The North American Lutheran Church is partnering with the Rev. Sumoward E. Harris, bishop emeritus of the Lutheran Church in Liberia, in responding to the Ebola crisis in that country. Bishop Harris was asked to share some of his experiences with the crisis and the needs in the country.
Gifts to support his ministry may be given through the NALC. Please send checks to 2299 Palmer Drive, Suite 220, New Brighton, MN 55112-2202. Please note “Ebola virus” on your check.
The Ebola virus entered Liberia through the northern town of Foya in Lofa County from the Republic of Guinea in March of 2014. It has spread throughout all the 15 counties of Liberia, killing over 3,000 people including nurses, doctors and other health workers.
I got involved in the fight against the Ebola virus in June through visitation, conducting awareness meetings and workshops, presenting printed materials, and providing buckets with towels and disinfectants.
These activities are dangerous to our personal health and safety in areas where transportation by cars is very difficult and sometimes just impossible. I rode a motorbike for four days at a time, climbing very steep hills. I also walked one week in dense forest, going through swamps and creeks without bridges. My Jeep broke down on four different occasions. Each of the breakdowns was very costly. Two breakdowns were due to the burning of the engine that required buying new engine at a cost of $3,500 (U.S.).
The latest breakdown in early November in the middle of an un-bridged river was caused by damage to the gear box, which cost $1,600 to repair. At the writing of this article, the Jeep is still in the garage with an additional request from the mechanic to replace the engine seat.
With the lack of transportation, our task of going out is becoming very difficult, if not impossible. As the places where we are working with affected people are very remote in rural Liberia and the roads very deplorable in Gbarpolu and Grand Cape Mount Counties, commercial cars cannot go to those places at the regular fare. We are left with the options of riding chartered commercial vehicles or motorbikes with payment of exorbitant fares.
We have given the above background and the difficult challenges we face to highlight the immediacy of the need and how support from NALC congregations will definitely make an immediate difference in the healing of the infected and affected and the prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.
In November, the level of infection and death from Ebola was declining but by December it began to rise again. The reasons are the following:
- Lack of knowledge about the virus and its mode of transmission as well as prevention methods.
- Entrenched traditional cultural and religious practices, such as eating together from the same bowl with the same spoons, drinking from the same buckets and cups, bathing together in the same bathing buckets, and bathing, dressing and plaiting the hair of dead persons.
- Denial of the existence of the virus and attributing the virus to the cause of witches.
- Cross-border visitation by people from the three affected countries: Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The borders between the three countries are very wide so people move back and forth on a daily basis visiting their relatives and neighbors.
These are some of the causes of the upsurge in the spread of the Ebola virus, particularly in Grand Cape Mount, Montserrado and Nimba Counties. But with the financial and moral support of the wonderful congregations of NALC to the Ebola Response Project, I have the conviction that we shall do everything possible to eradicate the Ebola virus from Liberia.
With your financial support, we shall redouble our efforts in the remotest rural places where we have been working before.
Your support will help us shine the light on the Ebola virus. The need is urgent indeed, and any immediate support from you makes a profound difference in the healing of the infected and affected people as well as in preventing the spread of the Ebola virus.
Please also pray for us.
May God help the work of the leadership and members of the North American Lutheran Church.