Give Thanks! — Emory University Hospital

This team of nurses at Emory (pictured with Matt Lauer) were an incredible group of servants. 

This team of nurses at Emory (pictured with Matt Lauer) were an incredible group of servants. 

Three months ago today my mom quietly walked out of Emory University Hospital. As I sat on a hotel room floor and watched the news anchor give commentary on my mom being wheeled into the special isolation unit I was very unsure if she would walk out of that hospital. Two weeks later she left, virus free, on a strong road to recovery, and rejoicing at God’s grace in her life.

We are often asked what the specific treatment was that saved her life. Was it the special Zmapp “serum”? Was it a transfusion or other technique that made her well? Was it her faith? Certainly, we know that the ultimate source of her healing was the Lord. But God uses means to accomplish his ends. He uses people. He uses medical treatments. He uses what he has created for his glory and our good.

One of the means that God used to save my mom was the team of doctors, nurses, and staff at Emory University Hospital. Not only were they working overtime in a serious and very unique situation with two patients, but they were also working with two families through our concerns, fears, and struggle. Every single doctor, nurse, and staff member was incredibly helpful to our family. As we walked through the struggle of this disease and mom’s fight in it they became a support team for us in all our emotional highs and lows.

Earlier this week Time Magazine ran an article on “America’s Top Ebola Doctor”, Dr. Bruce Ribner. My first encounter with Dr. Ribner was him walking into our waiting room on the first day mom was there to explain what was going on with mom. I had seen him on television earlier in the week explaining to the press why Emory was ready to receive and care for Ebola patients. I was impressed with him already. As he walked into our waiting room I told him how thankful I was that they would take my mom and care of her. He gave me an incredulous look and said, “Of course, I’m a doctor! That’s what we do.”

As he continued explaining what was going on with my mom and the care they were giving her he stopped to ask why my vocation was. I mentioned to him that I was a pastor. He smiled and said, “Good! You do what you do well [pray] and will do what I do well [doctor].” I agreed to the arrangement and even though I knew I couldn’t do what he was doing, I was pretty sure he was doing a little of what I do too.

The Emory doctors talking with NBC. 

The Emory doctors talking with NBC. 

Dr. Ribner is in no way the exception to this group. Every other member of the team, including the security officers, treated us in the same way. When we would go and see mom they helped us, encouraged us, even stopped everything we were doing as we prayed with mom. They prayed with us. Nurses checked in on us. The public relations team at the hospital made sure help us navigate some media requests. I’ve rarely seen an entire team, in a unique and high profile situation, respond as well and graciously as this team did.

Three months to the day after my mom walked out of Emory, I am giving thanks to God for putting in place not just a hospital, but a team of people for just this time. If God calls my daughter or son to pursue a career in serving others in the medical field, the first place I will encourage them to go is Emory. 

Images provided courtesy of Lexi Rudolph. 

How Christians Should Respond to Ebola in the United States

Probably since March this last year Ebola has been a topic of conversation in my family. Never did I expect or think that my mom would contract the disease, be airlifted to Emory University Hospital or undergo the ordeal she did. We are exceedingly thankful for God’s mercy and kindness towards us in all the ways he provided to secure mom’s recovery and health. In recent days we’ve heard and seen more news of other American contracting the virus and even here in the United States. Unfortunately there is a high degree of panic about this virus, even among Christians. But this isn’t the way it should be, especially for those of us who follow and trust Christ. For Christian’s this “panic” about Ebola isn’t warranted. Let me explain:

Christ is Sovereign Over Viruses

Let’s start with thelogically understanding who our God is. He is the ruler over all things. As Paul states it, “things visible and invisible” (Colossians 1:16). Our theology must start with Christ and with Christ as King over all, including microscopic biology and viruses. Jesus is king over Ebola. This epidemic and global outbreak does not take him by surprise or warrent fear or trembling from the Godhead. Christ is king over Ebola. Additionally this does not mean that God is some evil, malificent diety. Ebola is a product of the fall. It is a product of a broken and sin-filled world. Christ is still king over it, and he will bring justice and righteousness.

