On our recent trip to Africa to visit Africa University and other sites, our group was a bit surprised to find ourselves being checked for any sign of fever when we landed in South Africa and again in Zimbabwe. The reason for this check? Ebola. It is easy to forget here in the United States that the Ebola crisis in Africa is still not complete. Our U.S. news cycle tends to move on to the next hot topic, and we forget that real people are still dealing with the last crisis.
Fortunately, the news about Ebola in Africa is getting much, much better. Recent reports from Liberia and Sierra Leone tend to indicate no or very few new cases, and it appears that the Ebola crisis will soon be history – at least in terms of a medical crisis. Unfortunately the other aspects of the crisis linger in terms of the economic impact upon that part of Africa.
Our Indiana Area has a long-time commitment to Liberia and Sierra Leone through our Operation Classroom, Operation Doctor and other mission partnerships. Our Operation Classroom Director, Bob Coolman, reports that most of our Operation Classroom schools are re-opening and were not heavily impacted by the Ebola crisis in terms of health – largely due to the fact that educated persons learned to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the disease.
However, Bob also reports: "the social and economic impacts wrought by the crisis were devastating – particularly to schools, since they are just now opening, after being closed since last May. For private schools (which UM schools are), dependent almost entirely upon scholarships and tuition to pay teachers, this has had enormous impact. When teachers and administrators, who aren’t paid much to begin with, aren’t paid at all for this long a period of time, it’s had major implications."
He goes on to state, "That’s why we are having a Campaign entitled 'Beyond Ebola – Hunger.' And it is why our efforts have been directed at providing emergency food rations for distribution, largely to teachers and their families (to date, we been able to send over $100,000 of donated rice rations in 4 containers to the two countries). We also need funds to pay teachers as schools reopen, so that teachers and administrators have the funds to take care of their families. Training administrators and teachers on Ebola prevention protocols is mandated by the government for school reopening, and providing schools with the needed sanitation supplies and equipment is also mandated by the government for school reopening."
To date we have sent nearly $75,000 in funds for these purposes, which is a start toward helping to pay over 500 unpaid teachers in the some 50 schools that Operation Classroom is engaged with. More money and more help is needed.
So I invite you and your church to join in this campaign. Just because our U.S. news media seem to have "forgotten" the Ebola crisis doesn't mean that we in the church can forget. All of our churches in the Indiana Conferences have received a letter from Bob Coolman, Don Griffith and myself with the details of this "Beyond Ebola" campaign, but I am using this E-pistle to remind everyone that this urgent request needs our attention.