The deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia is unprecedented, claiming the lives of more than 2,800 victims, overwhelming the fragile health system, and bringing the already war-torn nation to its knees in less than a year. Its economic and psychological effect is as immeasurable as its grief. Liberia is ill-prepared for any epidemic of this magnitude because of our recent history of 14 years of war and destruction. So it was no surprise that we quickly became the epicenter of the deadly outbreak.
Many health workers died of Ebola in Liberia while trying to save others. It is worth noting that statistics show that there was one doctor to 100,000 people in Liberia prior to the outbreak, and it is now evident that Liberia will be in a more serious condition long after Ebola is gone. Six words sufficiently summarize Ebola in Liberia: panic, pain, horror, trauma, death and grief. Nearly all health centers were closed or abandoned because of lack of adequate medical supplies, infected facilities due to contamination, and terrified or traumatized health workers. Many places of work remain closed; workers are asked to stay at home, all schools are closed and a curfew is in effect. With many roads still damaged and inaccessible due to the war, coupled with only one percent of the country currently on the national power grid and water supply, the chaos and desperation cannot be overemphasized. It is believed that the total number of Ebola deaths may be far higher than the official number. It is also believed that more people have died of non-Ebola, curable diseases than those who have died of the deadly virus. Between July and September, Liberia’s sick were left to fend for themselves during the chaos that ensued when the virus reached the capital city. We are currently witnessing a slowdown in the rate of infection and the number of deaths caused by Ebola, but health experts remain cautious and advise that all remain vigilant. The body of Christ here continues to pray for God’s intervention and healing of the land. The deadly virus is still in the neighboring countries of Guinea and Sierra Leone, which adds to the complexity of the situation. The Evangelical Church of Liberia (ECOL) is absorbing its share of the effects of Ebola. To date we have confirmation of 22 infections, 10 deaths and five quarantined families. We have 8 orphans and 14 children who have lost their financially supporting parent. At the Faith United Evangelical Church in Caldwell, Montserrado, a whole family died of Ebola. And at the Jamaica Road Evangelical Church in Bushrod Island, Monrovia, a father and his five children were taken into an Ebola Treatment Unit recently after showing full symptoms of the virus. His wife had died two weeks earlier. These statistics represent reports from 40% of our churches located in and around urban communities and within phone coverage. We have no way of getting information from the majority of churches in remote areas.
We have many ECOL members who have lost family members to Ebola. In one instance, a member of the Evangelical Christian Fellowship lost 15 family members to the deadly virus in just three days. Also, 10 ECOL members and scores of relatives have died of non-Ebola and curable illnesses since the outbreak because of the closure of health centers when the virus outbreak intensified in Monrovia.
ECOL does not only see difficulties, but opportunities in the midst of difficulties. With trust in God we have been ministering and demonstrating the love of God despite limited resources, and we are very grateful for the strength and courage and wisdom that only must come from Him.
- ECOL Prayer for the Nation: At the beginning of the outbreak we mobilized our churches for special prayer meetings and prayer chains on behalf of the nation. This prayer movement is still ongoing at noon each day. We have also joined the efforts of the entire body of Christ in Liberia by honoring scheduled national fasting and prayer meetings.
- ECOL Ebola Sensitization: In May 2014 ECOL began an Ebola awareness campaign in our churches to enable members to prevent infection and encourage their communities to do the same. Health workers who are members of ECOL churches are allotted time during worship services to educate worshippers about the history, effect, modes of transmission and prevention of the deadly virus. SIM missionary doctor, John Fankhauser, also spoke at the Evangelical Christian Fellowship (ECF) during one of the “health tips” sections. We owe the current relatively low rate of infection and death within ECOL urban churches to the valuable information we received from these health workers. The ECOL national leadership also conducted trainer of trainers seminars on Ebola for three non-ECOL churches who have no health worker members. The total of 32 church leaders who participated in the training are expected to help create awareness in their churches and communities about the danger and prevention of Ebola.
- Relief Assistance: The ECOL leadership continues to raise support among our churches and friends to provide food and other essential supplies to those of our members who are discharged from Ebola treatment units, relatives of those who died, and those of our members who are quarantined as the result of the death of family members. Our relief assistance includes rice, cooking oil, bleach, buckets, and soap. We have so far served four Ebola survivors and eight quarantined families. We do not currently have the capacity to assist other ECOL victims or assist beneficiaries on a regular basis. We have written a project proposal named the Liberian Church Ebola Response that SIM is helping to raise funds for to enable us to reach more needy people through the provision of community awareness, relief assistance, counseling services, and reintegration programs.
- Counseling Services: ECOL currently has a counseling service for those feeling the effects of trauma and grief as the result of the outbreak. Six volunteer pastors provide prayer and counseling (by phone) for our members who are discharged from the treatment units and others in need. We have a phone directory of relief assistance beneficiaries and also receive contacts from our pastors of other people needing counseling.
We kindly request that you join us in prayer for the following:
- for God’s intervention in Liberia to stop Ebola and heal the land.
- for more people to come to Christ during this crisis.
- for God’s intervention to stop the deadly virus in other countries and from spreading to other nations.
- for wisdom and guidance as we minister in difficult circumstances.
- for funding for the Liberian Church Ebola Response project.
- for protection of health workers serving with very high risk.
- for provisions of four Ebola orphans we feel burdened to continue to support.=
Article written and originally submitted to SIM International by Pastor Moses Paye of the Evangelical Church of Liberia.