The Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa has claimed the
lives of 16 Seventh-day Adventists, a church official announced.
“The people are suffering,” said James Golay, president of
the West Africa Union Mission, speaking from Liberia onto a video screen
projected to hundreds of church leaders gathered on Sabbath, Oct. 11, at the world church’s
headquarters for the 2014 Annual Council.
Golay would have attended the meeting but stayed home in a
show of solidarity with church members.
Global health organizations and church officials are
encouraging people to limit travel to and from West Africa over concerns about
the rapidly spreading infectious disease that has killed more than 4,000
Ebola was the focus of a special prayer during the council’s
Sabbath morning worship led by Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the church’s
“Today we have a special opportunity on behalf of our dear
brothers and sisters in West Africa, to pray that God will intercede and will
halt the terrible epidemic of the Ebola crisis,” Wilson told more than 400
people in the auditorium. “We ask the world church to pray today and not to
Wilson, who earlier in his pastoral career served nine years
in West Africa, said the 33,000 Adventists in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia
are facing “unbelievable difficulty.”
He then turned to the video screen where Golay explained
that church members are suffering not only because some have contracted Ebola,
but because of the disease’s effects on fellowship: Adventists now avoid
customs such as shaking hands and hugging.
In the packed General Conference auditorium, Israel Leito,
president of the church’s Inter-American Division, asked God to give courage to
ministerial workers in West Africa.
“Father, I think of the pastors who can’t abandon their
flocks, they cannot retreat from the onslaught of Ebola,” Leito said in a special
prayer. “They have to continue visiting, they have to continue burying the
dead, they have to continue comforting those that are sick.”
Leito concluded: “Help us to remember that we should not
wait for a crisis to look for you, but that we should be connected with you at
The Ebola crisis in West Africa is the largest and most
complex outbreak since the disease was first discovered in 1976 in Central
Africa, when it is believed that animals transmitted the virus to humans. The
current outbreak, with an average fatality rate of about 50 percent, is
believed to have started in Guinea in late December, and has spread to Sierra
Leone, Liberia, and other countries.
The virus is spread among humans by direct contact, such as through
broken skin or mucous membranes; blood and secretions; and contact with
surfaces contaminated with such fluids.
Despite the rapid spread, Ebola is preventable with regular
handwashing and the use of personal protective equipment.
Wilson said the church has responded accordingly to the
“We have many activities going on to take care of the people
in West Africa, through ADRA, through our church, and we want to lift up to God
today our people, the population in general,” Wilson said, “and the wonderful
work that is being done in the name of the Lord.”
In August, Peter Landless, director of the world church’s Health
Ministries department, urged church employees and members to avoid travel to
and from nations affected by the epidemic.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency reacted to the
crisis with tens of thousands of dollars in supplies and equipment.
In partnership with Loma Linda University, Adventist Health
International, and GlobalMedic, ADRA is providing Cooper Adventist Hospital in
Monrovia City, Liberia and Liberian Health Ministry with $92,000 in supplies,
including: 60,000 vinyl gloves; 38,000 face masks; 3,200 isolation gowns and
600 disposable coveralls.
Cooper Hospital, where three people died, has closed
temporarily, for a three-week quarantine period. Another medical facility in
West Africa, Waterloo Adventist Hospital, also closed, after several staff
members contracted the virus in the community. When Waterloo Hospital reopens
it will be a government-run Ebola clinic.
In addition, ADRA in Sierra Leone is providing counseling to
victims; training for staff and volunteers; and a public education campaign
that includes Ebola prevention information on fliers, posters and television