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WITH FAITH, FAMILY CONQUERS ALL

Environment doesn't have to be destiny, maintains the Rev. Patrick Prior and his wife, Mary.

"We grew up in troubled homes," admits Prior, an Elim Fellowship minister, describing backgrounds marked by alcoholism and divorce.

Despite their similarly rough childhoods, the Priors have been married for more than two decades -- passing over many of life's speed bumps, guided by a strong faith. The parents of five dealt with the challenge of serious car accident injuries, the birth of two sets of twins and a brush with death of one of their babies.

"It's easy to serve the Lord when everything is going well," Prior concedes. "But it takes real faith when nothing seems to go right -- even in areas you thought were your strong points."

However, they do feel blessed, and the Priors are sharing their spiritual bounty with the needy of Honduras, having recently left their comfortable apartment at Orchard Park's Full Gospel Tabernacle for a yearlong mission in Central America.

A younger Mary, from Kenmore, and Patrick Prior, of West Seneca, met at Elim Bible Institute in Lima.

"Our Bible school acquaintance developed into a dating relationship," Prior remembers. "On our third date -- a trip back to our Bible school to see the graduation of our friends -- we were involved in a car accident."

He escaped with minor cuts and bruises, but she was severely injured.

"It took her nine months of therapy to walk normally and regain the use of her arm," he recalled. "It was during that time that we realized that God had planned a future for us as a couple."

They married, and about a year-and-a-half after the birth of their first daughter, Mary Prior was expecting again. This time it was twins.

The next time Mary Prior found herself five months' pregnant, she requested a sonogram to quell her fear of another multiple birth. The sonogram revealed another set of twins.

"Our church choir had a diaper shower for us -- we had diapers for more than a half-year," he recalled. "One of the biggest blessings was when a teenage girl from church, Jennifer Seitz, volunteered to come over every day after school and help with the babies."

Another blessing was when Mary Prior's mom made a life-saving move with one of the babies, Ashley.

"Suddenly, Mary walked into the room with a blue lifeless baby in her arms -- Ashley had stopped breathing," Prior recalled. "Immediately, Mary's mom, a career nurse, grabbed the baby from her and started administering all that she remembered to do from her preemie nursery training."

". . .By the time the paramedics had arrived, Mary's mom had gotten Ashley to breathe."

They've survived those frenetic early years -- and now are giving back with their kids. Twins Ashley and Micah, now both 15, Allyson and Nathan, both 17, and Emily, 20, work with their parents in Honduras. Proceeds from the Garments of Praise thrift shop on South Park Avenue help fund this mission.

Prior believes the turbulent early years have helped prepare his family for life in the Third World. They have, he said, learned to persevere.

Have an idea about a local person whose life would make a good profile or a neighborhood issue worth exploring? Write to: Louise Continelli, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or e-mail lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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