Liberian church hit hard even as Ebola pace slows

The Rev. P. Harvey Willie, superintendent of the Gbarnga district, talks with two United Methodist clergymen about the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Willie, center, is shown with the Rev. Boye Davis, left, an instructor at the Gbarnga School of Theology, and the Rev. David Bondo, Jorkoleh district superintendent. UMNS photo by Julu Swen
The Rev. P. Harvey Willie, superintendent of the Gbarnga district, talks with two United Methodist clergymen about the Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Willie, center, is shown with the Rev. Boye Davis, left, an instructor at the Gbarnga School of Theology, and the Rev. David Bondo, Jorkoleh district superintendent. UMNS photo by Julu Swen

A single United Methodist Church in rural Liberia has recently lost nine members to Ebola, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports considerable progress in stopping the disease’s spread in that country.

Taylor-ta United Methodist Church, in the village of Taylor-ta in central Liberia’s Bong County, is the church lately devastated by Ebola.

The Rev. Namo Baxton, the pastor, said United Methodists make up nine of 12 Ebola fatalities from the village. Victims include a deaconess and the vice president of the local Young Adult Fellowship.

Fourteen village residents are in an Ebola Treatment Unit (ETU), including the pastor’s wife.

A village resident brought back from Monrovia his young son who had been living with a relative who died of Ebola. Though the boy began to show signs of Ebola, the father insisted that could not be the case and refused to let other relatives try any treatments, Baxton said.

“When the boy died on November 3, 2014, the town was already afflicted with the virus and within the space of one week we lost 12 persons while others are languishing in an ETU,” Baxton lamented.

The Rev. P. Harvey Willie, superintendent of the Gbarnga District, confirmed the crisis in Taylor-ta. He said his district is working with the denomination’s top leaders in Liberia and with other groups to provide help for those quarantined, including United Methodists.

“The situation requires our collective assistance and prayers,” he said. 

The Rev. George Wilson, director of Connectional Ministries for the Liberia Conference, said Taylor-ta has been part of recent food donations made to the various districts of The United Methodist Church in Liberia. The denomination also is helping provide the community with needed medicine.

 “We are aware of what our members in Taylor-ta UMC are going through at this moment,” Rev. Wilson added.

The World Health Organization’s most recently released statistics on  the recent Ebola outbreak have the number of “confirmed, probable or suspected” cases in Liberia as 7,082, resulting in 2,963 deaths.

Still, the earlier exponential growth of cases has been arrested as treatment has improved and precautions have been practiced wore widely, the CDC said.

Meanwhile, reports from Ganta City, in Nimba County in northern Liberia, indicate that there are only four persons in the ETU there after eight persons were recently discharged.

Victor Taryor, administrator of the Ganta United Methodist Hospital, where the local ETU is, confirmed the news from Ganta City and added that there are no new cases.

Taryor who is also the co-chairman of the Nimba County Anti-Ebola Task Force, indicated that the county has started its own countdown to containment.

“The ETU personnel are running some tests for the remaining four persons and once the results are repeatedly negative, they will discharge them,” he said.

Swen is a communicator in Liberia.

News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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