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The Not So Distant Past

By Arthur Rasco, FACING DARKNESS Director and Producer

The Ebola epidemic of West Africa began nearly three years ago.

But the memories are so close. Ebola wasn’t just three years ago. It seems like it was yesterday.

For many of us here in the U.S., when we think of a news story happening three years ago, it feels like the distant past. But for those who lost so much during a very frightful time, the thoughts of loved ones who are now gone still remain close to the hearts of those who survived.

I’ve been to Liberia several times since 2015, and every time I go back, I’m struck by how some Ebola survivors and widows are still struggling with the effects of the illness.

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SIM missionary and Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol works at ELWA Hospital outside Monrovia counseling Liberian survivors. I can’t think of anyone who is better suited to talk with Ebola survivors than Nancy with her warm and endearing smile. On a Wednesday morning, we were filming with her when a Liberian lady eight months pregnant came in; she was a survivor whom Nancy had not met before. Nancy talked with her very tenderly. Softly. Sincerely. It had been two years since this woman had had the disease. However, within five minutes the lady was weeping as the memories and thoughts rushed back into her heart and mind, and she recalled all that had happened and all the family members she had lost to the illness. Ebola was ruthless in that it spread rampantly among relatives as they would try to care for loved ones, only to unknowingly expose themselves to the highly contagious killer disease. This situation was all too common during the early days of the epidemic and resulted in the deaths of thousands.

And now, this woman, pregnant and alone, was the only one left in her family.

The effects of the epidemic live on, and they will for years and years. As a survivor herself, Nancy understands this well and offers a shoulder to cry on, as well as trauma counseling for Liberian survivors.

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Groups like SIM and Samaritan’s Purse continue their vital work with victims of Ebola. The scars of Ebola run deep and are long-lasting. Through counseling, medical treatment, vocational training and other ministries, these organizations share the love of God to those who have been through so much pain and suffering.

The Ebola epidemic may be over, but the story is not. I’m deeply thankful for those who continue to write the story of meeting the needs of those affected by this dreadful disease.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a minute to check out the trailer for FACING DARKNESS. And then get ready to see this powerful true story of faith when it shows in theaters as a special one-night event on Thursday, March 30.
Click Here For Theaters & Tickets

Vaccine Looks Promising in Ongoing Fight Against Ebola

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One of the powerful storylines captured in FACING DARKNESS, is how an untested vaccine helped save the lives of Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol in the midst of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

While the pandemic eventually ended, the work has continued on how best to fight the disease in the future. That’s why a recent article in the New York Times is so encouraging.

“In a scientific triumph that will change the way the world fights a terrifying killer, an experimental Ebola vaccine tested on humans in the waning days of the West African epidemic has been shown to provide 100 percent protection against the lethal disease.

“The vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority, but it is considered so effective that an emergency stockpile of 300,000 doses has already been created for use should an outbreak flare up again.”

You can read the full article here.

If you haven’t seen it yet, take a minute to check out the trailer for FACING DARKNESS. And then get ready to see this powerful true story of faith when it shows in theaters as a special one-night event on Thursday, March 30.
Click Here For Theaters & Tickets

Dr. Brantly Currently Serving The Needs of Others In Texas

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When you see FACING DARKNESS as a special one-night event in theaters on Thursday, March 30, you will discover much about Dr. Kent Brantly and how God used him in the battle against Ebola in Liberia.

A recent article in his local Fort Worth newspaper put it this way:

“Brantly would become the face of Ebola for many in the United States, writing a book, appearing at the White House and speaking around the country. By the time the outbreak centered in west Africa ended, 11,323 Ebola deaths and 28,646 cases had occurred, according to the World Health Organization. …

“His experience in Liberia, where he worked for nine months as a doctor for the Christian relief agency Samaritan’s Purse has helped shape his outlook for treating patients locally and around the world.”


The in-depth newspaper story shares not only Dr. Brantly’s experience in Liberia, but also his heart of compassion.

“‘There are innumerable lessons we could draw from that experience,’ Brantly said. ‘The one I have tried to preach the most is choosing compassion over fear. I think that, at its core, is the most important lesson that this experience has illustrated. I talk about that from the perspective of my religious faith, the teachings of Jesus to love your neighbor as you love yourself.’”

Take a little time and read the entire article.

