One of my travels brought me to a small baptist church in Greer, South Carolina. The connection to the church was random in and of itself, since it began when I received an e-mail from a complete stranger not long after getting back on US soil. The e-mail introduced me to this wonderful couple to wanted to join my Togo support team! Not only was this a complete shock and blessing straight from the Lord Himself, but the couple continued to seek ways to be involved in the Togo ministry. This resulted in "Togo Tuesdays"--a time when folks from Victor Baptist, ages 8-80, get together to crochet hats and toys for our infants and children in Togo! I can't express what a blessing it was to get to go personally visit this church and meet all the people involved in crocheting and praying for Togo!
Experiences like this one are always humbling as I watch a practical way that the church functions as the hands and feet of Jesus himself. And although, making baby hats and toy animals may seem small to some, it's not easy. And I don't mean that it's not "technically easy" (although learning to crochet can be difficult as I found out in Switzerland while my 90 year-old instructor frequently shook her finger at me while saying things I didn't understand!). What I mean by not easy is that each of these folks is taking time out of their lives, using skills they possess, to do something for someone they have never met; a baby they will never hold; a child they will never speak to.
I'm not going to answer that, for I think everyone probably has their own answer and I can't pretend to know them all! But although this might seem like quite the stretch.....it makes me think of Ebola.
EBOLA?! Yes, Ebola.
As you may, or may not realize, their is a large Ebola virus endemic going on in Africa. Chances are that the first you heard of it was when a US physician, Kent Brantley, who was serving in Liberia under Samaritan's Purse, contracted this deadly virus while trying to care for people suffering from the same. Praise God that he is now well and home with his family. In fact, he is speaking before congress today to give a first hand account to what is happening in West Africa and what is needed to help with this epidemic.
The quick summary of Ebola is that it is a virus that has no cure. It is transmitted through body fluids like sweat, blood, vomit, diarrhea, and saliva. The current strain of Ebola in West Africa has a death rate of about 60% and there simply aren't enough medical staff nor medical centers to keep up with the exponential growth of the disease. There are several reasons that Ebola has not been contained up to this point which include: misconceptions to how it is spread, beliefs that Ebola isn't even real, people afraid to seek treatment, cultural practices such as burial rites (washing of a dead body that, in this case, results in continued spread of the virus from the deceased to family members), lack of trained medical volunteers, and a lack of clinics able to handle this level of outbreak (just to name a few). So far, this current outbreak has reached 5 countries (Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Guinea, Nigeria), more than 4,000 people with estimates of a continuing growth to over 20,000 people without any end in site. This isn't meant to scare anyone, it's just reality.
But what does this have to do with hats?!
Since Togo is in the West Africa region that has been ravaged by this virus, our team is having to come up with "what if" plans. I frequently get asked from folks here in the US if I will stay home and "wait it out." I will admit that this question always surprises me a little bit. Wait it out?
I think one reason that Victor Baptist crochets for Togo is because we have a need, and they can fill it! If Ebola reaches Togo, their need will be even greater than ever, and I can help fill it. Why wouldn't I go? How could I watch my friends and people I consider family suffer through a fearful endemic that I have a skill to help fight? Togo is one of my homes. Who doesn't go home during a time of need?
I understand the fear of Ebola. I understand fear, period. But the Bible says in 1 John 4:
Over my 2 years in Togo, I developed a love for the Togolese. How could I say "I love you, but I won't risk my life to serve you?" Isn't our life just a vapor? James 4: 14 says:
I think the Lord invites us to spend our lives serving. God surely isn't inviting us all to go serve in Africa treating Ebola! And I pray that Ebola never comes to Togo! But I am ready.
So whether you make hats, treat the sick, raise your children, or invest people's money.....
Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms.
1 Peter 4: 10