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Ebola kills 6 in Baptist woman’s family

NASHVILLE (BP) — A Southern Baptist who emigrated from Liberia has lost six family members to the West African Ebola outbreak, she told Baptist Press. Medication, food and prayer, she says, are most needed to stem the epidemic.

An aunt, uncle and four adult cousins of 55-year-old Juanita Logan, a longtime member of First Baptist Church in Nashville, died in mid-August from the disease. The six family members all lived in the same Liberian household, Logan said, and had spoken to her on the phone just two weeks before their deaths.

“It was shocking to us, everybody’s well and then all of a sudden, it just, it starts with a fever, and then, no money to get medication, all those things. It’s so quick. It happens quick,” she said. “Once it enters a household, everybody will die. I have a girlfriend, it happened to her. Five people in her house died, all of them.”

“Nothing you can do about it. You just ask God to give you strength,” she said of her response to the deaths. “It’s hard, just, hard.”

She encouraged Southern Baptists to pray and fast for the control of the virus.

“People are praying, fasting. Continue praying and fasting because it’s a serious case,” Logan said. “Pray and fast that they will have enough medication to help … because with no medication, people just die.” Food, early medical intervention and hospital beds are needed, she noted, because the epidemic has strained an already poor economy.

“It’s a bad, ugly virus,” Logan said.

In Texas, where the first U.S. Ebola case has been reported, Baptists are preparing to send food and medical supplies to Liberia and Sierra Leone, two countries hit hardest by the epidemic.

Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery is sending two 40-foot containers filled with enough prepackaged meals of rice and soy to feed more than a half million people, the Baptist General Convention of Texas reported. Texas Baptists have the support of a $20,000 grant from the Texas Baptist Hunger Offering and food supplies donated by Convoy of Hope of Springfield, Mo.

Also in Texas, the Baptist ministry Restore Hope has secured a $15,000 Texas Baptist Hunger Offering grant to send supplies to Sierra Leone. The grant will provide food supplies to the Restore Hope center, Agape Academy and Mile 91 Baptist Church, all in Sierra Leone, where Restore Hope has 25 missionary personnel, Texas Baptists reported.

Ferrell Foster, Hunger Offering coordinator, expressed appreciation that the group could respond to the crisis.

“We are thrilled that Texas Baptist Hunger Offering funds can be used to address this terrible situation in West Africa,” Foster said in a press release from Texas Baptists. “Our Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery team is doing a great job of connecting available food resources with the need in Liberia through trusted partners, and Restore Hope is using its established relationships to address other needs.

“This is a Kingdom response, and our prayer is that Christ’s name will be exalted in all that we do [to] minister to the needs in West Africa.”

Southern Baptists are responding through an education campaign in Togo, West Africa, ahead of any reported cases there, according to Baptist Global Response.

The Baptist Convention of Togo intends to distribute 15,000 Ebola brochures across Togo, utilizing local Baptist associations and pastors to get the information to church members. Outreach will include televised public service announcements nationwide, and local evangelists will distribute pamphlets to outlying villages, BGR told Baptist Press.

In the first U.S. Ebola case, a man identified as Thomas Eric Duncan traveled from Liberia to Dallas and is hospitalized in critical condition. At least four school-age children and an adult he was staying with at an apartment complex have been quarantined, but he may have had contact with up to 100 people, according to varying news reports.

Before leaving Liberia, Duncan helped a neighbor who was sick with Ebola but failed to reveal that fact when he secured papers to visit Dallas, Reuters News reported. The woman has since died, and Liberia is considering filing charges against Duncan for withholding information regarding his exposure to Ebola.

The U.S. is equipped to stop the spread of the virus here, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said. But Bruce Johnson, president of the international Christian mission organization SIM USA, points out that West Africa has no such luxury.

“Unfortunately, the vast majority of people of West Africa have little or no option of a clinic or hospital to seek help,” Johnson said in a press release. “We can control Ebola in America. But it’s out of control across West Africa, and that’s why we need more people and resources on the ground to care for them.

“Think if this person in Dallas had no clinic or hospital available to them to go to for care. The only care center was a three-day walk or drive from Dallas. That’s the case for the majority of people in West Africa. There is scarce or no medical care available.”

Logan received a phone call around August 15 informing her of her relatives’ deaths.

“They called us to tell us that it happened, because most of my family is over here,” she said. “Ninety percent of my family is here. Some are still there.”

Logan grew up in a Christian home in Liberia and came to the U.S. in 1993 during Liberia’s civil war. She has attended First Baptist Nashville since moving to the city in 2003, and is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

“Back home, my parents, my family, they were staunch Christians,” she said. “We went to church in the morning, in the afternoon, in the night. I’m just a Baptist and I stayed a Baptist here.” She sings in the First Baptist Nashville sanctuary choir.

According to the CDC, Ebola is not airborne and is only transmitted by bodily fluids once a person shows symptoms, which include fever, body aches, severe headaches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and, in some cases, unexplained bruising or bleeding from the eyes and ears.

Symptoms appear on average eight to 10 days after exposure, but may also appear anywhere from two to 21 days after exposure, according to the CDC. Recovery depends on the patient’s immune response, and people who recover develop antibodies that last for at least 10 years.

The virus has killed more than 3,300 in West Africa, according to the CDC, and if unabated, could infect up to 1.4 million people by January, 2015.