Malaria Didn't Stop This Missionary

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Mike Stewart of Strawberry considers his greatest feat to be working for the Lord.

Stewart has done missionary work for the Assembly of God Church for nearly 15 years. His mission is to help build and repair church properties.

"Building, repairs, fixing autos and boats, things like that. That's my whole mission," Stewart said.

Most recently he was in the Solomon Islands helping education missionaries Karen and Jerry Jacob repair the church, the house where they will live as they build a school and the dorm where workers will live while helping build the school. He left the states at the end of November and returned in mid-May.

Stewart's other missionary work has included 10 years working in the Marshall Islands and another four employed by the church in Guam.

While in the Marshall Islands, his work was supported by two churches.

Stewart explained when missionaries are appointed to a project, they are given a budget that shows what the project is expected to cost, what funds will come from the sponsoring church or churches, and the remainder they must raise before taking their posts.

He said they raise a certain amount before leaving, go to their mission post and work there for four years, then return to the U.S. and spend another year raising more money. This is done by going from church to church and talking about the project and collecting a special offering.

"Sometimes they come away with only $15," Stewart said.

While in the Solomon Islands, he was project manager for the Jacobs. Stewart said he has been friends with the Jacobs since 1987.

They contacted him about the project and he started his mission by just advising Jerry what materials would be needed, exchanging e-mails and phone calls. Then he decided to volunteer his skills and go to the South Pacific.

The materials were to be sent by freighter. There was a long delay in the shipping because of the inspections required after the Sept. 11 attacks.

To prepare for the trip, Stewart had to make numerous arrangements, including securing enough medication for his entire stay in the Solomon Islands. He had a triple bypass in 2000, so had to take his heart medication and he also had to get pills to prevent malaria. In the U.S. the pills are $15 each and he needed not only enough for his stay in the Solomons, but had to take them two weeks in advance of leaving. He was able to get them for only $4 a pill in Canada.

And in the end the medication didn't work, he contracted malaria about two weeks after arriving in the islands.

"It was the worst kind," he said, and he will always have it. It is dormant now, but there is always a possibility it will flare up again.

The house for the Jacobs on the church's 22 acres of jungle was about to fall apart, Stewart said. It had gaps so big in the floor the poisonous snakes and centipedes had no trouble crawling inside.

"The jungle was so dense if you went 20 feet into it, you would be lost. I don't know how we won the war," Stewart said.

Stewart, the Jacobs and the native workers basically rebuilt the house from the ground up. They also did some repairs to the church building, an open-sided structure and started work on the dorm where other workers, and eventually boarding students, will live. He said they ran out of materials before they were able to get very far on the dorm project.

A second crew was to have arrived in early June to continue the work on the dorm building, Stewart said. They were only spending two weeks at the site, and it was not known when the project's third team of building volunteers would arrive.

"The work was a tremendous blessing for me and the missionaries," Stewart said.

He was thanked for his work by the field director of the entire Pacific Basin Assembly of God Foreign Missions, Wayne Cagle.

Stewart and his wife, Nancy, are now waiting to see where he will be sent next. They are planning on Nancy going with him.

She did not accompany Stewart to the Solomon Islands and he said he is never going to let her stay behind again.

Nancy has a medical background and works well with children, Stewart said.

"Being able to work for God and meet the people out there is awesome. Being able to help people, I love it," Stewart said.

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