Dr. E.J. Stincer and his wife, Holly, are longtime Baptists who say they thank God for many things - especially the cell phone.
Dr. E.J. Stincer and his wife, Holly, of Augusta, along with 32 other members of their mission group, were held for six hours at the Department of Immigration in Morelia, Mexico.
It was a cell phone that helped them regain their freedom when they were held by Mexican authorities while on a mission trip in June, the Augusta couple said.
Six hours passed while the group of 34 area residents - mostly members of Grace Baptist Church in Evans - were locked in a room at the Department of Immigration in the city of Morelia.
While her husband was interrogated upstairs, Mrs. Stincer borrowed a cell phone and dialed the American Embassy in Mexico City. There was a poster listing contact information in the department's lobby, but the numbers were bogus, she said.
Mrs. Stincer - a hot, tired and hungry mother of three - did what any sensible, desperate woman would do.
"Daddy!" she cried, laughing. "I called my father. But it was really the call to my heavenly father that made the difference."
Mrs. Stincer phoned her father, Al Hatcher, a former director of the Georgia Department of Transportation, while group members sang hymns and prayed for their release.
The group later learned they had entered the country with tourist visas, having failed to complete the necessary documents to work as volunteers, and were being held for working illegitimately. The misunderstanding stemmed from the nonbusiness nature of their work.
Hatcher eventually made connections with local congressmen, who called the U.S. Department of State. After the department phoned the Mexican authorities, the mission group was fined, released and allowed to continue a final day of medical clinics.
The Stincers, who recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary, said they travel abroad twice a year to hold free medical clinics and share their faith with others.
Stincer, who works with spinal cord injury patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Augusta, is a native of Cuba. He said he took his first mission trip to Venezuela in 1993 as a translator.
"After that, it kind of gets in your blood," he said.
Now, he coordinates the trips and leads the teams.
Mrs. Stincer, a former nurse, prepares supplies and medicines for the group.
She said she also collects eyeglasses from the Lions Club, and the group uses an eye diagnostic machine to prescribe a pair of glasses that closely matches each patient's needs.
The group included five doctors and a few nurses. During a week's time, they treated 1,800 people.
"It was just an awesome trip," said Robert Minnick, the owner of the cell phone that played a part in their being liberated. "(There were) miracles just about every day - just about blew your mind."
Stincer gave up his private practice in order to have a schedule flexible enough for missionary work, said the Rev. Bill Hilley, the pastor of Grace Baptist.
"I think it would be fair to say that he feels very strongly about wanting to be involved in ministry," the pastor said. "He's a fine man. There are not many physicians I know that would make that kind of sacrifice."
In addition to the medical clinics, the group works with a church to offer children's programs, puppet shows, group prayer and games.
"It takes so much to put a team together," Mrs. Stincer said.
Despite her harrowing experience she's more than ready to go back in June.
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