LCMS OKs new grants to fight Ebola in Africa

By Adriane Heins and Paula Schlueter Ross

LCMS Disaster Response is providing three new grants totaling $51,175 to help people in West Africa fight the Ebola virus.

Hygiene supplies are distributed to villagers in Guinea, with the hope of preventing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The LCMS has approved grants totaling $67,729 to fight the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (Photo: Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea)

Soap and other hygiene supplies are distributed to villagers in Guinea, with the hope of preventing the spread of the deadly Ebola virus. The LCMS has approved grants totaling $67,729 to fight the disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea)

The grants are in addition to two previous Ebola grants totaling $16,554 that were distributed to the Synod’s African partners earlier this year.

All of the LCMS funds will be used to help prevent new cases of the often-fatal virus, which has taken the lives of at least 1,000 people this year — more than half of the 1,848 people infected in four West African countries, according to the World Health Organization.

The new LCMS grants are $25,000 to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia; $20,000 to Baltimore-based Lutheran World Relief (for work in Liberia); and $6,175 to the Eglise Evangelique Lutherienne en Guinee-Conakry (Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea).

Previous Ebola-related grants of $6,554 and $10,000 were sent to the Guinea church body and to Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church — Sierra Leone, respectively, to fight the spread of Ebola.

Ebola cases so far have been documented in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

Liberia’s Bolay gives update

The effects of the deadly Ebola virus are “being suffered and felt in many ways” — including the deaths of two Lutherans who are suspected of having the disease — according to the Rev. Amos Bolay, president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia (ELCL).

The Rev. Amos Bolay, president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia, demonstrates the pre-Communion hand-washing technique used to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia. (Courtesy of Amos Bolay)

The Rev. Amos Bolay, president and bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia, demonstrates the pre-Communion hand-washing technique used to help stop the spread of the Ebola virus in Liberia. (Courtesy of Amos Bolay)

The country is currently under a 90-day state of emergency that began Aug. 6, which has suspended certain rights and privileges noted in Liberia’s constitution with the hope that heightened measures will stop — or at least slow — the virus from spreading.

“Elder Joseph L. Yasseh, former president of the [Lutheran] Church of Guinea, who was now residing in Liberia and serving as a senior elder of Christ Lutheran, an ELCL congregation, died in the provincial district of Foya, Lofa County, Liberia,” Bolay said. “Elder Yasseh became ill, and for fear of Ebola was rejected by health centers in the area and had to die an untimely death. This was the very first death of a Lutheran member.”

Bolay said the death of Alice Solo, a respected member of the Liberian church, also is believed to be the result of Ebola, though it has not been confirmed.

While Bolay remains concerned for the ELCL and its members, he maintains: “Word and sacraments being the very heart of our belief, we cannot stop but [we] continue administering the same to our people.”

However, he urges precautions now as well. When the Lord’s Supper is given, pastors do so “with a consciousness of the prevailing health rules of the country,” he says.

“Hand-washing is being recommended as a major prevention to Ebola. Our congregations have requested the washing of hands with chlorine before administering the sacraments, especially the Lord’s Supper, with the use of individual cups,” Bolay explains. “We have also asked our clergy and congregants to avoid handshakes during worship services.”

Trusting in Jesus Christ, the Great Physician of both body and soul, Bolay urges prayers on behalf of the ELCL and all of the people in the region affected by Ebola.

“We have been comforted by the love and concern shown to us by members and leaders of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod,” he said. “Please continue to keep us in your prayers.”

LWR partnership

Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is working with IMA World Health to support the Christian Health Association of Liberia (CHAL) — an organization of 45 churches, faith-based schools and health facilities. In fact, a CHAL member hospital was the first hospital in Liberia to see an Ebola patient.

LWR and IMA are funding a CHAL project that provides preventive training for health workers as well as religious and community leaders. LWR spokesman Tim McCully said, “With additional funding, CHAL is looking at ways to expand their work and we will be in close contact with them as these additional funds from the LCMS are applied.”

Guinea was first

In Guinea, where the Ebola outbreak was first detected earlier this year, the French-speaking Evangelical Lutheran Church of Guinea is packaging its message of awareness and encouragement for preventing the disease with chlorine, soap and the Word of God.

“The short term [purpose] is to decrease the rate of infection [from] the Ebola virus [among] populations,” note church leaders on the LCMS grant application, and the “long term [purpose] is to allow recipients to feel [the comfort of Christ] and believe in Him for their eternal salvation.”

Combining physical aid with spiritual care is an important part of the Synod’s response to every disaster, notes the Rev. John Fale, associate executive director of LCMS Mercy Operations. And, like those in Guinea, Lutheran church leaders in Liberia and Sierra Leone also are taking that to heart, Fale said.

“That’s a model for why we work with our international partner churches — because they deliver, at the same time, tangible expressions of mercy and relief in the midst of suffering, and words of eternal comfort and care as they proclaim Christ and the forgiveness of sins,” Fale told Reporter.

Workshops in Sierra Leone

Lutherans in Sierra Leone say they hope to reach some 5,000 people in six districts — conducting workshops on how to prevent Ebola, including the distribution of “print materials with simple drawings that will explain about the Ebola disease and give preventive demonstrations.”

