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Christian response to Ebola, 21st centruy's Black Plague

Ebola too scary?
Ebola too scary?
Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

It’s 1350, ½ of your entire family and community has fallen to the Great Pestilence”. Fear is palatable on every face, and references to the “Morality of Judgment” abound in the streets. Fever, Ooze from groin/underarm wounds flow, blackening of the extremities (caused by subepidermal hemorrhages), and vomit proceed the victim’s certain death of “Black Plague”.

A group is fearless in the face of this all consuming monster. Who? The Christians throughout Europe maintain their homes in the infected cities, helping the sick, bringing about reformation in the plague’s wake. With 30% to 60% of Europe’s population dead or dying, an upheaval of ruling parties and faith ensue. Would we have been among the brave, risking our own life for strangers?

A short walk In history is relevant considering the recent “Ebola” outbreak in West Africa. We have heard of Ebola scares before.. If not, perhaps the panic of the 80’s and AIDS is not long from our memories. Too many uncertainties surround the containment and treatment of the disease. As in the days of “Plague”, there is no cure for a 90% death rate once contracted.

Ebola symptoms include: Sore Throat, Dry Cough, Fever, Stomach pain (vomiting), rash… victims die within 2 weeks of blood loss (internal and external bleeding). Over reaction to simple flus, or other maladies can quickly be understood to raise the Ebola alarm.

2 charity workers, Dr. Kent Brantly, Age 33 from Indianapolis, IN (Doctors without Borders) and Missionary Nancy Writebol of Charlotte, NC (Samaritan’s Purse) are the first reported Americans to contract Ebola. They are set to arrive in Atlanta, GA this week for experimental treatment. Debates rage on if they should be allowed to enter the country. The risk is reported to be low… yet risk there is!

The U.S. can definitely become the heroes, if a vaccine is developed. Is this situation about a drug company pursuing fortune? Or a compassionate people responding to a dire situation? We may have missed the “Black Plague”, will Christians be willing to risk their lives to save strangers once again?

More concerning (for those familiar with West Africa and subsequent charities) are the porous borders between countries. Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria have all reported cases of Ebola. Charitable agencies on the ground (UNDP, ILAC, ITAD, HURILAWS, Project Alert, Knowledge House, Leap Africa, MAARDEC, NEEDCSI) have all confirmed that Ebola is out of control!

One anonymous organizer states simply “ … we are torn between providing help, and exposure… there is little help from the government… corruption is rampant, and persons with clear symptoms can be smuggled out of the country for a price”.

Another states “… we are lost”.

Yet another gives hope “… Nigeria has 1,000s of Christians responding to the crisis… this episode is a lifetime of opportunities to affect change for Christ in the region”. What strength & courage!!!

Most charitable missions are now pulling out, short term missions are placing trips on hold, and expanding to meet the spiraling needs seems impossible. This includes at least one planned trip to Liberia from Cincinnati, as well as numerous others from Minnesota to California.

Many other areas of Africa will experience loss too. Cancellations from South Africa to Ethiopia, from the largest to the smallest of agencies, ALL have to examine and weigh the Ebola risk.

Even after 3 decades of work in Africa, the level of fear is unparalleled, and not easily vanquished. Death in this environment is real, not a “start over” scenario envisioned. A call to PRAYER: for the brave healthcare workers, for the governments, for the dying/survivors & their families… can be our first response. A call to ACTION has to follow!

Too many fictional dystopian stories from “Planet of the Ape’s Simian Flu” to Zombie Apocalypse flicks have our survival alarms on overload. Even Donald Trump has weighed in to “keep them out”. That maybe the typical response, what should “the church” be doing?

The Bible does not qualify we remain aloof while 10s of 1,000s die. Jesus healed lepers, welcoming the contact and opportunity. Driven by the mightiest of missions “Love others as we would love ourselves”, will we rise to the occasion? Do we truly believe in the strength of our salvation? Are we playing at sacrifice, or willing to enter the fray?

Ephesians 3: 20-21 "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us. Glory to God in the church! Glory to God in the Messiah, in Jesus! Glory down all the generations! Glory through all millennia! Oh, yes!”

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