Tag Archives: ebola

Oh, Sorry. Don’t Use That Religion. It’s Just For Looks.

I’ve been pondering this blog for about a week now, and I’m glad I pondered for a while and didn’t write, because an article came to my attention during that time that drove a lot of my point home. The article appeared on slate.com, and was titled, I kid you not, “In Medicine We Trust, Should We Worry That So Many of the Doctors Treating Ebola In Africa Are Missionaries?”  I’m putting a link to it here, for those who care to read it, and it is an interesting read.


My purpose in this blog is not to harp on the opinions of Atheists. I frankly have no right to do that, since I would be out of line in thinking that Atheists should act or think like anything except Atheists.  Rather, my purpose in bringing up the article is to bring clarity to the way Atheists think, and why they think it.  The author of the article, in his words, is a bit uncomfortable with the above situation, namely that it is almost exclusively Christian missionary doctors who are on the ground treating those with ebola. Which begs the question, “Why would anyone be uncomfortable with that?”  The author gives a number of reasons, and I think he’s very thoughtful about it.  But I think only an outsider looking in can cut to the heart of the reason why he’s uncomfortable.  In order to be an Atheist, he has to, and has, convinced himself that there is no value in religion.  The fact that these people, (as he puts it), who don’t profit personally from their work, and risk their lives to help others, proves that his previous premise is wrong, and therefore, causes dissonance in his worldview.

A pastor in South Sudan, broken in spirit as he prays that the man he professes to be would be the man others see.
A pastor in South Sudan, broken in spirit as he prays that the man he professes to be would be the man others see.












I’ve seen the same thing in my travels. The more dangerous the place, the more likely it is that it’s Christians who are there helping. By the time you get to South Sudan, whether the organization you are working with is officially Christian or secular, the people working there to help others are almost as a rule Christian. Now I’m not saying Atheists don’t like to help others, but the fact is that very few of them are willing to risk their lives to help others, being that what happens to them if they get killed is at the very least, uncertain.

Again, though. This is not about Atheists. This blog is about Christians, specifically Christians who’s actions are so like Christ that they would cause an Atheist to question his worldview.  Let’s flash over to the west,  America specifically and myself included, where it literally costs us nothing to be a Christian. The attitudes I’ve seen in this country, even from those professing to be Christians is sometimes truly staggering.  Attitudes like, “They have no business going over there. If they get ebola, they’re getting what they deserve.”  I’m not joking. I honestly can’t understand the thought process, except to say that for every person willing to do something, there’s another person who’s willing to do nothing except pee on the first person’s shoe.

Let’s see what Jesus had to say about this in Matthew 25.  “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.  And you people had no business doing that, and if you got ebola, you got what you deserved.”  Of course that’s not how the ending goes, any more than the following.  “Then He will say on His left,  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me. In fact, you didn’t do anything I asked of you. You took my free gift of salvation, then looked out for number one, and number one wasn’t Me. Great is your reward in Heaven.”  If I heard that, I would have to assume I was being mocked.  But that is how we often act, if not so explicitly.  We go to churches that require nothing of us, and so that is what we give. We chase after consumerism and self, addictions, pleasure, and convince ourselves that we’re not bad people. And no, maybe we’re not bad people, but maybe also we don’t look enough like Christ to make an Atheist question his worldview. I hear people say that their faith is a private thing.  If we follow Christ and our life looks like His, then how can it possibly be a private thing? Now we can say we’re saved not by works but by faith all day, but the fact is that if that salvation means anything at all, there should be some resemblance between us and Christ.  Maybe if we stopped thinking about ourselves and all our stuff, we wouldn’t live in such fear as a society. You can’t fear losing what you’ve already given up, and that goes double for your life. The book of James says, “True religion that God our Father accepts is this, to look after widows and orphans in their distress, and to keep yourself from being polluted by the world.” Is this our religion, or is our religion a bowl of waxed fruit, or a couch you can’t sit on?  Is our religion just a pretty (so we tell ourselves) thing, but others know that it’s a useless thing that collects dust, and everyone knows that it’s fake?

Now before you say that I’m saying everybody should go and be a missionary to ebola patients in Liberia, I’m not. Not everyone is called to do that, but everyone is called to do something. Our mission field may not be Liberia or South Sudan or Afghanistan. It might be the single mom down the street or the prisoner in the local jail. When God called Moses, he made all kinds of excuses for why he couldn’t do anything. “I stutter. I’m just a shepherd.” Etc. etc. etc.  God said to Moses, “What do you have in your hand?” “A staff”, Moses replied. God told him to throw it on the ground and it became a snake.  God told him to pick it up again and it again became a staff.  I would challenge each person to ask themselves, “What is in your hand?”  What skills and talents do you have? Even if we’re just holding a stick, God can use it if we’re willing.  What gifts has God given us that we aren’t using?  Why aren’t we using it?  It’s time to put the excuses away and start living the life that Christ called us to. He has called us to a triumphant life in Him, and not a life of fear. I pray that He will forgive me for failing in this, and I know He will. But I on the other hand will pledge to daily give Him less reason to have to forgive me.

