Faith Like Ebola

We take a break from The Boy to bring you these thoughts on an interview with one of the US doctors who has survived the Ebola virus.

This interview aired on NPR in September — I was really struck how Dr. Brantly’s description of what it will take to turn the tide against Ebola links with what it will take to turn the tide against sin.

In his responses below, substitute “sin” or “separation from God.” I’ve put a few editorial comments in <Brackets> below.

The Insights Of An Ebola Doctor Who Became A Patient


September 17, 2014

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We're going to hear now from an Ebola survivor, one of the first Americans we learned had been infected. Dr. Kent Brantly is a medical missionary. He was working in Liberia for months before the Ebola outbreak. Then in June, Ebola patients started streaming into his hospital, the numbers increasing exponentially. The victims, he says, suffering lonely, horrifying deaths.

By the end of July, Dr. Brantly was himself diagnosed with Ebola. He was flown back to the states, was treated in Atlanta and now is cured. Dr. Brantly is in Washington this week to testify before Congress about the dire need for help in West Africa. And he joins me now. Dr. Brantly, welcome to the program.

KENT BRANTLY: Thank you, it's nice to be here.

  • * * 

BLOCK: What does it say to you, Dr. Brantly, that the Ebola outbreak, by and large, only got global attention after two white Americans came down with the disease?

BRANTLY: Melissa, I spoke to Congress about that very issue today and commented that I'm very thankful for the media attention that is now focused on West Africa, but it really is a shame that the thousands of African lives and deaths did not merit that same amount of attention from the world.

BLOCK: What do you chalk that up to?

BRANTLY: I think the only thing you can chalk it up to is - I don't know if ignorance is the right word — you know, out of sight, out of mind. Until you have a human face on it — a human connection — it's just some people far away. But when it becomes one of your own, when it happens to somebody close to you, it makes it very real. <Think of this response in terms of why we aren’t more focused on introducing people to Jesus.>

BLOCK: We heard, Dr. Brantly, yesterday the announcement from President Obama that the U.S. will be setting up 17 treatment centers in Liberia, maybe 1,700 beds, they're going to be training more healthcare workers, sending home treatment kits out to people's homes. What, though, do you think can be done about the widespread fear and confusion and superstition in African communities? You testified about this before Congress. You talked about people who don't even think Ebola is real.

BRANTLY: It's easy — relatively easy — to send supplies and equipment and maybe even personnel across the ocean. But you raise a very good point — changing people's beliefs or altering their behaviors is a very difficult challenge in any setting. I think the only people capable of helping those who are still in denial are their neighbors — the people around them, survivors — the Liberian survivors of Ebola. <Think about this response in terms of what it’s going to take to introduce people to Jesus.>

BLOCK: The Liberian survivors you're talking about, you're suggesting they become witnesses, basically, to try to overcome the stigma to say this is real and yes, you can survive and here's what you need to do? How hard a task is that do you think?

BRANTLY: I think it's a very challenging task. But survivors — as a survivor, I see it as my — my privilege and my duty to speak out on behalf of those who are still suffering. And I think many of the survivors in West Africa feel the same way. They want to do something to give back to their community, to show their appreciation to God for saving their lives. And they want to do that by helping their neighbors. It's a very challenging task because of the fear and the stigma that's attached to this horrible disease. But I think it's doable. <Think about this response in terms of how we can be “witnesses” for our faith.>

* * *

BLOCK: Well, Dr. Brantly, thank you so much for talking with us today.

BRANTLY: Thank you, Melissa.

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