A Samaritan's Purse doctor heading up our response to the deadly Ebola outbreak sees the hope of Christ even in the midst of death and despair.
by Dr. Lance Plyler, leader of the Samaritan’s Purse disaster response team battling the outbreak of Ebola in West Africa
For more information about how Samaritan’s Purse is responding to the latest outbreak of Ebola, click here.
July, 2014—This morning I went through the painstaking and meticulous ritual of properly donning multiple pieces of personal protective equipment in order to care for patients who have been stricken with the deadly Ebola virus and admitted to the Foya Case Management Center (CMC) in Lofa County, Liberia.
The center lies close to the borders of Guinea and Sierra Leone. Lofa County is located within the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak.
My mind raced with conflicting emotions as I prepared once again to enter the doors of the center. A keen sense of my own mortality and vulnerability was fortunately trumped by a tremendous sense of urgency to minister and to nurture these innocent victims of circumstance.
After making sure that no mistakes were made putting on the equipment that would protect me from exposure to this deadly virus, I entered the center.
As we walked into a room on the ‘suspected’ side of the CMC (dedicated to patients awaiting confirmation of infection), we saw a 12-year-old girl, lifeless and still. She was another victim of this unfathomable and unprecedented outbreak.
Epidemic brings out strong emotions in caregivers
There are honestly no words to describe how agonizing it is to witness these innocent children succumb to death seemingly alone. Mothers, fathers and familiar faces of family are glaringly absent from the room, and the only flimsy contact with the outside world are the “strangers in space suits.”
I am a doctor and have confronted the loss of life many, many times, but this dimension of death is one I have never before experienced. It robs the patient of their dignity as well as their physical health. It marginalizes and isolates like no other sickness I know.
In the sweltering heat, fully-robed in my protective gear within the Ebola care center, I wrestled with these daunting thoughts of despair. The emotions were penetrating and strong, and for the moment were truly overwhelming. It seemed as though there was literally no way out for these people. My heart was broken for them.
However in these somber moments, an almost audible voice speaking quietly from within reminded me of God’s Holy Word, and His promises began to slowly but steadily resonate. I cannot explain this earthly suffering of His people and children, but I know that God alone is indeed sovereign and that He loves them dearly.
In fact, He gave his only Son for them. “For God so loved the World that He gave his only begotten Son that who so ever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). I also know that He has prepared a home for them. “Let the children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14).
I cannot pretend to have rationalized, or fully come to terms with, so many unanswered questions and unsettled emotions from encountering Ebola. Ultimately though, I find great refuge and trust in my faith and God’s Holy and inerrant Word, the Bible. I trust that indeed God does love us unconditionally and He will never fail us.
As I work diligently to help bring this raging epidemic to a close, I pray that I will do so as an ambassador of hope. Indeed I believe there is hope in this epidemic. It is the hope that comes through faith in God’s only Son.