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 Local News  -   Saturday, October 8, 2005

Missionaries mark 50 years

The Times

Hugh and Louise Skelton are on a mission, one that's taken them around the globe.

The Free Chapel World Missions pastor and his wife are celebrating their 50th year serving as world missionaries.

The Skeltons, now married 52 years, began their service in Cuba in 1955.

At 76, they continue to travel the world teaching their faith.

"We still travel for a week a month," Hugh Skelton said. "Monday we leave for Santa Domingo, Dominican Republic, and the following week will be to Jamaica."

Added Louise Skelton, "I think the call keeps us going; we want to reach as many people as we possibly can. As long as we are healthy, we'll go."

A private reception will be given in the Skeltons' honor before their latest trip.

Hugh Skelton was born in Cornelia and raised in Gainesville, and Louise is a native of Cleveland.

The Skeltons have been part of several missions organizations over the years, and they built their first church outside of the United States in 1955 in Cuba.

"We have been instrumental in the building of 5,000 churches in 30 countries," he said.

The Skeltons were serving their faith in Cuba during the dangerous Cuban Revolution.

"I was accused of being a spy for the U.S.," Hugh Skelton said. "On Jan. 18, 1960, I was standing before a firing squad when a summons came from (Fidel) Castro for me to appear in court.

"I made it to the airport that day and friends smuggled me out on an airplane. They are still looking for me 40 years later."

Despite the danger, the Skeltons have traveled to 72 countries and more than 3 million miles sharing their religion.

After Cuba, they headed to Mexico where they worked for 10 years, then down to Central and South America, to England and back to Gainesville.

"We were in England for five years (1982-87), where I was the president of the Center for International Christian Ministries and trained national leaders from 33 nations," he said.

From 1963-91, Skelton served for 13 years as the World Missions Director for the Congregational Holiness Church, out of Griffin.

Hugh Skelton has been working at Free Chapel for 10 years, while his wife has taught Spanish at the nondenominational church.

The Skeltons have a son, Allen, who now runs his own mission, White Fields Ministries, in El Salvador. He will be moving his ministry permanently to Honduras in January.

"He pastored a church for 16 years in Atlanta," Louise Skelton said. "My husband didn't want to influence him, so we wanted him to go when God called him."

And the Skeltons have no intention on slowing down their own ministry.

"As long as we are able, we will help build and train, we will still be involved in missions," he said. "My main goal today is to train national workers to teach their own people in their own country."

E-mail: amckinney@gainesvilletimes.com.

Originally published Saturday, October 8, 2005

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