Ebola missionary points to faith in Christ after hospital release
NASHVILLE (BP) -- Both Christian missionaries who contracted the Ebola virus while ministering to patients in Liberia have been released from an Atlanta hospital.
Kent Brantly, 33, was released Thursday (Aug 21). The Samaritan's Purse doctor said at a news conference, "Today is a miraculous day. I am thrilled to be alive, to be well and to be reunited with my family."
Nancy Writebol, 59, has not spoken to reporters since being released two days earlier. Media representatives are being told the SIM (Serving in Mission) missionary is spending private time with her family including her two sons, Jeremy and Brian Writebol.
Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Research, interviewed both sons about their mother's ordeal and how her Christian faith has played a role in her recovery.
Following are excerpts from that interview.
Why was your mother in Africa?
Jeremy: Mom and Dad have been career missionaries for the last 15 years in various countries in South America and Africa. About a year ago they joined SIM to go to Liberia to serve the Liberian people through the several ministries. Mom coordinated hospitality for incoming short and long-term missionaries as well as assisted as a nurse's assistant at the hospital. Mom and Dad have always wanted to use their lives to serve Christ and help those in need in whatever way they could.
What was your reaction when you heard your mother had Ebola?
Jeremy: Devastated. With mortality rates of 65-90 percent of infected patients I knew the statistical odds of her survival were not good. Add to that the way in which a person dies from the virus it can be one of the most terrible ways to die. When we heard mom had the virus I could only imagine the worst.
Does your mom regret going to Africa and fighting the virus?
Brian: No, I don't sense any regret in going to Liberia or following what they (my parents) are called to do.
Do YOU regret that she went over to Africa to fight Ebola?
Jeremy: No. We know Mom and Dad's motivation for going was to serve and glorify Christ. There are always costs associated with that call. We've read and been familiar with missionary biographies in our house for a very long time. Christians go, they suffer, some die, and that's part of the call.
Brian: And, we know they have a heart to serve, a heart for Africa, and they were using that Christ-like love in glorifying the Lord.
What do you want to come from this?
Jeremy: The perspective we hope others will gain is that in suffering there is hope, namely Jesus himself. Often we are tempted to think "why me" when suffering comes about, and unless we see it in the larger picture of God's glory and the unfolding and revealing of his character and nature to the world, we will miss the joy that it is to be part of God's great story.
Brian: I would like those who look into our lives through this time to see Christ and see He alone is our refuge in trying times. This "strong tower" comes in the form of prayer, Scripture, and the Holy Spirit providing comfort and peace in our hearts in the darkest moments. Through this peace we are able to worship and glorify Him no matter the outcome.
How has this affected her faith?
Brian: In conversations with Mom I've picked up a sense that she has a deeper understanding of Christ's sufficiency in all circumstances. He really is able to give peace and comfort when we have nowhere else to turn.
One national commentator criticized Dr. Brantly for going to Africa instead of ministering in America. How do you respond?
Jeremy: The Gospel isn't just for one nation, or one people group. Jesus called us to go and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19-20). This requires that people leave their own culture and context and cross cultures to go and make disciples. Yes that can be done in the United States, and should be, but it isn't an either/or command. We are all called to make disciples, some are called to stay within their own culture, some are called to go to faraway places. For my parents and the Brantlys that call was to go to Liberia.
Is there anything you believe your mother would want to convey?
Jeremy: Mom's statement to me over and over again is that she didn't want all this attention drawn to herself. She wanted to quietly and anonymously serve Christ in Africa. But in light of all the attention she continues to say to me, "I want Christ to be glorified. I want His name to be made famous."
Ed Stetzer is executive director of LifeWay Research. The full interview with the Writebol family is available at EdStetzer.com. LifeWay communications director Marty King and social media associate Chris Martin assisted in preparation of this article. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).