To close this, I’d like to quote Emperor Julian, the fourth century Roman emperor, who in writing to one of the pagan priests said the following.  “Whilst the pagan priests neglect the poor, the hated Galileans (Christians) devote themselves to works of charity . . . These impious Galileans not only feed their own poor, but ours also; welcoming them into their agape . . .” Julian’s dying words were, “You have won, Galilean.”



It’s Not The Ebola, It’s The Water.

It’s only a few weeks until I leave for Kenya. Things are starting to come together. Today I picked up my anti-malarial pills. This is always one of the more difficult things, because there are really no good choices. I’ve always taken Meflouquine in the past because I react well to it, and also because it’s cheaper. However, the evidence is mounting that it causes long term neurological problems, and I’ve decided that there’s only so many empty chambers in the revolver before I find the one with the bullet. I unfortunately (for some things) live in the United States, and this means I pay about four times for medication what the rest of the world does. As I showed up at the pharmacy (the chemist to the rest of you), my prescription was three times what I was told it was going to be.  Furthermore they didn’t have enough, so they couldn’t even fill the whole prescription. This did me no good whatsoever. I couldn’t exactly leave Africa to have the other half of my prescription filled half way through the trip. So I called another pharmacy that had all the pills, and found a coupon online which reduced the cost to what I had originally been told. The cost of medical care and medication is out of control in this country, and I’m reduced to playing games like this. I will now be taking generic Malerone, which unfortunately seems to upset the stomach of everyone I’ve ever seen taking it. Better an upset stomach than crazy though, right?

Staying healthy though, seems to be one of the biggest anxieties for people traveling to Africa for the first time. I remember before I’d ever gone, being under the impression that Africa is so full of disease that if I went I would surely catch something that was going to kill me. After all, there’s yellow fever, ebola, malaria, dysentery, polio, schistosomiasis, aids, diphtheria, rabies, west nile virus, cholera, meningitis, hepatitis, and sleeping sickness. It’s enough pestilence and disease to make the weather channel giddy. Most of the danger is perception though, and precautions can be taken. I’ve only been sick once in Africa, and it was none of the above.  I’ve had the question a couple of times now, “are you worried about ebola?”. Frankly, no. I’ll be two thousand miles from any of that. It’s like saying, “There’s a cholera outbreak in Mexico. Aren’t you afraid to go to Canada?”

Most of these are really nothing to worry about. The really bad ones can either be avoided altogether, or prevented with immunizations.  Of everything listed above, only malaria and the diseases spread though food and water (dysentery, cholera, and hepatitis), take some conscious effort to avoid. Malaria you take medication to avoid, but it is also good to make sure you don’t get bitten by mosquitos from dusk though dawn. This involves using insect repellant and limiting exposed skin during those times. Also, an absolute must is to sleep under a mosquito net, unless you’re either in the desert where there are no mosquitoes, or at high altitude like some parts of Kenya and Ethiopia. Most of the other diseases you get from either contaminated water or food. For food, make sure your food is well cooked. Don’t eat fruit or vegetables uncooked unless they are peeled. In other words, don’t eat an unpeeled apple or tomato, and certainly don’t eat lettuce. You don’t know what they used to fertilize the crops (I’ll let you use your imagination), or who was handling the food. Water can be tricky too. Buying bottled water should be a sure bet, but there are now people taking old bottles, bottling tap or river water, and putting a new seal on it. So know the source of your water. Also, don’t order ice in your drink unless you know it was made from bottled water. I carry a Camelbak All Clear with me. It’s a bottle with an ultraviolet lamp on the top that sterilizes your water in one minute. I drank water out of the Nile for five days with it on my last trip and never got sick, so I know it works.

Food prep in Africa
Food prep in Africa

It’s really not hard to stay healthy when you’re traveling. In closing, I had an amusing conversation the other day with one of my South Sudanese friends. I put a picture up on Facebook of my brother and his son in front of a campfire from a recent camping trip. He asked essentially if we were worried about being eaten by wild animals in such a thick forest. While the thought of bears occupied a small place in the back of my mind, I really wasn’t worried about it. As I told him, as long as you don’t run, the bears don’t think you’re food.  It’s the same in Africa with illness. It occupies a small place in the back of my mind, but I know that as long as take a few precautions, there’s no reason I shouldn’t remain healthy. If I wasn’t confident in this, I wouldn’t be bringing my wife with me on my next trip.