The Herald, Sharon,
PA Published Tuesday, April 6, 1999


Minister heads to front lines on medical mission

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

The Rev. Gary Higgins left this morning on a mission trip to Albania to try to help the Kosovar refugees fleeing their homeland.

The Hermitage man will lead a four-member medical team sent by the Assembly of God Church.

"We'll be pretty close to where all the actions are taking place," he said. "We'll be meeting the refugees as they come out."

"It will be nerve-wracking because none of us have ever been in a war zone before," said the founder of Community Assembly of God, Sharon, and former associate pastor of First Assembly of God, Hermitage.

Rev. Higgins will be on the border with Kosovo and is wary of befalling the same fate as the three American soldiers who were kidnapped. He said he will demand that the Albanian government assign United Nations peacekeeping soldiers to his team.

"We are all a little bit apprehensive," said the Rev, Higgins, who will meet the other members of his team in New York before jetting overseas. "The security of my team is a top priority."

Although ministering to the refugees spiritual needs is not out of the question, it is not the main reason the Assembly of God is sending his team. Most of the refugees are Muslims, he said.

"Our main concern will be to do what we can to meet their physical needs."

Rev. Higgins, a part-time emergency medical technician with McGonigle Ambulance Service Inc. and a former paramedic, said he anticipates the refugees will be suffering from foot injuries, dehydration and possibly diseases such as typhoid and cholera.

Rev. Higgins expects to spend 10 days in Albania. Part of his job will be to conduct a disaster assessment, which will help determine whether the Assembly of God sends more medical people to the region. The church has three missionaries stationed in the country.

This is Rev. Higgins' second overseas missionary trip. He spent 10 days in Honduras after Hurricane Mitch blew through in November.

"That was an eye-opening experience," he said. "It was just total, utter devastation."

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Updated April 6, 1999
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