When the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa had killed thousands and caused severe social and economic disruption in the region a few years ago, two Jamaicans were already staring death in the face daily.
Medical doctor Coril Warmington and Marian Stewart, with a nursing PhD, were in Liberia since 2006, having gone there on an evangelising mission with two suitcases as their only possession. They are among several medical missionaries working on the continent.
When Ebola deaths reached its zenith (2013-2016) in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, at no time did the brave women contemplate returning home to safety.
Ebola virus disease (EVD) – also known as Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF) or Ebola – is a viral haemorrhagic fever of humans and other primates caused by Ebola viruses. The infectious disease is spread through contact with an infected person.
During that period, the virus epidemic was described as “the most widespread outbreak of Ebola virus disease in history”, mainly in the three countries.
Warmington and Stewart saw crippling fear among Liberians, including medical personal, non-medical hospital staff, the churches – practically everyone.
Now, WHO is once again reporting on another Ebola outbreak. According to WHO, “The current 2018-2019 outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is highly complex, with insecurity adversely affecting public health response activities.”
In an interview last week, Warmington and Stewart, who head the Faith and Deeds Ministries, told The Sunday Gleaner that during the 2013-2016 outbreak, they saw entire families wiped out, and were in “awe at the miracle which, in many instances, saved only the children”.
They asked God many times, “Why did He protect the children and take their families?”
The women watched the agony of co-workers, who, after treating victims, feared going home, wondering if they were transporting the virus and could endanger their families.
They couldn’t even hug their friends.
But as strong women of faith, missionaries with a worldwide vision, they listened to God and allowed love to lead the way.
Three years later, Liberia has been declared Ebola free. But Ebola remains deadly on the continent, with reports of nearly 2,000 dead in DRC, where WHO has now declared a public health emergency.
“Seeing the bird’s-eye view of the situation, being right there, allowed us to be of better help. We would go into the villages, not only on a medial mission, but on a spiritual mission. We had to be there ministering God’s love to them,” Dr Warmington explained.
“We would talk to them about God’s power and might. In the villages, and when we are going through the borders in Monrovia, the people remember us.”
TAKE A LEAP OF FAITH
Warmington and Stewart are among several Jamaicans working in Africa in various capacities. They are the only two in Liberia, however, doing missionary work.
They are currently in Jamaica on a short break, searching for a regional base for their Faith and Deeds Ministries to serve the Caribbean.
The women are also asking fellow Jamaicans to take a leap of faith with them on their evangelising mission.
“I am blessed to know that God reminded us that in the midst of this disease, He was there. He kept us there to offer help. It’s a resource-poor environment, and today here we are. Liberia is Ebola free,” said Stewart.
Warmington said they were practically the diagnostic machines and testing laboratories, making diagnoses patient by patient.
She said despite the shortcomings here, Jamaicans should be grateful for the health services they have.
The missionaries with a worldwide vision are now hoping they can devote more time to evangelism.
“Liberia needs you, too. Sow a seed with us, and let us minister the gospel to our brothers and sisters there,” Dr Warmington beseeched.