Let’s Talk Ebola



Let’s talk Ebola for a moment.

I, like many of you, have been praying for those afflicted by Ebola. Not just Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol, the two Americans who were afflicted with the virus while ministering health to those suffering in West Africa, but for all the people infected by this deadly virus.

I wrote a book a while back titled Where’s Your Jesus Now? The title is a mocking one, posed to a grandmother held hostage at gunpoint as her grandchildren were kidnapped.

It’s important to know the answer to that question, because, as my friend Kim so eloquently says, you can’t ride two horses at once.

Jesus is either Lord in every one of our moments or he isn’t Lord at all.

Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol have answered the question with their very lives.

Brantly is 33 and a father of two. He was serving with Samaritan’s Purse ministry treating those with Ebola when he fell ill. When offered a potentially life-saving serum, he insisted that the serum be given to the ailing aid worker Nancy Writebol instead.

Brantly has been transported out of Africa to Emory Hospital in Atlanta. Writebol is due to be transported this week. I am proud of Emory’s staff for stepping up to minister to these two servants of God and man.

But I have also been dismayed by the reaction of  some who were outraged that the CDC and Emory would bring these two stateside.

One very prominent author I know, someone who wrote an absolutely lovely book that was made into one of my favorite movies, took to her news feed to condemn the US government for allowing those infected inside the US.  News anchors and talking heads have challenged the decision, deriding the president for putting US Citizens at risk.

I have sat back and watched this frenzy of fear with studied interest. It reminds me ever so much of the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s.

I thought we had gotten over our ignorant ways but apparently ignorance has a way of tracking us down and infecting us wherever we are, whomever we are.

Dr. Brantly isn’t old enough to remember the frenzy over the AIDS epidemic. He may have studied it in books, but I lived through that era. I remember the senseless panic of that era, despite reassurances from the CDC that one had to exchange body fluids in order to become infected with AIDS.

Body fluids is the way the Ebola virus is transmitted as well.

I remember the AIDS panic so well because I had a young friend who was diagnosed with AIDS during that time. He was 25. I had known and loved him most his life. I can recall to this day the conversations among loved ones about their fears. Could they have him over for dinner? Should he be allowed to be around the small children in the family? Who would care for him? Would casual contact cause everyone else to fall ill to AIDS?

I remember with aching heart the way young Ryan White was shunned when he came down with AIDS due to a blood transfusion. Ryan was just a boy who suffered from Hemophilia. Until he became a young boy who suffered from AIDS, as a result of his blood disease. Ryan was expelled from middle school because the other parents were outraged to have an child infected with AIDS attending school alongside their children.

It was not a shining moment in our nation’s history.

It is never a shining moment for any of us when fear overtakes us. 

Yes, it is natural to be afraid of the unknown. That’s understandable. But here’s the thing – life itself is an unknown. It is only death that we can know with certainty. 

Thankfully, in the case of AIDS, as we learned better, we behaved better. We learned to care for the ailing without fear or trepidation. We learned to come alongside our loved ones and those we didn’t even know and treat them with compassion. To lay hands on them and minister to them, as Scriptures instruct.

The gift of aging is the wisdom of experience. But with that gift comes an intolerance for the shamelessly selfish and willfully ignorant among us.

People living in Kokomo and Nashville and San Francisco do not need to worry that treating Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol at Emory Hospital in Atlanta is going to put them at risk. They are at a higher risk of being killed in a car accident than of dying from Ebola. That’s true for people in Atlanta as well and if you have ever driven in Atlanta you will recognize the truth of that statement.

I am a journalist. I understand the hype that goes on behind the talking head shows. I know many media outlets play to the fears of the people. Reporters are trained, and arguably with good reason sometimes, to ask the What if questions.

It’s not the asking of the question that is the problem. It’s dwelling on the question, and the indwelling of fear that seems to be the MO for too many Americans as a result.

When it comes to Ebola we would all do well to follow Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol’s example.

Get our eyes off ourselves.

Trust Jesus in our every moment.

And minister the love of Christ to everyone.

Not just the healthy, sanitized and non-contagious among us.

The directive Jesus left was pretty clear: Go into all the world and heal the sick.

Scripture does not say: Heal those who are not contagious.

It says: Heal the sick. 

