QUINCY -- A two-week trip to Africa put into perspective for Dennis and Carol Rankin the insignificance of their problems back home.
The Rankins returned Sunday from a mission trip to Zimbabwe. Members of the Union United Methodist Church, they traveled with a group to construct a home for an Africa University employee.
It was the couple's second time touching down on the African continent. Their first mission trip was in 2011 and took them to the civil war-torn Liberia, where, they noted, a whole generation of men and women grew up in turmoil.
"It's not the work we do," Dennis said, "it's the relationships we build with the people and with the country."
"People are people wherever you go," Carol added.
By comparison, Zimbabwe was green and lush. The Rankins said the feeling of hope and excitement was palpable, as the citizens consider the possibilities associated with a new government. Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe resigned as president in November, and Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed the position days later.
"I wouldn't trade either one of those trips," Carol said. "They both broadened our horizons so much."
When the Rankins arrived in Zimbabwe, they discovered that a prolonged rainy season would prevent any construction work. Instead, Dennis, a retired farmer, set to work repairing machinery for the Africa University farm. He fabricated steel side panels for the university's fertilizer spreader.
A retired teacher, Carol went out on the campus, which is affiliated with and funded by the United Methodist Church, to speak with students about their experiences. A boy named Francis approached them, asking if he could practice his English.
"All Africa University classes are taught in English," Carol said.
The Union United Methodist Church is part of a conference that provides scholarships for six students each year. The Rankins and the others on the trip met three of those students.
"It really does something to you," Dennis said. "They don't have anything really, but they're happy. It shows that things are not important; life would go on without them. What's important is happiness, contentment and love."
The second week of their trip was spent traveling the country and seeing the sights. They hiked the hills of Masvingo, known as Great Zimbabwe, and saw elephants, lions and giraffes up close.
"One of the unexpected consequences of these trips is we've been giving presentations," Carol said. "We're able to bring back here and show people what we've experienced."