In fact, it's hard to believe that there are places in the world, which are inhabited by people, that do not have what we would call creature comforts. What I mean by creature comforts are simple things like clean running water, electricity and regular medical and dental care. But these places do exist. I've seen them.

And a group of people from a local church is about to see them again. Saturday morning 16 people representing a local Methodist church will begin an eight-day journey that will land them on the Amazon River, where they will visit several primitive villages. The mission is to provide medical, dental and spiritual care.

I was fortunate to make the trip last year. This will be the second trip for several of the team members and the third time for a few more.

The first reaction when hearing of this trip is usually awe, with the comment being something like, "That sounds like a great adventure." And it is. However, it is far from a dream vacation. Many sacrifices have to be made in order to take this trip, starting with the raising of $30,000 needed to fund the trip. Preparations for the trip include taking a boatload of medicines in order to keep the typhoid, yellow fever and malaria at bay.

When one thinks of the Amazon, the first things that usually come to mind are anacondas and piranhas. In reality, those aren't much of a threat as long as you stay out of the water. And you want to make sure that the water stays out of you.

The Amazon Medical Mission began nearly ten years ago when Gainesville (Ga.) native Mike Dempsey and his wife Suzie cashed in their lives in the Peach State and relocated in Iquitos, Peru, which is where the Amazon begins. Mike was in the mobile home business and Suzie has a nursing background. Heavily involved in their church, and particularly in its South American missions program, Mike and Suzie recognized a need for help in the Amazon Basin and made the decision to put their efforts there.

They set about securing a boat, refurbishing it, outfitting it with a crew and finding a way to fund this venture. Obviously, that was not the order in which things happened.

Nonetheless, the project got off the ground and currently "The Chosen Vessel" makes between 10 and 20 trips upriver per year. They visit four villages per trip, translating into thousands of people being reached each year.

What the Dempseys have done is amazing. But Mike's philosophy is simple. He told me during a short conversation last year, "With faith there is no room for fear. And with fear, there is no faith."

Clearly, this man and his family have faith. And a great deal of that faith is realized in the efforts of the dentists and doctors, as well as assorted medical and support personnel that makes trips of this nature possible.

It's good to see people from our little community making a difference in the world.



Tom Mark is sports editor of

The Tifton Gazette.





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