Responding to the Ebola Outbreak in Liberia

Ebola has tragically killed around 2,400 people in West Africa.

What sounds like a horrible disease “over there” means something close to home.  I had the privilege of visiting Liberia in 2009.  Since then, our church has sent two teams to work alongside the Balama Development Alliance ( ) in villages near the Guinea border.

Teachers from Atlanta pose with their peers from Gbansue school as part of a week of training.

Teachers from Atlanta pose with their peers from Gbansue school as part of a week of training.

So far the outbreak has not spread to the village of Balama or Gbansue where we worked.  Now, however, the country is not only dealing with the terror of Ebola, but there are reports of Cholera as well.  Combine these with Malaria, and all three have similar symptoms but need different treatments.

For now, BDA has put together a plan to help prepare the towns of Balama and Gbansue in case Ebola does reach their people.

While resources are needed, good information is needed most.  Rumors abound about the origin of the disease.  Some are saying that Ebola is a disease that the government has put in the water to kill people.

Here is the response plan so far:

Response Goals

  • To morally support and encourage the hearts of families that are affected by Ebola
  • To give families hope in and through Scripture during these difficult times
  • Recruit and train volunteers for leading Education and Awareness campaigns on Ebola
  • Purchase locally produced bleach, chlorine and caustic soda for sanitizing water supply
  • Distribute soap and awareness materials to local towns and villages

Items for Purchase

  • Print posters and flyers in Kpelle language about Ebola
  • Bleach, chlorine, and caustic soda (1,000 bottles) to be purchased in Monrovia
  • Soap (3,000 bars)
  • Surgical gloves (10 cases)
  • Megaphone for communication and education (10)
  • Translation of American CDC information into the Kpelle language

In addition to good information and resources like the ones listed above, the Liberians will have to change some of their long held traditions that are helping spread the disease.  Jessy Togbadoya, Founder of BDA, explained to me how burial traditions of the Liberians are helping to spread the disease.

Normally, a dead body is handled by the family, washed, and even kissed on the forehead.  The idea of handing off a body to a funeral home like in America seems dishonoring to the deceased.  But, this close contact might actually spread the disease as it lives in the sweat and bodily fluids of the dead body for a time.

BDA is doing great work in education, economic empowerment,  and sharing the good news of Jesus’ love.  But now they must adapt their priorities to protect the people they serve.

Jessy is headed back to Liberia on September 23rd to put this plan into action and help prepare the people for the possible spread of Ebola and Cholera.

Pray for Jessy, leaders of BDA in Liberia and America, and the people of rural villages all over Liberia who might not have accurate information and access to vital resources they need for health and protection.

To learn more about the work of Balama Development Alliance, visit


The top 9 objections to christianty I heard last week

Our crew fixing bikes.  They didn’t let me anywhere near the bikes.

Last week I joined a group from our church to go serve the city of Toronto.

The group did a lot of wonderful work around the city in partnership with an amazing new church up there.

Now we didn’t see any Mounties nor was it snowing.  But, the people did talk funny though.

Our purpose was simply to serve and show the love of Christ in a practical way.  That meant in part that we held a free, 14 hr, bike clinic in downtown Toronto where we fixed around 300 bikes and talked to hundreds of people.

The group served the homeless and provided another bike clinic in a suburb of the city as well.

It was a powerful week and one that no one on the team will ever forget.  

As we engaged people in conversation, we discovered that the Torontoans were not afraid to express their opinions and objections to faith in general and Christianity in particular.
Here are the top 9 I heard, in no particular order.  
    • Christianity is a cult like all religions.  
    • I put my hope in the goodness of people.
    • You can be good without God.  
    • All religions are the same. 
    • We can’t really know what Jesus said because they kept on changing the Bible.
    • You can’t trust any institution. They are all corrupt.
    • The best we can hope is that our good outweighs our bad.
    • How can one religion be the right one?  How does anyone know theirs is the right one?
    • Why did Jesus have to die?  Can’t you just ask God for mercy without the need of Jesus?
      I will address these in separate posts.

      The big takeaway was that we need not fear engagement of each other on serious matters of faith and spiritual things.  Someone else’s disagreement does not affect my faith or my concern for them. 

      After all, the point of Christianity is loving people, not winning arguments.

      If you Take Your Son on A Mission Trip

      If you take your 9 year old son on a mission trip,

      Then he is going to be challenged to serve others,

      And when he serves others, he will impress you.

      And when he impresses you, you may be moved to tears.

      And the rest of the week you will see him work so hard on every project that he wears a hole in his shoe.

      And after he works so hard on every project that he wears a hole in his shoe, he will ask you for a treat.

      And when he asks you for a treat, then you will look for an ice cream shop.

      And if he enjoys his ice cream, then he will ask for it every day.

      And on the way back from the ice cream shop, he will see a Crepe restaurant.

      And so when you finally go to the Crepe restaurant, he will order one the size of his head.

      After he eats the crepe the size of his head, he will have lots of energy.

      To get rid of his energy, he will ask to hike a volcano.

      And when you hike the volcano, he will want to roast marshmallows and hotdogs.

      The marshmallows and hotdogs will give him more energy and so he will run down the volcano.

      And after running down the volcano, he will tell you how much he has enjoyed the week together.

      And if he enjoys the week together, chances are…

      He is going to want to go on another mission trip.

