In the face of a surge of Ebola infections in West Africa, missions groups from local congregations and denominational ministries remain steadfast in their commitment to continue working in the affected areas of Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Last week, the World Health Organization published an official case count totaling 5,843 infected and 2,803 dead since December 2013. However, WHO warns of an exponential increase to more than 20,000 cases by November, according to a new article in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Moreover, the CDC extrapolates the data to project that without immediate interventions, the number of cases could grow to 1.4 million in Liberia and Sierra Leone by Jan. 20, 2015.
Yet, many church groups and denominational ministries are resolved to continue ongoing work in the affected areas.
The United Methodist Church website notes its office for United Methodist Women is administrating funds to pass out "love, food, and information to communities stricken by Ebola." It is providing staples like rice and vegetable oil to quarantined villages and conducting sessions on prevention measures such as hand-washing and "avoiding contact with the sick or the bodies of those who died from Ebola."
The UMC reports that in the Kakata-Farmington District, 18 church members have died, "including two pastors and the president of the United Methodist Men's group."
Meanwhile, the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod reports it is stepping up its work with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Liberia and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sierra Leone to stop the spread of Ebola. Also, its disaster relief arm, Lutheran World Relief, is working with IMA World Health -- also known as Interchurch Medical Assistance -- to support the Christian Health Association of Liberia.
LCMS reports this "organization of 45 churches, faith-based schools and health facilities" includes the hospital that was "the first ... in Liberia to see an Ebola patient."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America said Lutheran Disaster Response, its relief and development, will continue its work of more than 150 years in Liberia and with longstanding partners in Sierra Leone. LDR is constructing an isolation center at Phebe Hospital and School of Nursing, and is providing protective gear and food assistance.
Other Christians report going to Africa despite the outbreak, but are working in regions of low potential for infection:
-- The Assemblies of God recently sent a team of 14 teenagers to East Africa according to its website.
-- KFOR.com in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, reported that six members of First Christian Church in Edmond flew to Africa this week to drill water wells in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
-- In Charlotte, NC, WCNC.com reports that a tiny congregation, Ghana Mission United Methodist Church has sent a volunteer on his fourth Africa mission trip, "despite the outbreak."
The largest evangelical denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention reported in August that its missionary workers were safe and continuing their work in Africa with a "wait and see" approach about plans to withdraw according to Baptist Press.
On the other hand, the Peace Corps announced this summer that it was withdrawing its 340 volunteers in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea because of the Ebola virus.