Dr. Kent Brantly is a missionary with Samaritan's Purse, a Christian relief organization headed by Franklin Graham. The 33-year-old married father of two calls himself "a young Christian doctor putting his faith to work in the world." He began serving the West African nation of Liberia as a physician in October 2013. Not long after, he found himself on the front lines of the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded. Now he has been infected by the deadly disease.
The Ebola virus disease is named for the Ebola River valley in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where it was first observed in 1976. The virus is transmitted to humans from contact with infected wild animals. It then spreads through human-to-human contact via body fluids. Mortality rates are as high as 90 percent, though fatalities from the current outbreak are around 60 percent. There are no vaccines or cures.
According to the World Health Organization, the recent Ebola outbreak has caused more than 660 deaths in three African countries. Now the disease has come to Lagos, Nigeria, the largest city in Africa with a population of 21 million. On July 20, a Liberian businessman flew on a plane to Lagos, collapsed on arrival and died on July 25. The hospital where he was treated has now been quarantined. If people in Lagos were infected, the disease could become an epidemic. Since flights from Lagos depart daily for New York City, Baltimore, Houston, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., Americans are concerned as well.
Dr. Brantly was the first American to contract the disease. Soon afterwards, missionary Nancy Writebol in Liberia became the second. What can we do for them?
First, we can follow their example. These missionaries risked their lives to bring the gospel to people they had never met. In so doing, they refute the growing argument that religion is dangerous.
Richard Dawkins claims that "religion is the source of all evil"; Sam Harris is convinced that "science must destroy religion." But when Christians pay a high price to help others in Jesus' name, we demonstrate the incarnational service that is inherent in genuine Christian discipleship. And we exalt the One who "came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).
Second, we can intercede for all who are affected by this tragedy. Ask God to heal those who are infected and protect those who serve them. Ask him to give comfort to those who have lost loved ones and redeem this crisis for his glory and our good.
The sign outside Dr. Brantly's church in Ft. Worth, Texas says simply, "Pray for Kent."
Publication date: July 29, 2014
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