PROVO, Utah (ChristianExaminer.com) -- Joe Sonkpah, pastor of the Grace Chapel Church of the Nazarene in Liberia, died Oct. 10 from Ebola, days after his wife, Hannah, succumbed to the same disease.
She apparently contracted the virus while providing medical assistance after local hospitals in Monrovia closed when physicians there determined they could no longer assist Ebola-stricken patients. A casual kiss or perhaps a hug was Pastor Joe's undoing. The couple leave behind four children who are in quarantine.
For Christians, the death of a pastor and his wife and the orphaning of their children bring close to home the threat illustrated by at least 4,500 deaths—the numbers increase daily—since the Ebola virus was first reported March 25 by the World Health Organization. WHO has pinpointed ground zero for the disease that is spreading across West Africa to a location in Guinea, where the first infected patient—a 2-year-old boy—died Dec. 28, 2013.
Pastor Joe and Hannah Sonkpah joined the Rev. Moise Mamy in death.
Mamy, district superintendent of the local Christian and Missionary Alliance denomination, died Sept. 16 or 17 in southern Guinea, along with other government officials and the media. When bringing virus-killing bleach they were set upon by villagers who thought they had come to infect them with a virus-giving potion. The BBC reported that bodies were recovered from a septic tank at the local primary school.
These and other tragic deaths of Christians who were trying to come to the aid of Ebola-stricken communities prompted ChristianExaminer.com to check public sources for what Christian organizations are doing in response to the Ebola crisis and found six denominations and five global charities that have taken specific action in response to the Ebola emergency.
SIM and Samaritan's Purse
Officials with Samaritan's Purse relief organization headquartered in Boone, N.C., didn't stop to think of the ramifications of involvement in combatting the virus, which had spread to Liberia by late March. They instinctively got to work from the office they had had in Liberia for more than a decade, developing Ebola education campaigns and radio broadcasts.
They joined with SIM medical and missionary teams at the ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa) Hospital in Monrovia. SIM—Society for International Ministries—founded the hospital in 1965, and has staffed it ever since. America first began to see Ebola as a threat to the nation when two members of the SIM/Samaritan's Purse team were airlifted July 27 to the U.S. after contracting Ebola.
"Christians have a mandate to help people in the ditches of life," said Ken Isaacs, vice president of programs and government relations for Samaritan's Purse. "Samaritan's Purse is called to the ditches in the hardest of places, and we are called to help people in the name of Christ.
"Ebola is a horrible disease," Isaacs continued. "God has called us to help [the people of Liberia] in their hour of need, and we are going to do all we can to fight Ebola by reducing its transmission and decreasing its mortality. ... We do it for God to be glorified."
Together with a church-focused campaign started in August to reach church leaders with educational materials to pass on to their congregations, about 1 million Liberians have received information they can use to protect themselves and their families from the spread of Ebola.
Samaritan's Purse's newest endeavor is to establish and manage community care centers in hard-hit areas of Liberia, and to provide caregiver training and infection prevention and control kits, plus massive amounts of education.
Church of the Nazarene
Nazarene churches in the U.S. and across the world contributed funds for the denomination's Liberia Monrovia District to distribute tap buckets and boxes of soap to local congregations, as well as provide hygienic education.
The Nazarene's Africa West Field Strategy Coordinator Daniel Gomis requested Christians throughout the world to have a weekly time of fasting and prayer to ask God "to bind any fear and loose peace in the hearts of the people of West Africa."
Assembly of God USA and Convoy of Hope
The Assembly of God denomination sent emergency financial assistance to West Africa in early August. Since then, AG World Missions has partnered with the Convoy of Hope ministry in relief efforts.
Convoy of Hope, a faith-based, humanitarian first-responder acquisition-and-transportation organization based in Springfield, Mo., was founded in 1994 by the Donaldson family in response to the help they were given after their father, Harold, was killed by a drunk driver in 1969. To date, Convoy of Hope has helped 65 million people, according to their website.
The Assembly of God denomination "has committed to raising funds to cover the cost of shipping and distribution of food, desperately needed equipment for additional medical clinics and other critically needed items being procured by Convoy of Hope," according to a denominational news report.
The Liberia Assembly of God has been working closely with Liberia's Ministry of Health, and has made preparations to warehouse meals shipped in during relief efforts. Church leaders also have implemented a Liberia-wide distribution plan and host national days of prayer and fasting.
"In times of crisis such as this tragic Ebola outbreak, the partnership of national churches overseas, AG World Missions, and Convoy of Hope enables the body of Christ to touch the poor and suffering and demonstrate His love," said George Wood, AG general superintendent. "These tangible expressions influence entire communities and even nations."
Convoy of Hope is working with other agencies and companies "to acquire medical equipment and supplies that have been requested for Liberia," said founder and president Hal Donaldson.
Convoy of Hope has launched what Donaldson said was an intensive nine-month disaster relief plan to ship and distribute more than 400 tons of food and supplies to West Africa. "Our team in Africa believes that hundreds of thousands of people will die in the coming months without a swift and steady response that brings food and supplies to those in need."
The relief organization already has shipped two containers of food and supplies to Liberia. Among the goods: food, medicine, cleaning supplies, disinfectants, first aid kids and more.
Greg Mundis, executive director of AG World Missions, requested prayer "for God's strength and protection for all those engaged in this great relief effort."
National Baptist Convention USA
National Baptists' churches have been contributing to the ministry of Henry Samuels, a missionary in Sierra Leone. Samuels has been providing hygienic education and supplies to eradicate Ebola.
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Lutheran Disaster Response, a ministry of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America denomination, along with partners and companion churches, is supplying and shipping essential protective gear and supplies to protect medical workers at Phebe Hospital and Curran Lutheran Hospital in Liberia; providing food assistance; raising awareness and providing educational messages related to Ebola symptoms and prevention methods.
It's also completing construction of an isolation center at Phebe Hospital that meets World Health Organization standards.
"We are seeing fellow children of God devastated by this virus," said Michael Stadie, program director for Lutheran Disaster Response. "Our faith calls us to reach out in help, hope and healing to our neighbors wherever they may be around the world."
United Methodist Church
Several United Methodist agencies started a collaboration in June 2014 "to coordinate an integrated approach in response to the Ebola crisis in West Africa," according to a press release that also referred to "$400,000 of educational programs, protective equipment, and other Ebola-related supplies have been provided to the health boards in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire."
A long-term, integrated approach is being established by Methodists and governmental partners that will be able to respond effectively to health crises and issues of sustainable development.
"As people of faith, we are called to walk with our brothers and sisters, particularly those who might be grieving or concerned for their loved ones who are at risk in their home country," said Denise Honeycutt. She leads the United Methodist Committee on Relief. "We want to welcome and care for others as Christ has done for us."
Christian and Missionary Alliance
Despite the death of District Superintendent Mamy, CMA workers continue providing preventive educational and spiritual guidance for West Africans as well as those with a heart to pray over the Ebola Crisis. See those prayer requests by clicking here.
Headquartered out of the U.K., Christian Aid has distributed 200,000 pair of gloves to medical teams in nine districts of Sierra Leone, enough powdered chlorine to make 11,600 gallons of bleach to disinfect health centers and for hand-washing by medical teams.
Their partners in Sierra Leone initially trained 900 community health volunteers to conduct door-to-door awareness-raising with key messages on how to prevent Ebola transmission. They then rolled out the training to a further 9,000 volunteers, enabling them to reach nearly 50,000 households.
The DirectAid website, which appears to be a type of clearinghouse for several other ministries, reports that, "So far, 12 emergency shipments valued at more than $6.8 million have been sent to more than 1,000 hospitals and clinics in Liberia and Sierra Leone." Additional shipments are in process for other partners in West Africa.
A Christian charity known for taking aid and resources to dangerous areas of the world, Operation Blessing is training Liberian churches in hygienic education, and in distributing liquid chlorine.
David Darg, vice president for international operations for Operation Blessing, said Christians are called to help those in need, and the Ebola crisis is the exact type of situation in which believers must intervene by taking action and following Jesus Christ's example.
"As Christians, we shouldn't be afraid to go out boldly—cautiously, but with boldness," Darg said. "We can't all do it, but we should be praying like crazy for the ones who are."