Friday, November 7, 2014

Why You Should Care About Ebola (Really)

This July, my aunt got married in Sierra Leone where her (now) husband lives, and where she works for literacy. Afterwards, she flew back to her home in Michigan with plans for her new husband to join soon thereafter. I smile over the pictures she sends: her cheeks flush radiant with laughter, and his grin spreading wide across his face. Her creamy complexion and ivory dress dance against his deep brown skin and navy African garb; she tells us the minister speaks of Rebekah and Isaac, from different lands meeting after a long journey.

Now they are still continents apart, plans for him to leave Sierra Leone thwarted by Ebola, and her tickets to go back to him cancelled for the same reason. A disease not, for them, simply a distant and vaguely unsettling theory but a harrowing daily reality. Knowing people changes things. Loving them changes everything.

We do not know, so it feels impossible to love. Instead, we continue to build false ideologies where us gets pitted against them, and what happens on the other side of the world is really none of our concern.

A few weeks ago, in the process of curating some links (which is how I like to describe the process because it sounds very fancy) for y’all, I stumbled across a link called “Why you should care about ebola.” I copied and pasted it to my blog post to comb through more fully, mostly included because I couldn't bring myself to ignore something that obviously loomed so huge. However, when I read through the article fully, I realized that the gist of the message was this: you should care because it will eventually come to America.

Hmm, I thought: that’s not what I meant.

I deleted the link; choosing to keep silent instead. Neither posture correctly nor fully expresses my heart.

My silence lingers, mostly because it’s easier; but also because I have the luxury of spending most of my time not thinking about ebola or any other health (or human) crisis on some distant shore.

Because rest assured, a crisis exists, and it does not lie in isolated incidences of ebola here in the United States. Our country comes equipped with the ability to contain and fight this disease. Even maybe to come up (now) with a cure, a vaccination.

But I fear for a place where the resources are less, and those that do exist dwindle more rapidly as ebola spreads and takes lives and resources from other desperate needs in this country. Adam sat down with my aunt last week, and she told him how the hospitals in Sierra Leone are shut-down to anyone not infected with ebola. Which means people are dying, not just from ebola, but from other things they cannot get proper treatment for like infections and childbirth.

My aunt Jo explains how she asked her new husband, “Is this as bad as the war?” He said, “During the war we knew the enemy; now we fear everyone. During the war we could gather and find comfort with each other; now we separate ourselves. During the war we could escape to the hills or find a safe place; now we are confined to our homes to wait.

Of course these stories pierce our hearts, we cannot allow them not to. The problem is that we feel helpless, we know we can do nothing in the midst of such ordinary lives here. We busy ourselves worrying about our own children, about surviving sleepless nights and toddler temper tantrums. Fear creeps in easy, and ignoring helps keep it at bay.

After Mike Brown and the ensuing events, I ended up watching a video of another police shooting soon afterwards (which I can no longer seem to track down). Quite frankly, I remain rattled by what I saw. My bones quake when I recognize how completely we have forgotten the important truth that lives matter. That life, no matter who it belongs to, beats sacred because of the One who breathed it. That pro-life simply must extend both past birth and beyond our reach. I dont think we can call ourselves Christ-followers and fail to find-our-knees and open our hearts and selves to those who are unlike us.

Because we are not called to fear contagion, but to love compassion.

To love compassion reaches out and touches those who are hurting. The ones everyone else has shut out and declared unclean. And the truth is that it’s messy, easier left unsaid and well-enough-alone. But just as Christ offered His hands as instruments of peace and healing, I think we need to stretch out. To recognize the ways we can enter into suffering even from across the globe, and not just when the suffering comes to us.

I dont have answers or solutions, or even ways to make it happen. But I am hopeful that the church is not dying like they say, but shifting. And that we will become known as a people who love radical and deep. Who love compassion and justice enough to fight for every drop of life in every corner of the globe.

If you’re interested in helping, I would be more than happy to chat with you about that and point you in the right direction, in collaboration with my aunt (who is far more knowledgable regarding the situation and lives than I am). Please email me or leave a comment here anytime. 

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