Five Liberian children pose for a picture. It’s a fearful, uncertain time for them. They’ve been exposed to a virus ravaging their country. They are sequestered and don’t know if their parents, siblings and friends are still alive. The day before this photo was taken their quarantine center took in four children. That same day two died.
The man in the picture is a hero. He is one of many Liberians who’ve placed themselves in harms way to care for children exposed to the Ebola virus. Other Christians like him have sheltered children orphaned by this disease. At least 3,700 children in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea have lost one or both parents to Ebola, according to Unicef, the global child advocacy organization. Two thousand of these children are from Liberia. Even if a child is declared “Ebola free” it’s likely their village and even their family will prevent them from returning home.
The physical suffering, shortage of medical aid, and sheer fear among Liberians is nearly impossible to grasp. Compounding the horror is the way the disease spreads—through bodily fluids, and thus, human touch. This rules out a child hugging an infected parent, a wife holding her husband’s hand as he passes away, or a daughter physically comforting her elderly mother who’s crying out in pain.
While much more aid is needed to stem the epidemic, soul care is crucial. Many in the West have yet to consider this part of the epidemic. Children in particular lack a paradigm for suffering and emotional and mental wounds may cripple them for life.
In response to this crisis, David C Cook developed a series of lessons called, “Helping Young People Deal with the Ebola Crisis.” Ministries in West Africa have grabbed on to this free resource to use with children under their care. The lessons dispel myths about Ebola. They present facts about the disease and its transmission. Most importantly, they equip caretakers to help children cling to God and His love in the midst of hardship.
The man in the picture above received the material from a doctor on Mercy Ships who helped edit the lessons. We ask you to pray for him and the children pictured. May the Lord use him and the material to calm their fears, strengthen their faith, and begin to heal their soul wounds.
What else can you do to come alongside children in Liberia and other West African countries impacted by Ebola? We’ve developed a comprehensive resource called, “Our God is Stronger than Ebola! A Prayer Walk that Encourages Our Children to Pray for Children in Ebola-Infected Countries.” Consider using this resource with your own children or those in your classroom or Sunday school class. Empower them to lift up their peers half way around the world.