First, may I wish you a happy New Year! I trust that the Christmas season has been one of joy for you as we have celebrated Jesus’ birth.
Sadly, I am starting the New Year on a sobering topic – Ebola. Twelve months ago most of you reading this blog would not have heard of ebola, so named from the river in Zaire near where it was first identified in 1976. Then the outbreak was short-lived. Now, the widespread reporting of the current outbreak has put both it and the three nations of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, in all of which there are Newfrontiers churches, into the public’s awareness. So what is happening?
Ebola had just been identified in the forest area of Guinea, near teh Liberian border and 400 miles from the capital, Conakry, when I arrived in Conakry last April. There was a great air of vulnerability and some understandable fear. After I preached on the Sunday we prayed for one member of the church who had even then lost 18 relations. But a very weak public health programme and the cultural norms in Guinea, as in the other two nations (with much physical contact when greeting people, the traditions of conducting funerals etc) combine to make containment of such a disease very difficult to achieve.
Nicolas Thebault made reference to the situation in Guinea in the report I published on November 6th: ‘The hospital treating victims in Conakry will soon have no more room for patients. We are hearing of outbreaks of the virus in parts of the city where some of our members live. Everyone is washing his hands with bleach all the time. As a result there are no more gastro problems! With the closing of the borders the economic situation becomes worse. Businessmen whom we know and who have been here for 30 years say they have never known an economic crisis last as long as this one. A minister from Sierra Leone has compared the current situation with a trade embargo across the region’.
It has not been possible to reopen the church school, Jubilee International School, since September, although it is hoped to do so shortly.
Momoh Sesay, lead elder of Grace Christian Church in Freetown, wrote recently to John Hammond (Bedford) who coordinated the appeal:
‘We are grateful to all those who have contributed to send us help at this difficult time in the history of our beloved nation. You came to our aid at the right time. Thanks be to God who has touched the compassionate hearts of the leadership of Newfrontiers to be a blessing to us.
‘In spite of the stay-home holidays this year every family in our churches had at least enough food. But we regret to announce that we have lost four members of the same family to Ebola. Please continue to pray for us.
‘With the money we received from you, we were able to buy food stuff and Medicare items such as rice, Dettol, soap, cheese balls for children and tokens to some people. We were also able to help a number of poor and underprivileged people in our community and provided relief items for quarantined homes of our members. Hand was also extended to widows and children.
‘We are still appealing for continued support at this time as we would like to bless our members and poor and underprivileged people in and even outside our church community. Please prayer that this menace is taken away from our nation’.
John Hammond, is based in Bedford UK and has been a faithful friend to the Newfrontiers churches in West Africa for many years. For more details of how to give please contact him direct: johnhammond36
Next time I shall report on the situation in Liberia.