Honduras coup no threat to Fort Valley group there on mission, mayor says

FORT VALLEY — About a dozen Middle Georgia adults and teenagers sharing the gospel and pouring concrete in Choluteca, Honduras, were far removed from the political unrest Sunday in the capital of Tegucigalpa, fellow church members said.

Fort Valley Mayor John Stumbo, a member of Fort Valley United Methodist Church, said the mission team is in no danger and is expected to return safely home on schedule Saturday after finishing a short-term mission trip.

The mission team comprises 10 people from his church, including pastor Ellis Carpenter, and two members of Byron United Methodist Church.

Sunday’s military coup ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and forced him into exile in Costa Rica.

Jean McKenzie of Fort Valley has three people she holds very dear on the mission trip: her daughter, Mary Jean Banter, instructional facilitator for Peach County schools; son-in-law Ken Banter, outgoing principal at Byron Middle and incoming principal at Fort Valley Elementary; and 18-year-old grandson, James Banter, who graduated this year from Peach County High.

McKenzie said her daughter has kept in contact with her through e-mails and telephone calls and assures her that they are all fine.

“They are all very safe where they are,” said McKenzie, who is also a member of Fort Valley United Methodist Church. “There are no problems.”

The group is working with World Gospel Mission and pouring concrete for a basketball court and an auto mechanics building at a technical school in Choluteca, a city of about 100,000 people in southern Honduras, McKenzie said.

“They say it is so very hot,” said McKenzie, noting a prayer request Monday from her daughter for temperatures to cool down as the team completes the work.

The other team members include Mark Barrett, Marcus Borders, Angie Carpenter, David Futral, Phyllis McHale, Brandi Seippel, Anna Usry and Jody Usry.

A short update on the World Gospel Mission Web site states Monday that its missionaries report that all personnel are safe and that there is a relative calm within Honduras after removal of the president by the military.

To contact Becky Purser, call 923-3109, extension 243.