Ebola virus impacts locals making mission trips to Africa

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A western Africa Ebola outbreak has killed more than 600 people--and now has health officials bracing world-wide. But it's also impacting some good Samaritans right here in the metro.

Mission trips are meant to help those in need, but is sacrificing your own health, or even life, part of that mission?

"You go because you care about the people, and so you take that risk," said Janelle Gregory, who just returned from her third trip to Malawi, Africa.

"I really wanted to support our partners and the ministry that they are doing there, and I've got a heart for the people," Gregory said.

Malawi is in the southern part of Africa, and is not fighting Ebola now, but the deadliest Ebola outbreak ever is centered in west Africa.

"We give hugs, we shake hands, we have lots of conversations, but never any type of patient care, nothing like that," said Barbara Gatlin, who just got back from her fifth mission to Africa.

"The people are amazing," Gatlin said, "A lot of people feel that doing mission work happens because you feel sorry for someone, because you want to lift them up. When I go on mission trips, I meet the strongest people I've ever met."

Gatlin says becoming infected by Ebola is not an immediate concern, and she's well aware of diseases in Africa, but she says she's willing to take that risk.

"These are people who don't have the comforts I have. They don't  have electricity, they don't have running water, they can't run to the grocery store, or run to the doctor's office every time someone is sick," Gatlin added.

Elisa Velez-Maker, the director of mission for the Church of the Resurrection, says safety if their number one priority.

"Our head of security is constantly monitoring what locations are not the best locations to send individuals to, and we are constantly getting information from the government, the CDC website, and in the event that there is something that will cause harm, or even death, we cancel trips," said Velez-Maker.

Gatlin says going on mission trips restores her faith in humanity. And despite the challenges they face, they still pray to God and stay positive. She already has plan to go back in the works in the upcoming months.

"I would love to be able to maintain that lifestyle everyday, so I'd absolutely go to refill my heart," Gatlin said.

For more information on the Ebola virus, please click on this link.

The Peace Corps announced Wednesday that it is temporarily removing its 340 volunteers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea due to the Ebola outbreak in those west African nations.

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