by Dan Ruth
As of August 1, 2014, there have been 1,603 reported cases of the Ebola virus in West Africa and 887 people have died. [source]
This outbreak has gained international news coverage as it has spread. Many people are asking what can be done to help prevent this deadly disease from spreading any further, and what we can do to help those affected.
In Martin Luther’s time, people across Europe were also suffering from an outbreak of their own: a second pandemic of the Black Plague. Large portions of the population died. And many Christians asked themselves how — and if — they should respond. To answer that question, in 1517 Luther wrote a letter titled “Whether one may flee from a deadly plague,” demonstrating the importance of caring for our neighbors.
We must and owe it to our neighbor to accord him the same treatment in other troubles and perils also. If his house is on fire, love compels me to run and help him extinguish the flames. If there are enough other people around to put the fire out, I may either go home or remain to help. If he falls into the water or into a pit I dare not turn away but must hurry to help him as best I can. If there are others to do it, I am released. If I see that he is hungry or thirsty, I cannot ignore him but must offer food and drink, not considering whether I would risk impoverishing myself for doing so. (LW 43:119-38)
Although grace (justification by grace through faith) is central to Lutheran theology, loving one’s neighbor is the natural and necessary response to grace. Lutherans around the world continue to live this response.
Here are five ways that Lutherans are responding to the Ebola outbreak:
1. Lutherans are Treating Ebola Patients
Timely treatment is essential to containing the spread of Ebola and helping people who have already been infected. Two Lutheran hospitals in Liberia — Curran and Phebe — are treating patients who have contracted Ebola.
Lutherans around the world support this treatment through partnerships in the Lutheran World Federation and the ACT Alliance.
2. Lutherans in the U.S. are Sending Protection Equipment
Health care workers are at great risk of contracting Ebola from the patients who come into their care. To help ensure their safety — and prevent further spread of Ebola — protection equipment is essential.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America is partnering with the Lutheran Church in Liberia and Global Health Ministries to send five pallets of Personal Protection Equipment to Curran and Phebe hospitals.
3. Lutherans are Training Healthcare Professionals
With Ebola, time is of the essence. Seeking treatment immediately after experiencing the early symptoms greatly increases a person’s chances of recovery.
Lutheran World Relief is partnering with IMA World Health and the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL) to conduct a training on the prevention of Ebola for healthcare workers in Liberia.
Through this training, health care providers were trained as trainers — to ensure that health workers have accurate information to share with their communities about the nature of Ebola, its symptoms and the importance of timely treatment. So far, 25 care providers have been trained. In turn, they will go on to train other staff in their respective health centers.
4. Lutherans are Raising Awareness in Communities
It is also essential for there to be consistent messages about Ebola circulating within communities.
As a part of LWR’s partnership with IMA and CHAL, we are also training community health volunteers. These are members of the community who will also get the word out about Ebola.
By supporting LWR, Lutherans are helping to reach out with information by other means as well, such as posters and flyers with information about Ebola, its symptoms and the importance of treatment.
5. Lutherans are working with religious and community leaders
One thing that is hampering Ebola prevention and treatment efforts is that there is a lot of information about the outbreak and some of it is conflicting.
Lutheran World Relief, in partnership with IMA and CHAL, is also working with local religious and community leaders, training them to reach out into communities to give vital information so people can stay safe. LWR believes working with local partners and leaders is important because they know their own communities and can help get the word out to help families protect themselves and seek out treatment.
UPDATE – August 8, 2014: Lutheran World Relief thanks The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod for helping to expand our efforts to reach more people through training to help combat the spread of Ebola.
Lutheran World Relief works with local partners to provide lasting solutions to poverty.
Our staff and partners in the countries where we work know the local languages, traditions and customs necessary to provide appropriate solutions. And they have access to the knowledge and expertise of their colleagues in other countries around the world.