September 1 was the one year anniversary of Rick’s diagnosis of Ebola virus disease. It is hard to believe that life is so normal now, considering the possibilities that this day held for us a year ago. While Rick waited for the result of his test, and began to feel the effects of the virus taking hold, he felt the strong arms of his heavenly Father holding him close. For my part, I took long walks and shed many tears, trying to imagine life without Rick, but completely sure in my heart that God would carry me through.
As the news broke, we were caught up in a tidal wave of evacuation plans and media attention, and held afloat by the prayers and acts of kindness of our family, friends and community. We have often said that for a few days, Rick was probably the most prayed for individual on the planet. There are no words that could ever express our gratitude for the way our family was loved through our crisis, so we wish to just say thank you and God bless you.
We admit that the story of the Ebola epidemic reveals many uncomfortable realities of our world today, including apathy towards the crisis from the developed world in the early months and the social inequalities exemplified by the evacuation and treatment of the Americans who contracted the disease. But there were no guarantees because our times are in God’s hands. By His mercy and thanks to the amazing professionals at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit, Rick recovered fully. We trust that in some way, God has used him in the battle against Ebola in West Africa, which is hopefully in its last days. Although Liberia has been Ebola free for much of the last 5 months, Sierra Leone and Guinea are still reporting a few cases each week. But now there is promise that a vaccine could finally bring this epidemic to an end, and prevent future ones.
However, that vaccine will not prevent a crisis like this from happening when a new disease or virus emerges to sweep through West Africa or another region. Strengthening the healthcare systems in countries like Liberia is the real “vaccine” that will prevent a future crisis.
This week, SIM has invited missionary and West African healthcare leaders to meet in Ghana for a conversation about how the mission and its partners can help strengthen healthcare resources in the region. Rick couldn’t be there, but you know his heart is with them. Please pray along with us for these Christian leaders who desire to change the realities that caused African families to lose their husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, brothers, sisters, and children in the last year and a half.