Brian and Tracy Heffron of Phelps met online 14 years ago. Both saw one of those annoying and often-appearing “pop-ups” on their computer — this one from Datingfaces.com.

Tracy created a profile first. Later, when Brian happened to browse the site a bit, he plugged in information for his desired match.

Tracy’s profile appeared first among several potential partners.

For Brian to communicate with Tracy he then needed to become a member of the site and pay a fee.

At the time Tracy was living in Webster, finishing her studies at Rochester Institute of Technology with hopes of becoming a physician’s assistant. Brian was a journalist living in Phelps.

During the infancy stage of the online dating scene, people generally were cautious after some nightmarish experiences had been reported nationally. So, for Tracy, her intentions were to take it slow as friends — and if things progressed to more, then fine.

Brian, as it turns out, was far less patient. On their first date, he brought her roses and chocolates.

One thing that was of great importance to both — and remains central to their lives today — is the value placed on their faith in God. It is critical to a great foundation for their idea of a successful, healthy relationship.

Tracy, 38, was “saved” in high school. For Brian, 40, it happened later in life.

Early on in their relationship Tracy revealed she wanted, since she was young, to go to Africa.

As fate would have it, shortly after revealing this to Brian, her church announced a medical mission it was organizing to Senegal in 2001. She went on what turned out to be a life-changing journey.

She hoped her next trip there would be with Brian. After getting engaged in 2001 and married in 2002, the two traveled to Senegal in 2004 on a medical mission organized by Tracy’s parents’ church in Rochester.

At first a bit hesitant about going and taking on the challenge, Brian did find the experience an eye-opening one. An article he wrote about it appeared in the Finger Lakes Times soon after his return.

On the trip they stayed with some young, vibrant missionary folks who contradicted many preconceived perceptions about full-time missionaries. In other words, the Heffrons said their new friends were quite fun and “regular” people.

On her last day there in 2004, Tracy asked her friends to pray for them. She said, “God already has my heart in Africa, so if he wants us back he just has to get Brian’s too.”

Brian did go back.

In 2005, he visited Mongolia while Tracy stayed home to care for their infant child. He has returned to the African continent twice, going to Zambia in 2012 and Nigeria this year. A couple of the trips were as a journalist working with the organization SIM, an international mission organization with more than 1,600 active missionaries serving in more than 60 countries. SIM members serve God among many diverse groups in Africa, Asia and South America.

Tracy, a physician’s assistant at Thompson Hospital, was taking care of their now two small children, anxious for the time to be right for a placement to be made for the whole family. That finally happened just a couple of months ago.

The Heffrons have been assigned by SIM to Cape Town, South Africa, for what will start out as a two-year assignment.

Tracy will volunteer and quite possibly put her medical background to good use. It’s complicated — there are no such thing as PAs there, but rather, clinical associates. Also, as missionaries, she has no work visa.

SIM provides a great deal of help placing children in schools and facilitating other things, including handling bookkeeping tasks. The Heffrons will spend the next year or so here raising funds for this journey and getting proper training in theology and biblical classes.

They don’t get paid by SIM. Even so, some of their new missionary friends have made careers of it abroad for over a decade simply by raising their own funds.

Tracy says the time is now right for them after God gave them time to mature as Christians.

It is too costly to bring much in the way of material belongings to Africa, so they will live a much simpler life. Brian says the words “Give us today our daily bread” have far greater meaning in Africa. Unlike here, African nations depend greatly on neighbors and networks of friends to get by.

Brian and Tracy consider themselves lifelong learners and don’t expect to impose their ideas on anyone there, but rather show them God’s love in a way that will make sense in their culture. They will evangelize the unreached, minister to human need, disciple believers into churches and equip churches to fulfill Christ’s commission — and embrace great joy from it, together.

The Heffrons welcome the opportunity to share their previous trip experiences and vision of ministry. They hope people can appreciate the concept of doing God’s work as much as they do.

If any area organization, group or church is interested in helping out, feel free to contact them at www.theheffronfamily.com.

Anyone wishing to donate and have a far more personal connection to where their money is helping can also go to the website www.theheffronfamily.com.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.”

— Jesus Christ

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