Recently, I had the chance to watch the gripping documentary, “Facing Darkness” about the 2014 Ebola outbreak that ravaged the African nation of Liberia (Click here for the trailer). The movie told the life-and-death survivor struggle of Dr. Kent Brantley, who was serving in Liberia with Samaritan’s Purse as a medical missionary during the epidemic. Dr. Brantley became the first American diagnosed with Ebola in late July 2014.
The 104.9-degree fever caused him to lapse into delirium and nausea. He could not keep down any fluids or food and the uncontrollable diarrhea further weakened his condition. The body aches were nearly unbearable. Because of the isolation that Ebola patients experience as they are quarantined, Brantley said, “Ebola is a humiliating disease that strips you of all your dignity.”[i]
Brantley moved closer to death, when finally, someone suggested that they try giving the doctor a plasma transfusion from an Ebola survivor. In the days before his infection, Brantley had been treating a 14-year-old boy with Ebola, who baffled the doctors and miraculously survived the virus. One of the doctors had the foresight to take a unit of the African boy’s blood with them back to the States.[ii] Doctors in Liberia were able to stabilize Brantley long enough for him to be transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, GA via specialized air ambulance.
Amazingly, the plasma donation worked for Dr. Brantley and many have thought it was no accident that the boy who donated the blood was type AB—the universal donor for plasma. Brantley made a full recovery and was discharged from the hospital with a clean bill of health on Aug. 21, 2014. Since his recovery Brantley, donated the plasma in his blood to three more patients in America who contracted the virus. All three survived.[iii]
Towards the end of the film Brantley said something that gave me chills, “People often ask me did your faith save you? I tell them ‘No,’ because faith doesn’t make you safe. My faith was the reason I was in Africa. It was my faith that put me on the front lines. It was faith that put me in the Ebola Treatment Unit.”
I think Dr. Brantley is absolutely right. It’s our faith that takes us to the front lines, and into the storms. It’s our faith that takes us to places where must rely only on God to get us through. Following Christ is not safe, just look at the people of the Bible. Noah followed God and got caught in a Flood. Abraham followed God and nearly sacrificed his son. Joseph followed God and ended up being thrown into a pit and left for dead. Daniel was nearly eaten in a den of lions. Each of the Apostles gave their lives as martyrs precisely because of their faith.
At the end of Hebrews 11, the great Hall of Faith, we read this, “35 Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.”
Follow Jesus and you may risk your life. Don’t follow Jesus and you will waste your life (Mark 8:36). The cost of following Christ by faith is great. The cost of not following Christ is greater. Faith does not make things easier necessarily, but it does make all things possible. -DM
[i] Dr. Kent Brantly, “This Is What It Feels Like to Survive Ebola,” Time, 5 September 2014 <http://time.com/ 3270016/ebola-survivor-kent-brantly/>
[ii] Sydney Lupkin, “Why Blood Transfusions From Ebola Survivor Dr. Kent Brantley Could Help Patients,” ABC News 14 October 2014 <http://abcnews.go.com/Health/blood-transfusions-ebola-survivor-dr-kent-brantly-patients/story?id=26182136>
[iii] “A Miraculous Day,” Samaritan’s Purse, 21 August 2014 <http://www.samaritanspurse.org/article/samaritans-purse-doctor-recovered-from-ebola/>