Efforts to stem the spread of the Ebola virus in West Africa are being hampered by a slow response, lack of medical supplies, illiteracy, poverty and misinformation. But the Anglican Churches there, which have deep, historic connections to the Episcopal Church, are learning how to effectively minister in the midst of the epidemic.
This is the assessment of two Episcopal priests with personal and professional roots in the affected area, the Rev. James Tetegba Yarsiah, from Liberia, and the Rev. Johannes George, a native of Sierra Leone.
“The problem we have had is Liberians not taking preventive measures,” the Rev. James Tetegba Yarsiah told ENS Aug. 13, adding that up to a few weeks ago many Liberians were not paying attention to this “deadly disease.”
“It is now that they are getting very serious about it,” said Yarsiah, who is the chaplain and vicar at Voorhees College where he is also an assistant professor of religion and philosophy. He also is a leader in the Liberian Episcopal Community in the United States of America….
…He said he has heard from fellow graduates of Cuttington University, founded in 1889 in southern Liberia by the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, who have lost family members to the virus. Some professional nurses who were Cuttington graduates have died, Yarsiah said.
That sort of news brings Ebola “close to home” for those living in the United States, he said. It makes people worry that they will soon hear bad news about their loved ones back home.
Yarsiah believes that while many Episcopal churches in Liberia are being touched by Ebola, most are still functioning. “This is a time that churches need to open their doors and help education people, help comfort and counsel people,” he said.
Father George describes the situation: