CHICAGO, IL (August 26, 2014) — Editor’s Note: Curt Peterson, the executive minister of Serve Globally, released a statement today in response to news of an Ebola outbreak in Equateur Province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The statement follows in its entirety.
The DR Congo government has confirmed an Ebola fever outbreak at Djera, located in the Boende region of Congo’s northwest Equateur Province. Equateur is the province in which the Covenant has served since 1937.
Currently four ECC missionaries are living in the Gemena and Karawa areas of the Equateur Province. The instances of confirmed Ebola fever deaths have occurred in a remote area of the Boende region some 275 miles south of Gemena and Karawa. There are no roads connecting to this region and multiple river crossings create substantial barriers to transmission. A DR Congo government contingency plan has already been put in place with a budget of $4,500,000. A call to support this plan has been launched to all partners—national and international—for a quick response.
The government of the DRC has taken the following measures:
1. The Djera sector has been put in quarantine (some 50,000 people).
2. A processing center and a mobile laboratory are established at Lokolia, a town located a few kilometers from DJera, the epicenter of the epidemic where two of eight blood samples indicated positive for a strain of Ebola virus.
3. All airports and ports in Equateur are equipped with laser thermometers to monitor those coming in and going out of the region.
4. All hunting is banned throughout the district Tshwapa (a possible source of this Ebola virus is infected forest animals).
Pete and Cindy Ekstrand (Gemena) and Sheryl and Paul Noren (Karawa), missionaries living in Congo right now, thank you for your prayers during this time. “We don’t feel threatened or fearful at all, but this news has altered the way that we now work day to day,” they said in a note to their families and supporters. The message continued:
“When we first became alerted of this possible threat last Thursday we immediately talked of what this means to ourselves, our staff, our ministries and what we each need to do.
“At this point we are not worried about having to leave. While we know that it is possible for Ebola to travel here, we believe it is highly unlikely. Know that we do not take this threat lightly, but we are not in immediate danger. We will be extremely careful and keep alert to current updates in the news. Our medical leaders are keeping in touch with authorities. We know that we are in God’s hands. He has proven to us over and over again that He is in control of our lives. We will trust that He will grant us safety, wisdom and the right words to say, the right path to take in regards to this situation if it were to move closer to us.”
Much attention is being given to education, preparation, prevention, and development of contingency plans by the CEUM (Covenant Church of Congo), which serves multiple health zones in its five hospitals and 108 medical clinics. CEUM President Mboka and Medical Director Dr. Lingili are taking steps to assure that accurate information about Ebola transmission, symptoms, and steps to prevent spreading the virus are communicated throughout the region of the 1,650 CEUM churches. Missionary Keith Gustafson, ECC country coordinator, is in regular contact with missionaries and the CEUM and is alerting us to their latest reports and also official DRCongo and WHO communiques.
This Ebola virus has not been spread from the other countries infected in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the DR Congo medical reports. This is the seventh occurrence of Ebola fever in DR Congo since 1976, when the virus was first identified in a region near the Ebola River. The government and WHO are diligent with expertise in efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
At this time missionaries will work alongside the CEUM leaders and medical staff in training in healthy hygiene and sanitation practices and assist in communication and encouragement and prayer as together with our brothers and sisters in Congo we trust God for protection, care and comfort. According to Meritt Sawyer, executive director for the Paul Carlson Partnership (PCP) working in Congo, PCP volunteer medical ambassadors are in regular communication with Dr. Lingili and will seek ways of being of assistance including through raising funds for important medical supplies needed for clinics and hospitals as part of preventive measures.
As a Covenant we have a close connection to the children of this region. Covenant church attendees sponsor nearly 8,000 children through Covenant Kids Congo powered by World Vision. None of these children are close to this current outbreak since they are all within the Gemena region. We are monitoring the situation closely with World Vision national and regional staff and their medical personnel.
Today I call out the Covenant to take the challenge to pray for the most vulnerable among the people of Congo and to continue to pray for the suffering people of West African countries. As you wash your hands multiple times a day let that good hygiene practice remind you to pray for the prevention and miraculous cleansing of the Ebola virus. Perhaps prayer for Africa could go viral!
Thank you for praying and thank you for caring and thank you for giving to help support the Covenant response to this crisis in Africa. Covenant World Mission, Paul Carlson Partnership, and Covenant World Relief will all be responding to these needs in coordinated ways with our partners in Africa.
Executive Minister of Serve Globally