When I heard that Samaritan’s Purse’s Dr. Kent Brantly and SIM nurse Nancy Writebol had both contracted the Ebola virus while serving in Liberia, I was awed by their self-sacrifice. There are not many willing to serve God overseas. Fewer still are willing to accept the modest remuneration that comes with such positions. But the idea of risking one’s life—fighting a deadly virus without a cure—on behalf of needy strangers seems to me to exemplify courage and dedication to God. I admire them.
I followed news of their evacuation to the United States (U.S.) with interest. They were further willing to become human guinea pigs for an experimental vaccine never before tried on humans. Efficacy? Side effects? All unknown.
Even the Good Samaritan didn’t expose himself to death in his exemplary service to the man waylaid by robbers on the road to Jericho. Risking death seemed closer to the example of Christ himself rather than any other account in the Old or New Testaments.
But in reading one of the many stories that followed Brantly and Writebol’s trials, I happened to click on readers’ comments concerning the news account. I thought perhaps others too found their courage and religious devotion inspiring.
Imagine my shock to find people critical of their acts of service!
Some readers were appalled that Samaritan’s Purse had arranged for air ambulance evacuation for the two stricken workers. Taking Brantly and Writebol’s self-sacrifice for granted, they felt that they were not entitled to such special care.
As an employer of overseas staff at Food for the Hungry, I would like to be able to demonstrate that same care for them that Samaritan’s Purse evidenced.
Other readers remarked that Brantly’s family had come back to the U.S. a week before the onset of his disease. “Quarantine them!” shrieked some.
Still others thought it profoundly unfair that Brantly and Writebol had access to the experimental vaccine whereas thousands of Africans did not. While that is true, there are only very limited doses of this experimental drug; it can’t treat more than a handful of people. And imagine the outcry if the reverse were true: The drug was tried experimentally on Africans, but the Western medical personnel waited to see if it worked or had serious side effects.
That Brantly and Writebol are willing to accept the risks of becoming part of this drug experiment is in keeping with their other behaviors.
My bubble burst.
I realized that people who wouldn’t move to a developing country, cut their standard of living, work in a suffocating isolation suit in 100-degree heat, and risk deadly disease, cannot fathom the selflessness of people like Brantly and Writebol.
For that matter, critics probably can’t appreciate what Jesus did for them either.