Two of them are fighting for their lives in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital. They are, as the world knows, Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writehol, missionaries who contracted the deadly Ebola virus at a hospital in Liberia where victims of the disease were being treated. They are profiles in faith and courage, putting their lives at risk to save others.
Some people are fearful about the possible spread of Ebola by these two missionaries. But they are tightly quarantined, separated from visitors by glass and communicating only via intercom and telephone. Sen. Johnny Isakson is right in supporting the decision to bring these two American citizens back to their homeland for treatment and possibly a breakthrough cure. I believe if the Ebola virus appears in this country, it will be brought back unawares by people traveling from infected areas of West Africa, not by these missionaries.
Instead of raising fears, let’s raise prayers for these missionaries who have devoted their lives to medical mission work among at-risk people.
Kent Brantly earned his undergraduate degree from Abilene Christian University in Texas in 2003 and received his M.D. from Indiana University School of Medicine in 2009. He did his residency in family medicine at John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. “He has such a compassionate heart,” said Jason Brewington, fellow member at Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Brantly’s home congregation.
While in medical school, Brantly worked in inner-city neighborhoods. During his residency in Fort Worth, he went on medical missions to Uganda and Haiti after its terrible earthquake and also served in Tanzania. His mother, Jan Brantly, said, “Kent prepared himself to be a lifetime medical missionary. His heart is in Africa.”
In October of last year, he started a two-year fellowship in Liberia with international aid organization Samaritan’s Purse. Taking with him his wife Amber and children ages 3 and 5, Brantly moved to a suburb of Monrovia and worked as general practitioner at a mission hospital. When Ebola spread to Liberia from neighboring Guinea, Brantly, 33, took on the job of directing the Ebola clinic at the hospital, resulting in his contracting the disease.
Nancy Writebol, 59, and her husband, David, have 14 years of service to orphans and at-risk children in Africa as well as missionary trips to Ecuador. Last October, they went to Liberia with Serving In Mission, working with Samaritan’s Purse. A certified nursing assistant, Nancy Writehol had the job of disinfecting doctors and nurses entering and leaving the Ebola treatment area of the clinic, yet somehow she became infected.
This is not the kind of news these missionaries wanted to make. To the point, John Munro, friend of the Writebols and pastor at Calvary Church in Charlotte, N.C. where they are members, said it seemed ironic Nancy Writebol would become international news, considering she is such an unassuming and humble woman.
But then that’s how genuine heroes are.