FIRST-PERSON: Ebola on both sides
WEST AFRICA (BP) -- In the past few months, hundreds of headlines have flashed across my computer screen. Among them I see stories of war, famine, crime, injustice and fear, but one word will always catch my attention in an instant.
The disease has infected 6,574 people across West Africa and killed 3,091. As someone who grew up darting across sand dunes in Senegal and charging through dense forests in Cote d'Ivoire, my mind constantly worries about how countries like Sierre Leone and Liberia are going to recover from the Ebola crisis, or even if they will recover in my lifetime. For much of Africa, this looming setback sounds all too common as West African nations are once again curbed in their efforts to build strong economies.
As a missionary kid raised by native Texans serving in West African nations, I feel the effects of the disease on both sides of the Atlantic.
On one side, my community in Africa asks God to intervene and end the spread of Ebola throughout the region. On the other side, I see fear mounting across the United States as increased cries to block out travelers from Africa seem to be dominating the conversation. In Dallas, one patient has been diagnosed with Ebola and is undergoing treatment.
While debates swirl between governments for the best course of action to eradicate Ebola, my mind turns toward people caught in the middle of a raging outbreak. In the wake of the disease's fatalities, a reported 3,700 orphans have been left without family and shunned by villages because of fear they might carry the disease. Some have been adopted by friends or neighbors, but many are left to pull their lives together and survive on their own.
In reading testimonies of frontline clinics, I can only imagine the pain and confusion of those who are infected with the virus. Patients are sent to die in a dark room surrounded only by strangers in plastic uniforms who periodically spray them with chlorine. I think that type of death only instills fear and misunderstanding among those who watch victim after victim being carted away for treatment. I am not condoning that sick patients escape or attempt to avoid treatment centers, but I do understand that an Ebola patient might experience a deep fear of being isolated and dying alone.
My friends and colleagues across Africa have started to prayerfully intercede for African nations affected by the disease. They are asking God to work in a mighty way and halt the relentless pace Ebola has taken as it spreads.
I ask for you to join them in prayer. Pray for God to comfort the dying and draw near to those working on the frontlines.
I have also received word the Baptist Association in Togo will distribute 15,000 brochures among their churches and communities in an effort to prevent an outbreak from occurring in Togo. Keep church leaders and believers in prayer as they educate villages about Ebola and share the Gospel.