The thing that ought to really frighten us isn’t how we will die, but how we will live and whom we will serve in the meantime. 

There is some indication that Dr. Brantly may be showing signs of improvement. Let’s continue to pray for Dr. Brantly and his family, for Nancy Writebol and her family, and for all those affected by this deadly virus and for those treating them, including the merciful staff at Emory.

Pray isn’t the least you can do. It is the most you can do.

Karen Spears Zacharias is author of Where’s Your Jesus Now? Examining how fear erodes our faith. (Zondervan). 












Karen Spears Zacharias

Author/Journalist/Educator. Gold Star Daughter.



about 7 years ago

Thank you for writing this. I have been watching the same reactions and have not been proud of my own countrymen. I will continue praying for all those sick not just here but also in Africa.



about 7 years ago

And also let us pray for those whose names and lives we will never know, those for whom no aircraft arrives and for whom no university hospital awaits. They have fathers and mothers and siblings and children. They are fathers and mothers and siblings and children. Before putting in 15 years in special ed in the classroom, my wife did physical therapy in hospitals and skilled nursing facilities. She occasionally treated people who were dying of AIDS, very often with a devoted partner who would not leave their bedside except to go the restroom. Where some pronounced biblical abomination, my wife and those who knew them saw something even more biblical: the embodiment of steadfast love. Let us pray...



about 7 years ago

This applies to everything across the board including immigration. I am appalled at the church in American and the incredible lack of compassion and care. I too worked in healthcare at the height ofthe AIDS crisis-and watched my funny wonderful cousin die of AIDS as well. I learned back in the 1990s that love and compassion and true servanthood aren't owned by the Christian community and quite often they give it up altogether. I fear for the Christian church in the US and yet I see people everyday in my community walking the journey in sacrifice and love.


Karen M. Peluso

about 7 years ago

Karen, as always yours is a quiet voice of reason and compassion thai I hope will drown out the loud insanity and fear of the ignorant. Thank you for writing this. It is so helpful.



about 7 years ago

Pardon me but you received your medical degree where? And hazmat suits are used to accompany AIDS patients when? The fact is these precious workers were taking precautionary measures (masks, gloves, etc.) and still contracted this deadly virus. I'm confident they were not sleeping with their patients, exchanging bodily fluids. The fact is it still unknown how many many ways this virus is transmitted. Many studies show the virus is aerosolized and this complicates matters tremendously. Virus being carried on microscopic particulates... sneezes. See the Canadian government studies. Of all people who should be wary of buying into the mainstream media and its assurances, Christians should know better.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 7 years ago

Kristina: Not to make light of the dangers of Ebola or a host of others viruses, but you have a higher chance of dying from a car accident than Ebola. Your fears are unfounded at this point. And I bet if people could have gotten their hands on a Hazmat suit during the AIDS paranoia they would have. The fears were rampant.



about 7 years ago

I agree that panic isn't the answer, however common sense is. The fact remains that AIDS and Ebola are not an "apples to apples" comparison. Ebola is much more contagious, is transmitted in more ways, and the virus itself is much more hardy outside the body than the AIDS virus is. The protocols for dealing with Ebola are much more stringent. If you are infected you have, at best, a 50/50 chance of surviving...at worst, a 10% chance, and it happens much more quickly. We know a lot more about Ebola than we did about AIDS in the 1980s, so brushing off concerns over it really isn't wise, but neither is mass hysteria.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 7 years ago

Exactly. Like with any infectious disease, caution needs to be exercised. And especially when dealing with an unknown. But remember the hysteria around SARS? I was in Hanoi when the outbreak occurred, staying at the same hotel as the French doctors treating the infected. It seems we have this sort of hysteria about every six months over one contagion or the other. I am not calling for people to be careless or dismissive. It's a deadly virus after all. I just don't want to feed the frenzy that is fear.


Suzanne Deal-Fitzgerald

about 7 years ago

They are heroes, each and every one. The people who transported them and the scientists who will tend to them are heroes, each and every one. They have all trained for this, and these are their jobs, and they all are ready for this. We are safe, because of it.



about 7 years ago

Thank you so much for saying this. I'm so grateful for the challenge and the reminder.


Karen Spears Zacharias

about 7 years ago

Thank you, Misha, for taking the time to read it and think about it.


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