The last few days my allergies have been wreaking havoc on my sinuses. This morning I visited my favorite health provider to get the magical shot that makes all these issues go away. As I sat in the examining room waiting for the Doc I noticed the paper on the examination table was wrinkled. The thought went through my mind that maybe that paper hadn’t been changed after the last examination. I confess that I am just a little OCD but things have changed so much in our world that most people are noticing things they ignored in the past. I have been asked by a few people to share my thoughts on Ebola. I pastor health care providers and have heard them speak of long phone calls and meetings setting up plans to deal with Ebola in case it comes to Central Mississippi.
I am going to share a few thoughts on Ebola from a pastor’s viewpoint. These thoughts will be brief as I do not have the knowledge to elaborate much on this issue.
1. I have no confidence in the Centers for Disease Control but I do not see them as an enemy or part of some big conspiracy. The CDC has made too many contradictory statements to be blindly trusted. Their director, Thomas R. Frieden, gave America the assurance that U. S. hospitals were ready to deal with Ebola. Then our first case of Ebola arrived. Eric Duncan visited one of our hospitals saying he recently came to America from Liberia and even though his symptoms were consistent with Ebola the severity of his condition was not grasped by hospital personnel. Secondly, the hospital failed to keep its own personnel safe. Two nurses who treated Mr. Duncan were infected. Nurses at this hospital have stated they were not given special attire to deal with Ebola and had to improvise precautions for themselves.
If this were not enough, Amber Vinson, a second nurse who had treated Mr. Duncan, came down with the virus as well. Somehow she was allowed to fly on a commercial airliner from Cleveland to Dallas on the say-so of CDC officials in Texas.(1) Do not confuse my words, the health care providers are heroes in America. The issue is the CDC has failed them. Consider the words of Dr. Frieden before and after dealing with our first case of Ebola:
Frieden then: “We will stop it in its tracks, because we’ve got infection control in hospitals and public health that tracks and isolates people if they get symptoms.”
Frieden now: “Stopping Ebola is hard.” . . . “We have to rethink the way we address Ebola infection control.”(2)
Not the stuff confidence is made of.
2. Dr. Kent Brantly is a hero. Dr. Brantly is a member of Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Brantly moved to the West African nation of Liberia, where he served as medical director for the Ebola Care Center. He contracted Ebola while serving in this position and working with Ebola patients. Before he returned to America for treatment he received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s treatment. There can be no way of knowing how many lives will be saved because of Dr. Brantly but now his patients in Liberia who are better are sharing their blood with new patients as a form of treatment. Recently Dr. Brantly, who is now well, donated a unit of blood to Nina Pham, one of two nurses who contracted Ebola while treating Eric Duncan. Some, like Ann Coulter, have been critical of Dr. Brantly for going to Liberia in the face of Ebola. Some argue missionaries should avoid places populated heavily with Ebola cases because of the risks. I believe in an American exceptionalism but as God’s children we are to share the love of God with the world and minister to the hurting. We cannot remain in America simply because the world is dangerous. Hell is eternal and that is enough to make us missionaries. The New Testament is clear enough on this.
3. Hiding the facts is not showing leadership. The last thing we need is to panic over Ebola. However, it appears our leadership in America is willing to hide the facts from us. At best they do this to avoid a panic and at worst they do this for political gain. Here are a couple of statements by President Obama:
“What we’re seeing is that the public health infrastructure and systems that we are now putting in place across the board around the country should give the American people confidence that we’re going to be in a position to deal with any additional cases of Ebola that might crop up without it turning into an outbreak.”
Again President Obama, “And I want to emphasize again: This is a very hard disease to get.”
The World Health Organization estimates there could be as many as 10,000 new cases of Ebola a week in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone by the end of this year.(3) If this figure is anywhere close to accurate then you are speaking of hundreds of thousands of new cases of Ebola being diagnosed next year around the globe. With the number of people coming in and out of America daily both legally and illegally it is naive to believe that some infected people will not find their way to America. When we come to I Samuel 17 we are introduced to the Philistine Giant named Goliath. It would be foolish for the king of Israel to declare the giant will not be much of a threat and act as if he is not a big deal. Saul saw the giant as a real problem and David saw God as the solution to that problem. True leadership tells the truth about giants, not acts as if they are butterflies.
4. God is still bigger than any giant today. This does not mean that Ebola won’t kill thousands maybe even hundreds of thousands even in America. What it does mean is that God’s children are not to worry about such things. When you worry about something as a Christian you are saying that thing is bigger than God. My favorite verse in the book of Job is Job 13:15, “Though he slay me yet will I trust in Him.” We are people of peace. God’s peace was sweet to Job even as he lost everything. Ebola is no match for our God.
5. There will be a day when the earth is wrecked by disease. Read Revelation 6:7, 8, ”
7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
During the tribulation period there will come war, famine and pestilence. According to these verses 1/4 of the world’s population will be wiped out by these three killers. Consider for a moment the killer of disease. The advanced nations of the world have stockpiled bacteria to use as biological weapons of war. Disease and pestilence most surely will be used in biological weapons of war in the tribulation period. One of my favorite commentary writers, John Phillips, says the most destructive creature to human life has not been the lion or the bear but the rat. If 95% of the population of rats were destroyed in any given area they would repopulate that area completely in 1 year. They carry up to 35 known diseases and in the 14th century their fleas carrying the bubonic plague wiped out 1/3 of the population of Europe. During the war and famine of the tribulation period pestilence will strike the world. The nations working hard to control Ebola right now may indeed use it during times of war in the tribulation period. However, the truth of Revelation does not stop at chapter 6 with war, famine and pestilence. It carries right on to chapter 19 where Jesus returns to rule as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. By the way, I didn’t change the paper on the examination table.