LONGVIEW, Texas (KETK) — For decades, Peggy and Danny Thornton have dedicated their lives to being missionaries overseas.
Traveling across the world, the couple has been everywhere from Peru to Guatemala, and their most recent trip to Ecuador.
“We are missionaries, and we’re full time. So, we’re based here in Longview, but we go to different countries, mostly Latin America,” says Peggy.
Every year, the two travels spreading the word, using mime and entertainment to teach the word of Christ. The trip to Ecuador started as planned. The goal of their missions is to help others “realize that they can do something to tell people about Christ,” says Danny.
Visiting the country three weeks before their religious mission, packing as usual for an extended stay, the Thorntons’ family warned them of traveling, especially with the coronavirus on the rise.
“We heard that a couple of people who had the virus there, but we knew it was just a couple. This was when it was just starting out,” explains Peggy.
Thinking nothing was wrong, the trip continued as normal.
“I thought, ‘This is Latin America, and this virus is in China, and it’s getting to the United States. How many people from China go to Latin America? They don’t.’ So I thought, ‘No, there’s not going to be any problem,'” explains Danny.
Walking through the country, residents asked the couple how long they planned on staying in Ecuador. At that moment, the Thorntons’ plans changed.
“We were at the marketplace and someone came up to us and said, ‘Did you know that the airport is closing on Monday?’ And we said, ‘What?'” Peggy recalls.
Suddenly, they rushed to pack their bags.
“You got 20 minutes to get all your stuff together and go to the bus station,” remembered Danny, thinking about how quickly he and his wife had to go to catch a flight back home to Texas.
However, home didn’t look the same way they left it.
“We were hearing all this stuff, people in hospitals, and people dying and everything. Supplies being gone off the shelves at grocery stores, and it was like coming back to a different country,” says Peggy.
Worried, the Thorntons’ family insisted the two stay home and self-quarantine. With stay-at-home orders and travel suspended, those who cared about the couple wanted to ensure their safety. At first, Peggy thought there was no need for isolation.
“We thought, ‘That’s crazy! Why?’ You know, you’re treating us like— just because we’re older? And we really didn’t want to do it, we thought it was overkill,” remembers Peggy.
Now, looking back, they both agree it was the right decision. Back in Longview for just two days, Danny came down with a fever. After calling their doctor, the two went to the hospital, their recent out of the country travel a cause for concern.
Both Danny and Peggy were tested for COVID-19. Peggy’s result coming back first, as negative. Now, Peggy says it was a false positive. Danny’s result took much longer, coming back positive for the virus.
“I said, ‘I’m not going to have the virus!’ And then on the 12th day, it came back, and it said, ‘You’re positive.’ And I was shocked because I only had fever two days,” says Danny.
By the time his results came in, Danny was feeling a lot better after suffering with minor symptoms—a slight fever and a cough—for a few days.
“He wasn’t really really sick, we weren’t that scared, and I wasn’t either, I was a little worse than him. We weren’t scared or anything, but we were really surprised,” says Peggy.
The Thorntons say local medical experts and Gregg County officials would call consistently to track the couple’s progress, and urge them to stay apart while at home.
“They would call everyday for a week, at the same time every day, and see how you’re doing. ‘Did you go out today?'” Danny says.
Both say the hardest part was being away from their family.
“We go away for three weeks, when we come back, we’re already yearning for people we’d like to go see. And we could not, then, go see them,” says Danny.
They found comfort knowing it wouldn’t be long until they could be surrounded by loved ones again.
Now clear of the coronavirus, Peggy says this journey has taught her not to live in fear. Both she and her husband eager to get back to Ecuador, and help with the coronavirus recovery efforts there.
Looking back now, knowing the risks, both agree they would still go again.
“We are going down there for what we believe to be the work of the Lord,” Peggy says. “It was still worth it. It still hurt, but it was worth it”
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