Keeping the Light Shining

ELWA medical team praying EisenhutThe deadly Ebola outbreak in Liberia is unprecedented. It has claimed the lives of more than 3,300 victims since its arrival in March 2014, overwhelming the fragile health system, and bringing this already war-torn nation to its knees. The economic and psychological effect  is as immeasurable as the people’s grief.

     But ELWA Hospital is an incredible place, well known in Liberia as an organization people look to for help. People are watching its response to Ebola. God is at work at ELWA through health care, through the local churches and through the radio ministry. These services are making an indelible impact on the country, despite losing their own staff and church members to Ebola.

Before the outbreak, the ELWA campus was a very active venue, not just for medical care but for church meetings, regular youth conferences, soccer games. The nearby beach, one of the nicest in the country, attracted hundreds of people each weekend. All of this has changed.
Though people no longer come for recreation, ELWA is still extraordinary, home to the world’s largest Ebola treatment units, ELWA-2 and ELWA-3. For many weeks these two units represented half of the total Ebola treatment beds available in Liberia.
Under medical director Dr Jerry Brown’s leadership, ELWA-2 has discharged many Ebola survivors. Patients receive excellent care there. Their spiritual well-being is also addressed as prayers are offered for each individual in the unit, and those who are recovering encourage others with Scripture reading. Each day radio ELWA broadcasts an hour-long programme for those in all the Ebola treatment units throughout the capital, Monrovia. Dr. Brown’s team is instilling hope in patients and their families. And there”s good reason: despite the disease still surging in Sierra Leone and Guinea, in Liberia more and more people are surviving Ebola. The rapid increase in cases that we saw from July to December is starting to abate. Community education is having a significant effect on the epidemic. Because radio ELWA has one of only a few shortwave transmitters in the country, we are able to reach those who live in remote places in the interior of the country, communicating the facts about Ebola, its prevention and treatment in a number of indigenous languages.

ELWA Hospital has been a model for delivering general medical care in Liberia.  People are dying not only from Ebola, but also from other common treatable conditions like malaria, typhoid fever, and trauma because so few hospitals are functioning. At ELWA we are delivering babies, performing emergency surgeries, including Caesarean sections, and treating both chronic and acute illnesses. Slowly and safely we are expanding our services. SIM’s Dr Rick Sacra, only months ago evacuated suffering from Ebola, is recovered and returning to support this side of the hospital, just as Dr John Fankhauser returned to ELWA last year in the midst of the outbreak.
SIM had decided Dr Fankhauser needed a break from treating Ebola patients but he says, “It was always my intention to return. The plan was for Dr Sacra, Dr Brown and a courageous medical team to keep things running for six weeks and then I was to go back.” But when Dr Sacra contracted the virus, he asked to return early.
Liberia was ill-prepared for an epidemic of this magnitude because of its recent history of 14 years of war and destruction. So it was no surprise that it quickly became the epicenter of the deadly outbreak. Many health workers died of Ebola while trying to save others. Prior to the Ebola crisis there was just one doctor to 100,000 people in Liberia. It is now evident that this country will be in a fragile condition long after Ebola is gone. Thankfully, the world is now responding to the Ebola threat with people, equipment and funds. But the needs here are still immense. We need health care professionals who can commit not just weeks, but months of service. We need resources and financial support. But most of all, we need your prayers. Please continue to remember the people of West Africa. Pray for an end to this epidemic and for the health care system to be restored. And pray that God will be glorified through the work of the believers at ELWA.

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