was a medical missionary, tending to the people's needs. He did a lot of medical healing and he also did a lot of spiritual teaching," Ferguson said. "If all we did was the medical side, it would be a good trip. And if all we did was the spiritual side, it would be a good trip. But doing them together is a great thing."

Both Tom and Ferguson insist however, their reason for returning to Zambia is to serve God, and care for people truly in need.

My goal is "to do as much as I can, for as many as I can," Tom said. "I can't explain it, it's just a great feeling to be needed. It's very gratifying."



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