And then be sure to get your tickets to experience the full story of hope and compassion in FACING DARKNESS on March 30.

Click Here For Theaters & Tickets

Samaritan’s Purse Helping Bring Smiles to Liberia

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Perhaps the only thing more incredible than the true story of faith that is told in FACING DARKNESS is the ongoing story of faith that Samaritan’s Purse lives out each day in locations around the world.

A recent article on the ministry’s website details how doctor’s serving with Samaritan’s Purse helped young patients in Liberia.

“God used the skilled hands, compassionate hugs, and professional expertise of our cleft lip and palate medical team to bring new smiles to dozens of adults and children in Liberia during the first week of December.”

The surgeries were conducted at ELWA Hospital, the newly reconstructed hospital that is prominently featured in FACING DARKNESS. The old ELWA served as the hub of the compassionate care offered by the Samaritan’s Purse medical team during the Ebola crisis.

And it still is serving the needs of the people of Liberia.

“‘It’s remarkable to recognize that this couldn’t have happened in our old hospital,’ said Dr. John Fankhauser, chief executive officer of ELWA Hospital. The new hospital has twice as many beds as the old one and now offers three operating rooms instead of just one.”

You can read incredible stories of the people whose lives were changed by the cleft surgeries here.

And you can experience how the Samaritan’s Purse team served as the hands and feet of Jesus amidst Ebola when FACING DARKNESS is in theaters for a special one-night event on Thursday, March 30.

Click Here For Theaters & Tickets

Bringing Smiles and Hope in Dark Places

By Dorothy Blie

Samaritan’s Purse served the people of Liberia before the Ebola crisis that is highlighted in the new movie FACING DARKNESS, which can be seen in theaters only on March 30. And Samaritan’s Purse is still serving the people of Liberia. Here’s one small example sent to us straight from Liberia …

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It is always a blessing to visit the field and see projects that are away from your comfort zone. But it becomes more than an abundant blessing to see the expression on the faces of children when they are told that they are precious jewels in the sight of God. This was how I felt on my visit to River Gee County in the town called Woffiken.

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Kids between the ages of one and fifteen were part of this event and were basking in the light of love, concern, and attention shown by Samaritan’s Purse staff in sharing the love of Jesus. I was touched by the level of attention they gave the team and their answers to questions. It brought tears to my eyes to see these children saying Bible verses and giving answers to Biblical stories despite their environment.

I pray that other isolated places across Liberia, where there are lots of little angels, will get to experience this great love of Jesus Christ through Samaritan’s Purse.

The World Has Moved On …

By Daniela Spevak

For many people around the world, the summer of 2014 seems so long ago we can hardly remember what we did. With all of the world’s events, disasters, and political turmoil since then, we have shifted our focus onto something else—and rightly so. But for many Liberians, 2014 was devastating as so many lives were taken from their families.

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I, too, tend to forget how recent the summer of 2014 still feels to many Liberians. Through the Samaritan’s Purse Ruth Project, I work with Ebola widows; women who lost not only their husbands to the Ebola virus, but in some cases, were themselves infected yet survived. When I first met these women, it was hard to distinguish between their hopelessness, desperate physical need, depression, and poor condition of their spirit. Widowed survivors struggle to understand why they were spared while their husbands or children died.

I have often found myself listening to a widow share how she was the first one from her house that contracted the virus. She survived, but her husband and child died. I remember silently but urgently praying to God to give me the right words of encouragement. But what could possibly be right about all that? How is there even the right encouragement in such a situation? Who am I to tell this woman not to cry, to be thankful for being alive, to move on with her life?! But aren’t those the words that are supposed to serve as comfort to a grieving person? Somehow they did not fit into this conversation, and I remained speechless. My heart was breaking for her, and I didn’t know what to say. I sat there, listened, occasionally shed a tear with her, and held her hand. No wise words came out of my mouth …and I was so thankful for that! God didn’t want me to speak, nor to use words of comfort, nor to act smart and explain how she should move on with her life, trusting God along the way.

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Yes, my presence there is to serve these widows, to comfort them, to teach them livelihood skills, to teach anything that would help them get back on their feet and care for themselves and the multitude of children that they were now left with. Moreover, the main purpose of our Samaritan’s Purse Ruth Project is to share the love of God with them and to pray that they experience it in their hearts. One widow shared with me that she thought God hated her and that is why He took all her loved ones from her. However, now, after all the time we spent with her reading the Bible and teaching the biblical trauma healing, she thinks differently and she knows differently. She met the God of love.

