Samaritan’s Purse Ebola documentary 'Facing Darkness' debuted March 30 at select theaters in Canada.
Dr. Kent Brantly never set out to be famous. The 36-year-old physician started medical school 14 years ago with the idea to treat patients in obscure areas of the world—areas with little access to medical care—where the limelight rarely visits.
He only realized his “celebrity” when Samaritan’s Purse suggested he write a statement for the world as he was released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta after recovering from the Ebola virus in 2014.
He contracted the deadly disease in Liberia while working as a Post-Resident physician with World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse.
His harrowing and heroic tale is the subject of the documentary “Facing Darkness” which will be showing on April 3 at select theaters across Canada. Produced by Samaritan’s Purse, the film shows the difficult choices Christians face when they say yes to Christ and serve others even in the midst of mortal danger.
Service Over Safety
“I think the message of this movie is really important because it is so much bigger than Ebola,” said Dr. Brantly in a recent interview at Samaritan’s Purse headquarters in Boone, North Carolina. “It’s a message that our country and the church needs to hear right now: to act out of love instead of reacting out of fear. It doesn’t mean you don’t feel afraid but you choose to act out of love anyway.”
On August 21, 2014, Dr. Brantly was released from Emory with a clean bill of health. Among the first thoughts he shared with the world at the end of his long, nearly fatal battle: “I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life and am glad for any attention my sickness has attracted for the plight of West Africa in the midst of this epidemic.”
All told more than 11,000 people from six countries died from the deadliest outbreak of Ebola since its discovery in 1976. In an unexpected twist, the unprecedented world crisis became an opportunity to proclaim the truth of the Gospel and the compassion of God’s people in the face of deadly odds.
Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol, a nurse and close friend of Kent’s who also contracted Ebola and survived, both stared these odds in the face and placed their lives in God’s hands.
“‘Facing Darkness’ is about God saving the life of Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol. Not Samaritan’s Purse. Not Franklin Graham. But God,” Samaritan’s Purse President Franklin Graham said. “I think when there’s a crisis, God wants us to be there. He doesn’t want us to run away. God has put us there for a reason, and he expects us to do something about it.”
For Such a Time as This
When Dr. Brantly decided to stay in Liberia and respond to the Ebola crisis, he could hardly have imagined all that would happen to him—contracting the disease, nearly dying from it, being flown back to the United States, walking gingerly into Emory as the world watched live, testifying before Congress, and becoming something of a celebrity.
“I’m not very humble—just ask my wife,” said Dr. Brantly as he assessed the risk of pride as speaking engagements, media coverage, a published book, and, now, a feature film all fix him as a hero in the public eye. “I’m not a very humble person, but I have plenty of reasons to be.”
“I still wrestle with the fact that I survived and am becoming a movie star while West Africans died of the same disease,” he said. “It’s not because I am more faithful or that God loves me in a different way than He loves others.
“My faith is not what saved me. My faith is what tells me that even though I can’t understand, God is good. He is love and He will make all things right in the end. Even if I had died I think Amber would be sitting here in front of you telling you that it was the right thing for us to do.”
This testimony to God’s goodness and faithfulness has given great weight to the public and private journey that Dr. Brantly, his wife Amber, and their children have been on over the past few years.
This journey is far from over as the Brantlys continue to minister where they live stateside.
The Journey Continues
God called Dr. Brantly to medical missions in 2003. In 2008, he and Amber, to whom God also gave a burden for missions, were married. God never intended for their calling to begin or end with Ebola.
Now the family lives in Ft. Worth where Dr. Brantly works at a county hospital, and they believe they’re still pursuing that original call to medical missions. Whether at work or home, they continue to serve those who are marginalized.
Their calling “affects the way we lived in Liberia and it affects the way we choose to live in Ft. Worth, Texas, and the way we choose to relate to people in our community,” said Dr. Brantly.
The Brantlys’ medical missionary work has provided opportunities for them no one could have ever predicted. Their journey has given them a platform for sharing the Gospel in many contexts otherwise closed off to talk of God.
“I’ve been given the opportunity to talk about Jesus in places where people are often not given the opportunity to talk freely in that way,” said Dr. Brantly.
“The Gospel is really big and the good news that God is no longer counting people’s sins against them and the command He’s given us to plead with the world to come back to God are all inseparable from the command to love your neighbor as yourself and to have compassion on those in need.”