Grant monies also will be used to purchase and distribute rice and oil to those living in affected areas.

Lutheran Bible Translators (LBT), based in Aurora, Ill., evacuated two missionary families from Sierra Leone in late July and early August, noting that the “continuing spread of the Ebola virus throughout the region prompted the decision to temporarily withdraw” the families.

“We have been monitoring the situation since the outbreak began in Guinea earlier this year,” said David Snyder, LBT’s director of program ministries. “We closely assessed the progress of the disease and its proximity to our missionaries as it took hold in Sierra Leone. Recent indicators suggested that there was unacceptable risk to our missionary families.”

Watching Ghana

The LCMS has one missionary to Nigeria, who is making support visits in the United States, and none stationed in any of the other three countries reporting Ebola cases. But in Ghana — also in West Africa and home to six Synod missionaries — the Rev. David Erber, area director of West and Central Africa for the LCMS Office of International Mission, is watching the situation carefully.

“I have asked our missionaries to avoid travel away from their stations and maintain a high sense of awareness of the Ebola situation,” Erber said. “If Ebola is introduced into Ghana, it will be difficult to anticipate how the country might respond.”

“We will not,” he stressed, “want our missionaries in undue dangerous situations.”

How to help

Echoing Bolay, Fale asked U.S. Lutherans to “continue to pray for our Lord’s mercy through this critical time in Africa,” and he shared a portion of the “Prayer for the Afflicted and Those Who Are Suffering” from Johann Gerhard’s Meditations on Divine Mercy:

“On behalf of all who are suffering under affliction and hardship, I beg You to uphold them with the consolation of Your grace and to support them with the help of Your might. Clothe with heavenly power and strength those who sweat in the most grievous agony of satanic temptation. Make them partakers of Your victory, O Christ, powerful victor over the devil. May the refreshment of Your heavenly grace encourage those whose bones are dried up by the fire of sorrow. … Be gracious in allowing illness so physical sickness may be a spiritual medicine. … Have mercy on all, You who are the Creator of all. Have mercy on all, You who are the Redeemer of all. To You be praise and glory for all eternity. Amen.”

Added Fale: “May God bless medical professionals and servants of the church who bring words of hope in Christ with their merciful service.”

To contribute online to an LCMS fund for fighting Ebola, click here.

Adriane Heins is executive editor of The Lutheran Witness.

Posted Aug. 12, 2014 / Updated Aug. 21, 2014

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4 Responses to LCMS OKs new grants to fight Ebola in Africa

  1. August 12, 2014 at 7:21 pm #

    On behalf of Hope Community Lutheran Church Syracuse, I was writing to thank you for helping the people of Liberia to fight the Ebola disease. Hope Community Lutheran Church is a Liberian Congregation in Syracuse, NY.

    Again thank you for your financial support and prayers.

    Emmanuel Cholo Nyema
    Hope Community Lutheran Church
    Syracuse, NY

  2. Michael Saylor August 19, 2014 at 8:35 am #

    Thank you for this information, but it would be helpful if further information from Synod on how this money will be used by the ELCL to “help prevent new cases.” Having traveled to Liberia many times, I know that $25,000 is an enormous sum of money for Liberians who would feel fortunate to make even $100/month with full-time work. Given that preventative items such as bleach, masks, gloves, etc would be available almost exclusively from governmental and charitable organizations (any such items on sale at a local store would be long gone by this point), I am not sure how (or even where) that money would be spent. If the ELCL has a plan in place for these funds in order to help our brothers and sisters in Liberia, I would love to hear of it!

    • Samuel Navoh August 22, 2014 at 7:50 am #

      We appreciate Rev. Saylor’ several visits to Liberia on mission that ELCL is little know of. Is Rev. Saylor thinking that ELCL, a partner church to LCMS is not capable of sharing the love of God to her own people because of $25,000? ELCL pastors are sharing the sacraments to the Lutheran congregations that are working with them in Liberia. If he is so concern let him pray for us so that the situation we find ourselves in as a church, people and nation for this deadly virus can be stopped.
      We are not worry about his critical expressions in his comments. Our books are open for any implementation funds granted to us for our people.
      May God bless LCMS and her congregations for their love for the people of Liberia in this difficult time in the country and her sisterly countries.
      Thank God.

      Rev. Samuel Navoh

  3. Amos Bolay August 21, 2014 at 6:46 pm #

    When I consider the poor comments made by Michael Saylor, I can only praise the Lord for the LCMS who did not consider $25,000 to be too enormous to to trust the ELCL with for the dying people of Liberia. I also thank God for Doctor Amber Brantley who gave himself at the cost of his very life for the Ebola victims of Liberia; but is only alive today by the grace off God.

    Pastor Michael Saylor as mentioned by himself, have no doubt made several trips to Liberia. What he did not mention is that he is very opposed to the ELCL Leadership. He has done everything to create division in one of the ELCL church district in South-Eastern, Liberia. I have no doubt that he would rather see the people f Liberia dying, than for the ELCL to be given grant to help save lives, least they be credited. Jesus be with him.

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