You are probably aware of the largest Ebola outbreak in history occurring in countries of West Africa. This guest post by veteran missionary Marc Blackwell, Sr. gives us a glimpse of the difficulties missionaries face when trouble breaks out on the mission field.
Ebola and Tough Decisions
By Marc Blackwell, Sr. in Cape Town, South Africa
Does it seem wrong for missionaries to evacuate in the midst of crisis and life threatening viruses? Is this viewed as being a coward or disloyal? Today, there are missionaries, hospital staff, clinic workers, pastors and all national believers standing in the direct line of fire for this life-threatening virus known as Ebola.
These questions today regarding the Ebola Virus brought me to reflect on my experience in the late 70’s of the Rhodesian Conflict in Zimbabwe. Being in country with my fellow missionaries we were faced with war and similar decisions on evacuation. I was a chaplain, and newspaper reporter during this time. I had publicly made my anti-communist position known and was on a list to be detained, deported, or forcibly repatriated to the United States. These were highly volatile times and even though the nationals, and our churches back home were urging us to leave, we felt it was necessary to stay as long as we could. Conditions continued to deteriorate, and evacuation routes were closing quickly. The USA/CIA was now providing ground to air missiles to Joshua/Nkoma’s forces. This was affirmation that it was time for my family to leave country. I was able to get my wife Judie and the children to safety in the United States as I stayed back for an additional four months. These were very difficult times.
In the end, it was a Spirit led decision to leave this country. Knowing it was Spirit led, did not lessen the emotional and Spiritual difficulties of saying Good Bye. These people had become loved ones we were leaving behind to uncertain ends. This walk of faith stirred many emotions and inner struggles and many times was complicated and hard to understand.
We see in the book of Acts that Paul had similar circumstances he was faced with. In Berea, though Paul had just refused “slipping away quietly” from Philippi, he now agreed for the sake of the Gospel to leave as requested by his co-workers and others in Berea.
Acts 17:14–15 (HCSB) “Then the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go to the sea, but Silas and Timothy stayed on there. Those who escorted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving instructions for Silas and Timothy to come to him as quickly as possible, they departed.”
Once Paul was in Athens, he recognized the Lord’s hand in all these events and would see how the Lord would providentially direct him into another vital ministry among the Philosophers.
Acts 17:16 (HCSB) “While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, his spirit was troubled within him when he saw that the city was full of idols.”
Today, there are heavy hearts burdened with decisions to evacuate Liberia. One missionary and team leader recently wrote the following notice from Liberia:
“With very heavy hearts our Liberia Team unanimously agreed to evacuate Liberia because of the current Ebola epidemic. This decision is due to the cumulative effects of the outbreak. The virus is spreading very quickly in Liberia as a whole as well as in the community where our Team has its base of operations. The threshold that the team had pre-set for medical safety was breached this past week. There are also things going on in Liberia that have the team concerned about safety on other levels due to group demonstrations as well as violent acts which have recently taken place in response to the Ebola epidemic. The team will be evacuating to several different locations and will stay in contact with each other as well as key national partners so that the team can follow the epidemic and make an informed plan about when and how to return to Liberia once the epidemic has been brought under control.
1 Corinthians 14 tells us that praying with understanding is a good approach. Please pray for the church in Liberia and the surrounding countries with the Ebola Virus Outbreak. Do pray for all these brethren and do so with explicit trust in Him who loves and gave Himself for us.