SIM UK’s Dr Mikey Bryant, who is serving at the ELWA Hospital in Liberia, says God is his refuge and strength during the current coronavirus crisis.
When the first case of COVID-19 was announced on March 16, within minutes, every member of staff at the ELWA Hospital was wearing a face shield. However, the experience brought back painful memories from the time of the deadly Ebola virus of 2014-2016, which still casts a shadow over the country.
SIM opened its ministry in Liberia in 1954 with a radio station to share the gospel. The original call letters were ‘ELWA,’ which stands for Eternal Love Winning Africa.
The ELWA Hospital was one of the leading centres in fighting the outbreak and as Mikey says: “Some of the team had Ebola and survived; had members of their family and friends die; or were involved in caring for patients in the Ebola treatment unit. Every day, they are revisiting painful memories as they are reminded of their loss.”
Thankfully, Mikey says that by fixing his eyes on Jesus, he is finding the strength to cope with the current challenges.
“God has called us here for such a time as this. These are the people who he has loved and sent his son Jesus Christ to die for. Our lives are not our own — they are his, and we have the privilege of serving him.”
For several weeks, the hospital prepared for the influx of patients. With help from SIM’s partner organisation Samaritan’s Purse, a separate tent was erected so patients having COVID-19 symptoms could be screened and treated appropriately without taking unnecessary risk. But some are reluctant to come to the hospital owing to rumours that during the Ebola crisis, many people got lost and were sent to an unknown place for treatment.
“Some died and were buried with no information available to update their relatives and families lost touch with each other. We also don't have enough PPE (masks, gloves etc) and it’s taking time to convince everyone that this time, there is unlikely to be help shipped in providing this equipment or the personnel,” he says.
However, Mikey is grateful to God that the community in Monrovia is working together with hospital staff to help deal with the limited resources.
“Everyone has achieved a lot in a short space of time, especially the cleaners who have a very challenging job in this hot, dusty, dry season. They are working tirelessly to keep everything clean, hand washing stations topped up and complete the many other tasks added to their list right now, and all at 30+ degrees (Celsius).
“We have local people making masks for the hospital staff, which is not ideal, but it’s better than nothing. We are thankful we have an oxygen plant, even though it is not working efficiently as it needs repairing and now that the borders are closed, this will be particularly challenging.
“We are reminded that the only thing that is certain is that Jesus is on the throne. If we take our eyes off him it can become too overwhelming— he is our ever-present help.”
The current 47,000 sq ft hospital opened in 2016 to replace the original facilities, founded by SIM in 1965. Through multiple civil wars and, most recently, the Ebola epidemic, ELWA Hospital has remained true to its vision ‘To glorify God by ministering to the whole person — the spirit, the soul and the body.’
Give thanks for the hospital team united in working together to coordinate a response to the pandemic and to remind patients of Christ’s steadfast love at this time.
For trauma-healing courses that have begun at the hospital to support staff through this pandemic.
For the ELWA Hospital to be a beacon for Christ in Liberia.