      And you will too…

      5 Things To Consider Before Going On A Mission Trip

      One bowl. Many spoons.  Delicious.  In Senegal.  .
      Over 1.5 million people will go on a short term mission trip this year!  It’s a billion dollar business!
      And many of those trips go to poor countries.  In fact, my son and I are preparing to go with a team to Guatemala this April.
      And in those countries, teams can make big mistakes.
      So here are 5 things I have learned through my own mistakes that can help teams have more meaningful, helpful, cross cultural experiences.
      1. Realize You Are Different – If you are an American going to a poor country, then you are rich.  Don’t make it obvious. Don’t flash your bling and don’t complain about the heat or the squatty potties.  Be humble and grateful.
      2. Limit Your Photos – I have seen Americans taking photos of street markets, families, huts, and dusty children like they were the paparazzi.  Keep in mind these are people, not exhibits, and this is where they live all the time.  Show respect or they might just ask you to pay money for that picture!!  (I recall nearly losing my camera to a monkey in India after I took its picture!)
      3. What You Are Doing, They Can Likely Do Too – It might not be done the American way, but it is better if they are empowered to do it.  Often, we Americans think they need us to build their house, to paint their wall, to run their outreach.  Find ways to encourage and empower them.  Come alongside instead of doing it for them.
      4. Do No Harm – Sometimes our best intentions create the worst problems.  Don’t be flashy.  Keep your work simple.  Use local resources if at all possible.  Follow their lead.  You don’t have all the information.   Consider unintended consequences even if it means not doing what you really, really want to do.
      5. Ask them “what can Americans learn from you?”  We asked this question in Haiti and got amazing responses.  They were actually surprised we would ask.  “No Americans have ever asked us that question.”  We assume we have the answers but God likely has you there to learn from them!
      (Oh, and one more.  Watch What You Put on Your Tshirts.  I have nothing against t-shirts per se.  I love short sleeves and cotton like the next guy.  I just think references to the poor as “the least of these” are belittling and offensive. Jesus meant the disciples were to be the least anyway, not poor people.)
      So, have a good trip!  That may not mean you come back with lots of pictures of the work you did.  It most likely will mean you share the stories of the people you met instead.

      Missionaries Are People Too!

      There might not be Super Christians, but there is Super Coffee!

       A while back I was visiting with a friend serving in Southeast Asia.  She shared how a lot of people treat her like she is something special, but she doesn’t feel that way.  She just feels like she is doing what God wants her to do with her life.
      It’s almost like people put her in some separate category of “Super Christian.”

      “Wow,” people say to her.  “I could never do that.”

      Or, “I just admire you and what you are doing.”

      Not ever hearing these statements myself, I tried to understand what she was saying.

      “I understand what you are saying,” I replied.

      “You know I mean this with all respect.  But, you really aren’t anything special,” I continued.

      Expecting a punch in the face, she actually agreed with me instead!

      Now who would tell someone who has left her home, her friends and a good job to serve in a remote city in Southeast Asia that she is nothing special?

      Just to be clear, I do think she is special.  She is unique.  But, I think there is another reason why many Christians treat someone like her so differently.

      It seems to me that we are are impressed by people like her in part because we have accepted a minimum for followers of Christ that He never set for us.  So, when a person makes an unusual sacrifice, we treat it is as something radical when it really isn’t, at least according to Christ.

      Remember, Jesus said that His followers would do even greater works than Him. (John 14:12)  He said that His followers would take His message to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)  He reminded would be followers to count the cost before they decided to follow. (Luke 14:28)

      I continued with my friend by saying, “Your decision to come to Southeast Asia for the sake of Christ isn’t surprising.  It’s what disciples do.”

      Since then, I’ve thought more about what I see people doing that others might consider unusual, but they are really just doing what disciples do.

      • When someone moves into a neighborhood on purpose to be a blessing, that’s not unusual.  That’s what disciples do.
      • When a couple opens their family and home to a foster child, that’s not incredible.  That’s what disciples do. 
      • When someone alters their lifestyle for the sake of the gospel, that’s what disciples do. 
      • When someone prays for a coworker struggling through a tough situation, that’s what disciples do. 
      • When someone does good to someone who does evil, that’s not weird, that’s what disciples do.

      What is unusual, incredible or weird is when people who call themselves disciples and DON’T show a willingness to alter their lifestyle for Christ and others.

      And so we elevate those we call missionaries, even though when you talk to them you generally find that they feel like anyone else who just wants to obey what they believe Jesus is telling them to do.

      They don’t want to be treated as a “Super Christian.”  Instead, they want to encourage others to listen to God and be willing to obey.  “What is the Lord leading you to do?” they might ask.

      Again, don’t get me wrong.  I greatly admire and value the sacrificial decisions that many people make in the name of Christ. I’m just not surprised.  I expect it to happen more often.  (Sadly, we just said goodbye to some dear friends leaving for Southeast Asia as well.)

      But, let’s remember, that according to Christ there really is no such thing as a sacrifice.  When His followers reminded Him that they had left their jobs, their families, everything to follow Him, He said basically “in God’s kingdom you will receive 100 times what you think you left.” (Mark 10: 29-30)

      At the end of the day, missionaries are people too.  We need not put them in some special category separate from our own.

      If we do, we better be sure Jesus hasn’t left ours to join them.