Christ Does All Things for Our Good and His Glory

This was the reality that anchored me during the entire ordeal of my mom’s illness, dad’s quarantine, and the uncertainty of the entire situation. I hear much fear from Christians who are afraid that they will get it themselves. I didn’t want my mom to get it, and yet it happened. Why? Romans 8:28 reminds us that, “For those who love God all things work togehter for good.” Mom contracting this illness, as difficult as it was, was for her ultimate good and for God’s ultimate glory. Some might say that God will never give your more than you can handle. That’s not accurate. God will never give you more than He can handle, and he will supply everything you need to stand and endure the trials he gives you to walk through (Romans 8:32). Suffering is an essential part of the Chrisian life, and how we walk with Christ in that suffering shows our faith and trust in him. As dad and I spoke over the phone when mom was sick in Liberia, “God has chosen to give us this trial, and by his grace we will come through it well.” The point I’m trying to make is that, as a Christian, you will only recieve from God’s hand what is for your ultimate good and for his great glory.

Faith Does Not Preclude Us From Understanding

Christianity isn’t an irrational, unscientific, blind following. Faith always seeks understanding. This means it is important to be well educated about the scientific and medical means by which Ebola is transmitted. As I talked with an EMT friend here in my city a few weeks ago, it would be wise for him (and us as well) to understand how Ebola is transmitted (contact with an infected, symptomatic person’s bodily fuilds). It’s important to understand how you can and cannot get Ebola. Drop the conspiracy theories, government bashing, and the irrational goofiness of zombie films. It’s wise to study the science of how the virus, how it spreads, and what you can do to be proteted from contracting it. Trust Christ and understand the world that he has made well.

Compassion Must Preceed Fear

Ebola is a horrific disease. It strips people of their humanity and dignity as persons. It kills. And yet people, humans, made in the image of God are dying of this virus all over the world. The poorest of the poor are without help and hope in Western Africa. Ebola isn’t a nameless, faceless disease. It infects real people. People that are loved and cared for. As Christians we should be known for our compassion, gentleness and love first and foremost. We should be like firefighters who run into danger to save people. The world needs our love, even if it costs us much. They need to hear and see us put our faith into action and say, even if I contract this disease and die, I will love and serve. This is how Christ served. He came into our sin-filled lives, made contact with us, and provided the remedy and cure for our sin, even though he died an even more horrific death than Ebola gives. This gospel message motivates and shows us how we might love and serve others in Christ’s name.

Christians, lets us care for and have compassion for those who are suffering. Let’s not raise panic or live fearful lives from something we cannot control. Let us look to Christ, understand this world, and roll up our sleeves to love and serve the suffering and sick. 

Why Ebola Isn’t A Matter To Joke About

This afternoon  I watched Twitter explode again as news broke of an infected person being cared for in Dallas. Some of the responses were misguided and unfortunate panic. Some were to mock and joke about the terrible disease. Both responses are hard for me to hear, not necessarily because my mom had Ebola, but because of what is still happening in Western Africa to people in communities that are facing this terrible disease. The reality of it and the horror is overwhelming. I write this not to shame anyone, but to ask us to speak carefully about the plight of our fellow human beings who are suffering and to not make comedy the terrible things of this world. I want to call us to prayer and action to fight Ebola and to care for suffering people. Let the facts below help bring some sober judgement and resolute action as to how to deal with Ebola in the US and the world.

UNICEF reported this about the plight of children in Western Africa yesterday:

At least 3,700 children in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have lost one or both parents to Ebola since the start of the outbreak in West Africa, according to preliminary UNICEF estimates, and many are being rejected by their surviving relatives for fear of infection.

“Thousands of children are living through the deaths of their mother, father or family members from Ebola,” said Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF Regional Director for West & Central Africa, who just returned from a two-week visit to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. “These children urgently need special attention and support; yet many of them feel unwanted and even abandoned. Orphans are usually taken in by a member of the extended family, but in some communities, the fear surrounding Ebola is becoming stronger than family ties.”

And this video from Liberia is haunting and horrific. 

SIM, my parents mission agency, has begun a week-long call to pray for the end of Ebola. Visit their site here: http://praytoendebola.org