The journey of grief is a period of time that can take years to bring a person to new beginnings. Even though there is still so much pain in the hearts of these women, they have been learning about God’s love for them and how He is offering to take their pain away when they bring it to the Cross. I am so grateful to God for working in the hearts of our project’s widows. He has been showing His love for them in many practical ways. Now they are growing spiritually and being strengthened physically too.

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I am happy to share that all of them have gone through personal finance and business management trainings and now own businesses. In addition, we have trained them in gardening skills, and most of them began growing vegetable gardens that produce enough (or even more!) to supply their family with food. They have come so far … we have come so far … since 2014! Our focus is on the future; with all the bumps and bruises that will still come along the way, our eyes are fixed on Jesus, sustainer and healer of all!

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The Year of the Lord’s Favor
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of joy instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.
Isaiah 61:1-3

Joy Returns to Liberia

By Joni Byker, Deputy Country Director

Joy Returns to Liberia

Remember, as a child, the anticipation of opening your Christmas presents? Oh the excitement and mystery of what could possibly be under the shiny wrapping paper! Growing up with three siblings, my Mom loved to keep our anticipation growing by not putting anyone’s names on the gifts under the tree. I had no idea which one was mine. Was it the small one in the back? The odd shaped one? Or… the HUGE one everyone wanted?!

In a similar way, we have had some amazing anticipation moments this year in Liberia. For a while there, it was hard for me to imagine that life could possibly return to “normal” after the trauma and devastation of Ebola. There was very little joy during Ebola and a whole lot of heartbreak and grief. There are still so many hurting individuals and families grieving the gaping holes their loved ones left behind. To be honest, I didn’t expect to see joy in Liberia for quite a while. But I can tell you, it is slowly coming back into this country and in beautiful ways!

One of those ways was through ELWA Hospital. This year we were able to complete the construction of a new hospital, almost doubling the capacity of the old facility. We started construction in 2012, and turned the facility over to SIM/ELWA in October of 2016. Talk about anticipation! This was a huge project for our office, and to see the final details of the hospital come together those last few months, as well as the growing anticipation of what this gift was going to bring for the people of Liberia, it was like wrapping a massive present!

Last week we had the privilege of hosting the first Samaritan’s Purse Cleft Lip and Palate Program in Liberia at the new ELWA Hospital. Being able to have the opportunity to work within the hospital, along with our partners SIM and ELWA as we transformed lives through the cleft lip program, it was like opening a gift! Over 60 men, women and children from all over Liberia came to ELWA Hospital to be screened for surgery. The medical team, consisting of Samaritan’s Purse medical staff and ELWA Hospital staff, completed an incredible 39 surgeries in five days. Lips and lives were being transformed right before my eyes! I was able to spend a day in the operating room, watching the team use their gifts and talents as they took such good care of our patients. My favorite moments were the anticipation of seeing the reaction of their families when they were out of surgery. Smiles. Hugs. Dancing! Oh what a beautiful gift it was.

But the giving was not over.

Joy Returns to Liberia

Of the 39 surgeries, several of the patients were young children, many of whom deal with teasing and laughter on a daily basis because of their deformity. These were children who were born “different” and were reminded of that fact each day. So before they left for their homes and communities with their new lips, we sent them off with one more gift… an Operation Christmas Child shoebox! Shoeboxes filled with school supplies, toothbrushes, hygiene items and so many toys! It was the perfect way to end their stay with us, providing us another opportunity to share about the greatest gift of all—better than the gift of a new hospital, better than the gift of a new lip—Jesus himself!

Because of Jesus, there is beauty in Liberia again. There is joy returning to the people of Liberia again. I honestly didn’t know if I would see it when I returned. But this year I have seen the joy of Christ shine through some of the darkest of circumstances. Sometimes He shines through a beautiful new hospital. Sometimes through a new lip, and sometimes He shines through a simple shoebox gift.

It’s All About Vision

by Kendell Kauffeldt
Liberia Country Director, Samaritan’s Purse

Its All About Vision

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians in Chapter 3, writes: “not that I have already obtained all this or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on … straining toward what is ahead … I press on towards the goal … our citizenship is in heaven and we eagerly await our Savior.” These thoughts challenge me and encourage me to keep my head up and my eyes on what God has called me to do. It’s all about vision.

