Ebola, "Should we be afraid?" Many are fearful judging by all the reaction. As I try to work through this issue, I reassure myself with some thoughts. Ebola is real. And, fear of this tragic disease is equally as real. Every day the threat appears to grow worse. What can we do?
Consider Some Facts:
Comparatively, statistically, & currently, this disease affects very few. According to the CDC, cancer and heart disease kill more than 1,000,000 Americans every year. The flu and pneumonia kill over 50,000 people as well every year in the United States. Ebola deaths so far in the USA; 1 . . . Chances are statistically far greater that I will contract Hepatitis C or TB rather than Ebola. Chances of dying of a lower respiratory infection in the United States are about 1 in 29. Chances of dying of Ebola in the US so far is 1 in 316,000,000.
In Africa, 2.2 million people die every year from diarrhea. When it comes to infections, over 4 million die every year in Africa from lower respiratory infections alone. A $5 vaccine could save most of these lives. In comparison, 4,000 deaths occurred from Ebola so far in Africa. This is not to minimize by any means the severity of Ebola for those affected.
At this point, evidence shows Ebola is a somewhat difficult disease to catch. Ebola is transmitted through direct contact with someone infected. And, even at that, the contact needed to contract Ebola is tactile; direct contact with bodily fluids. I just flew on a flight the same week the infected nurse flew Frontiers Airlines. Am I worried of contracting Ebola? Maybe I sat next to an infected person on my flight? But, no, I am not worried. Chances are far greater of dying by falling down than Ebola.
Let's Think it Through a Bit:
Shutting the Door on the Rest of the World is, I Don't Think the Answer. Yes, it may make us feel safer. Yes, restricting travel perhaps offers some assistance in slowing the spread of Ebola; for now. However, it is impossible to control all travel. There are simply too many people in this world to keep track of their travel plans and habits. Yes, people carry diseases as they travel, but travel they will.
The Black Plague in Europe during the Middle Ages was arguably carried by sailors on merchant ships returning from the Middle East or Crimean regions. Finding a cure for Ebola is the only sure way to stop it, thereby protecting the world from its horrible consequences.
Will Hiding Help Us? Like the little girl playing hide-n-seek with hands placed over her eyes, simply closing our eyes hoping Ebola refuses us will not work. Sitting with a group of friends in Northern Minnesota a few weeks ago a friend said, "At least we are safe way up here." Just then, a person sitting at another table mentioned to her friend that she had just returned from Africa.
Helping West Africa Deal with Ebola is Our Responsibility! With our interconnected world, like it or not, Africa's Ebola problem is our problem too. Criticisms leveled against American health workers and agencies seeking to assist West Africans and others are nearsighted and self-defeating. Ebola is fact. It is here, and we must deal with Ebola or it will deal with us. Traveling to the front lines of infected areas is essential if we are to win this war. And, for me, here is the question, "If we don't deal with Ebola, who will?" No nation on the face of the planet is better equipped to tackle the Ebola issue. Like it or not, we are the hope of the Ebola world.
In the midst of America's Great Depression, millions unemployed citizens lived homeless. Newly elected president Franklin Roosevelt expounded, "The only thing we have to fear . . .is fear itself -- nameless, unreasoning, unjustified, terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." If we are going to be safe from Ebola, it will take the courage first to defeat Ebola. Let us all be up to the challenge.
Just My Thoughts
During our many years in South Africa, many orphan children suffering from HIV-AIDS came to our feeding centers. They were young children, just babies actually, and they contracted HIV-AIDS through horrible circumstances too painful to even mention here. We lost many many of those young children to AIDS. The numbers were in the hundreds. I asked God, "WHY? Why God does this take place under Your watchful presence?"
One of my reasons for returning to the United States, was to escape this plaguing "WHY" question settling into a more insular life away from such heart wrenching experiences. However, this past week while serving on the Fire Ground, another little one passed away in the flames of a horrible fire. Once again, I found myself faced with the daunting, troubling, and at times maddening question, "God, WHY?"
Unfortunately, it is not the first death of a child in my chaplaincy here in Northern Minnesota where I live. Nor, has such tragedies confined themselves to those outside my family as we still struggle with the loss of a little one not more than two years ago. Such pain is not confined just to Africa I've discovered. And, the question continues to surface, "Why God, oh why, does this happen? Why God, do you allow this?" Here is where that question brings me as I ponder along.
What if upon arriving in heaven, one's first glimpse is that of landscaped gardens filled with rolling fields bursting with beautiful, colorful, richly scented, healthy flowers as far as the eye can see? And, stepping forward in that first moment, what if heaven is a place where within the pedals of each flower is the face of a child who passed from this life too soon, too early, and too tragically? And, what if each flower is actually a child? And, that child is a child in fields of children appearing as we knew them only perfect and healthy in every way. And, what if heaven is a place filled with such children just being children who forever laugh, coo, smile, and play?
What if heaven is a place where every parent, every grandparent, every sister, every brother, and every friend remembers not the losses of this life, but rather our beautiful wonderful children gained in the next?
What if, heaven is such a place filled with children? Then truly, every tear will be wiped away, and every painful memory forgotten.
The other day while called to duty as a Fire/EMS chaplain I served as part of a wonderful team of people who together experienced the fire death of a small child. When it comes to such things I am prone to ask this question, "Why?"
"Why," is one of the questions as a person, a pastor, a chaplain that often I can not answer. However, as I look back over this past Sunday I can find some really heroic stuff that took place in the midst of that tragedy:
I can not answer the question "Why?" But, I can however point to a Community in the midst of pain, suffering, and tragedy, and say with a full heart of gratitude, honor, and grief,
"Well, now how about that?"
Don was born in North Minneapolis, Minnesota. Having served twenty-two years in South Africa as missionaries with his wife Kathy, and eight years pastoring in the United States, he shares unique perspectives about life, family, relationships, and ministry.