JOHANNESBURG (BP) — While the International Mission Board has issued a statement indicating all its personnel in Ebola-stricken West Africa are safe, a Christian worker on the ground released a first-person account of her thoughts on “the invisible war” with the deadly Ebola virus.
IMB’s statement said, “IMB personnel continue to monitor the Ebola epidemic. Our medical coordinators in West Africa have been in touch with Southern Baptist missionaries in the region to keep them informed of the changing situation. Currently in the affected areas, IMB has personnel in Guinea and Liberia, but not in Sierra Leone.”
IMB indicated there are no plans at this time to ask personnel to leave their homes in these countries.
The number of Ebola-related deaths in West Africa approaches 730, with more than 1,300 cases now reported in Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, according to the World Health Organization.
Two American aid workers — one with Samaritan’s Purse and the other with SIM (Serving in Mission) — who became infected remain in serious condition, and are being transported to the United States for treatment, according to news reports.
Rebecca Waters,* a Christian worker living and serving in Liberia, shared a firsthand account of what it’s like to face an “invisible enemy” like Ebola on a daily basis.
Following is a portion of Waters’ account of the situation in Liberia:
“A war is raging in West Africa, but this war is different from others. This time the enemy is invisible, sneaking up on its victims unaware. By the time the victim realizes he has been attacked, it is usually only a matter of days before he dies. That is, after he has infected dozens of others, and then they too die. This enemy is called Ebola.
“Ebola first reared his ugly head back in March, in the forest region of Guinea. Because of the porous borders, the disease quickly spread into Sierra Leone and Liberia’s northern county.
“In May, it appeared as if the disease was coming under control, but I believe that was due largely to fear and irrational behavior. People have become afraid to expose themselves, so when they become sick, instead of going to the doctor they run and hide. They just do not understand. [Physicians have] been chased out with machetes from the forest region of Guinea …
“Saturday I heard two women discussing their views of Ebola. They said many small clinics have shut down for fear of someone with the disease coming in. They said that parents, who take their kids in for headaches or malaria symptoms, simple diarrhea, etc., are rushed off to the Ebola clinic and sometimes even police are called in to escort them. For this reason, people are just not going to the doctor, but trying to treat themselves, thus putting others at danger. Many people believe Ebola is a scam, and even these two women indicated that they really don’t think Ebola exists.
“This week, the news of two prominent national health workers contracting and dying of Ebola, followed by the news that an American doctor [with Samaritan’s Purse] and another American female aid worker [with SIM] contracted the disease, has only elevated the paranoia.
“Samaritan’s Purse has … been on the front lines in Liberia and spearheading a national awareness campaign and providing education programming about Ebola. Samaritan’s Purse also provides medical examinations and clinical care to those infected. They man the quarantine and decontamination units and assist in sanitary burial procedures.
“Tonight we happened upon a Samaritan’s Purse worker who was picking up supplies. He told us that three new patients arrived today … and there was no place to put them. He said everyone is so discouraged, some to the point of just giving up. They are here trying to help, yet they are met with resistance.
“This invisible enemy is taking its toll on Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. In Sierra Leone, Ebola seems to be even more out of control….
“Over 1,300 cases have been reported with over 700 confirmed deaths. And the numbers continue to grow.
“This nation that thrives on relationships is now being reprimanded for giving a handshake or a hug. Taxi drivers are wearing gloves and masks. Grocery store workers and others are wearing gloves. Tonight we went to the grocery store and before entering, we had to wash our hands with bleach water. A few restaurants and other businesses have shut down until Ebola comes under control. Borders to Liberia have been closed except for the three major borders and two airports. And tonight, I read that one of our major West Africa airlines has cancelled all flights between Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“This invisible enemy must be stopped and there is only One who is able to stop it — the Prince of Peace, Jehovah Rapha. Please speak to Him on behalf of the West African peoples, on behalf of those working on the front lines, on behalf of those who are sick and trying to overcome, on behalf of all of us who are wondering what to do, how to help and how best to be His light in this dark world.”
*Name changed. Charles Braddix is an IMB writer based in London. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).