Why it was God’s plan for me to lead our Samarian’s Purse Liberia office during the Ebola crisis, I am not sure, and to be honest with you, I will never be the same person or leader because of the challenge. I succeeded by God’s grace during this time, and I failed during this time, but God’s grace never changed.

I have asked myself many times since the outbreak, “Why do I continue?” Here is the reason: God gave our Liberia office a clear vision before the Ebola outbreak, and that vision remains strong after the Ebola outbreak. It is our vision that keeps me going.

This is the Samaritan’s Purse Liberia Vision Statement: Our vision is to see lives transformed through the Gospel, churches strengthened through partnership, and communities improved through our work.

This past week in our morning devotions, we looked at our vision statement again before we had project leaders come and testify. We heard about Terrie, Hawa, and Momo, whose lives had been burdened by drug abuse and alcoholism … abused and abusive. Today, these lives have been transformed through the Gospel, through Jesus. We heard about the churches in Proneken and Yassadu that are being strengthened through our projects because children have challenged the church to be more.

And we heard about Passamadu, a community that is now united through training provided by our projects; they are working together to provide for themselves.

Ebola was a deep valley that God had us walk through, but our vision did not change, and our God cannot change. And so we keep going, powered by His grace.

Finding God In The Middle Of Our Storms

Hear Franklin Graham Share About Facing Darkness

Franklin Graham recently spoke with journalist Billy Hallowell about the powerful new movie FACING DARKNESS. The article on Faithwire not only shares the movie’s background, but also its heart.

A new documentary titled, “Facing Darkness” will tell the unbelievable story surrounding Liberia’s battle with Ebola and the role that Franklin’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse, played in helping fight against the disease. Set for release nationwide during a one-night-only showing on March 30, 2017, the movie will take viewers deep inside the harrowing ordeal.

Within the story, Franklin talks about lessons he learned during the Ebola crisis … and what moviegoers will experience when they see FACING DARKNESS on Thursday, March 30.

“It’s an incredible story of how God opened doors. When Dr. (Kent) Brantly was dying … and there was now no hope, God showed up and his life was saved,” Graham said. “We want to preserve this for history. People needed to know what God did in the darkest hour, and he will do that for all of us in the midst of the darkest hour of our life. …

“I want them to realize that God is the same God in the middle of the storm as he is on the bright sunny day,” Graham said. “God was there. God was with us and God was with Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol.”

Be sure to read the full story, which also includes the trailer.

Support and New Life for Ebola Survivors

Hear Franklin Graham Share About Facing Darkness
While the story of the Ebola crisis is captured in the upcoming documentary FACING DARKNESS, its aftermath is still strong in Liberia. Thankfully, Samaritan’s Purse is still serving the needs of the people in Liberia. Check out this portion of a blog post from June of this year to get an understanding of the ministry’s ongoing impact.

At the clinic in Monrovia, Nancy Writebol, the Ebola survivor from Charlotte, North Carolina, sits with patients in a small room of ELWA Hospital. Many of these patients come with questions about how Ebola may affect their pregnancies or which medications they can take to help with headaches. Doctors at the clinic answer these questions, but Nancy focuses on the spiritual rather than the physical.

“If we don’t share Jesus Christ with our patients, we haven’t given them anything,” she said. “We can give them medical care, and we can give them hope with maybe some livelihood business skills through Samaritan’s Purse, but unless we give them Jesus, we give them nothing. Our call is to share Christ.”

She gently does this through each question she answers, and she often shares her own story of survival with the patients as well for encouragement.

In Lofa County, Harrison and other survivors still visit the Samaritan’s Purse survivors’ clinic regularly. One woman, Esther Fayieh, comes to the clinic for pain medication. Because of Ebola, she has lost hearing in her left ear and has lasting joint pain in her leg. The medicine helps to take away the physical pain, but it’s the counseling she receives from the doctors that takes away the pain of losing all seven of her family members.

“Before I encountered the virus, I had a lovely family,” she said. “But all of my family died. I was very discouraged about life. But for now, they counsel me and talk to me, so I feel very fine even though I lost all of my family.”

You can read the entire powerful post here

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