POPLARVILLE, MS (WLOX) - Tensions are running high in Poplarville as three residents of the city return from a trip to Africa. One those men wears dual hats in the city - he's a preacher and a school bus driver for the Poplarville School District.
News of the Ebola outbreak in some African nations, has led to fears about the group's return. But the travelers, law enforcement, and other ministers around Pearl River County all say there is no reason to fear.
"I plan to go to his house, put my arms around him, tell him I love him, and welcome home to Poplarville," said the Reverend Lonnie O'Quin of Light House Of Hope Church.
Pastor O'Quin said he's known the preacher and school bus driver in question for many years. O'Quin said as a fellow member of the Ministerial Alliance, he's not only a good friend, but a brother in Christ. He said it hurts to know some people don't want to see his friend return to the community.
"Knowing his heart, he would never intentionally bring any harm or danger to our community," said O'Quin.
WLOX NEWS spoke with one of the travelers by phone Sunday night. She told us, they visited the nation of Ghana. According to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, there have been no confirmed cases of ebola in that country.
"He's thorough in all that he does and he had researched that area. He researched where he was going prior to going there. He knew there wasn't any type danger," explained the Reverend Jimmy Richardson Pastor of New Providence Baptist Church.
"Most folks would rather believe the false than believe the truth. And as a pastor, it's hurting and I feel for him," remarked the Reverend Charlie Wash, of Morning Star Baptist Church.
The ministers all agreed the fears in the community are understandable. But they say the re-entry plan formulated for the travelers by the school district is a good one. That plan requires the pastor to get approval from the state health department before he can return to work.
Richardson spoke with the bus driver by phone Monday afternoon.
"He was willing to abide by any rules the medical professionals had put in place, and by any rules the school system had put in place," Richardson said.
Poplarville Police Chief Charlie Fazende said the travelers have already crossed some major hurdles.
"I spoke with TSA officials Thursday. They told me before they ever get on a plane leaving that country, they are fully vetted.
There is a process where they are checked for symptoms and I understand these people are coming in from three different major international airports. So they will go through this process a number of times," said Chief Fazende.
The Reverend O'Quin said, "I think our community needs to welcome him home. He loves this community. He chose to come back here in obedience by a calling on his life by God. He founded and started a church here."
The Poplarville preacher is expected to return home late Monday night. He said he will talk with WLOX News once he gets settled back in.