Our trip to Liberia after the Ebola epidemic was an opportunity to truly see the hand of God at work. We heard many stories from those who had been infected and affected by Ebola. We met family after family who had their own unique challenges and we watched the faithful VisionTrust Liberia local heroes minister to them in so many ways.
During the Saturday Ebola Support Program we watched our Liberian staff provide worship, a message, and a platform for the hurting to share their stories and their burdens. When the time of fellowship was over each family came up to receive a week’s worth of food to help keep them keep going. Family after family came up to get their rice, Palm oil, sardines and soup cubes. I watched the children, shared smiles with them, and marveled at their stamina through what had been a very long health crisis.
Toward the end of the food sharing, a family came up with a mother who seemed to have a particularly heavy heart. I looked at her back and saw a child snuggled down into the pack—a child who looked more malnourished than any child I have ever seen. We asked to see the child, his little arms and legs were so skinny, his motions leaving me concerned that he had a neurological problem, and his little face looked like the face of a concentration camp survivor.
Then we started to learn the story of little Joseph, a child who had been affected by Ebola. Right around Joseph’s birth two years ago his father passed away. This left his mother, who spoke no English and had limited skills, alone with a baby. As time went by, they battled to survive. Then, at five months of age Joseph got Tuberculosis. Just as he was starting to recover, Ebola hit and his ability to receive healthcare was gone. His mother tried her best to breast feed Joseph and received the help of her sister, but there was really no other food for Joseph. As the story unfolded we learned that his aunt died from Ebola and left his struggling mother with a sick child and four orphaned children.
We spent the week working through health systems that were still not recovered to get little Joseph help. We sought out resources on the ground about how to take care of this one little sheep in the midst of hundreds of needy children. I confess to getting very discouraged, wondering if putting all my energy into this one little sheep was wise when we had so many to care for. We put together a feeding plan and went to visit the mother at her home. Sitting under a mango tree, we saw Joseph actually take a couple of drinks of formula. As Robert, our National Director of Liberia, talked with the mother to make sure she understood how to mix the formula and cereal and how to use the clean water source we had brought, I watched little Joseph’s eyes. I prayed and prayed for him. He seemed to actually be tracking with me.
As we left their home, little Joseph tried to wave. If I had any doubt about putting so much energy into the one sheep, God rewarded our efforts and I left knowing that He was in control and would care for this precious family.
These are the stories of Liberia after Ebola, stories of perseverance, stories of faith, and stories of strength. The recovery will take a long time. Those affected and infected by Ebola have large hurdles to overcome. We are committed to walk with these families and pray that you will continue to support our efforts so that all of God’s children will know his love and care through your gifts and prayers.
Update as of 6/17: When our National Director went to visit Joseph after Jill had left, he reported that the boy is growing and looks alert. Robert was surprised when Joseph recognized him and gave a big smile today when he visited!