Divinity School teams with Liberian Baptist leader to provide aid to Ebola-stricken African nation

October 21, 2014 | Leave a Comment

Divinity School teams with Liberian Baptist leader to provide aid to Ebola-stricken African nation

Oju Menjay and his family won’t be returning to their home country of Liberia — ground zero for the Ebola virus — any time in the foreseeable future. So the president of the Liberian Baptist Missionary and Education Convention have made the best of their time in the United States heading relief efforts to send food and supplies in the areas hardest hit by the deadly epidemic that’s already killed thousands.

Menjay visited Campbell University in October to speak to the Divinity School’s Student Advisory Leadership Team and advise them on the appropriate steps to send aid to the western African nation. He also shared his experiences, having seen firsthand his friends and fellow pastors contract the virus from those they were ministering or providing medical care for.

“Just last week, we lost four pastors,” Menjay told members of SALT during a lunch meeting following the sermon he delivered in Butler Chapel for that week’s Thursday service. “Just this morning, I received news that two members of another pastor’s household were sick as well. This is something I don’t think anybody can prepare for. It’s even worse in Liberia, a nation with a very poor health care system that’s been through 40 years of civil war and rebuilding. It’s been very devastating.”

Through mid-October, the Ebola virus had killed more than 2,300 people in Liberia and roughly 4,500 people worldwide. One of those deaths occurred in the United States after a Liberian contracted the disease before flying to visit family in Dallas. Two health care workers also contracted the virus while carrying for him before his death.

While Menjay is confident the U.S. will prevent an outbreak within its borders — “Ebola doesn’t like your health care system,” he said confidently before describing current conditions of hospitals in Liberia — he is very concerned about the future of his country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention worries the number of cases could rise to between 550,000 and 1.4 million by 2015 without additional interventions by foreign countries or changes in behavior by the hardest-hit communities.

Changing behaviors hasn’t been easy, Menjay said, because that involves changing the culture, too. He’s told ministers in Liberia to worry about themselves first and their congregation second. He’s told people with infected family members to avoid contact at all costs.

“When you’re on a plane, and they tell you in the event of an emergency you must apply your own oxygen mask first before helping somebody else … this is the same with ebola,” Menjay said. “You can’t take care of the sick if you’re sick too. Our African traditions call for compassionate care, and with this virus, that only helps spread it.”
Menjay traveled to Texas shortly after his visit in Buies Creek to work with the Dallas-based Texas Baptists Disaster Recovery group, which partnered with Missouri-based Convoy of Hope to ship more than 250,000 meals (44,000 pounds of food) to Liberia on Oct. 9.

Marvin Ownley, a Campbell graduate and second-year Master of Divinity student, said SALT chose to work with Menjay because the group wanted its foreign mission project this year to have an immediate impact during a time of crisis. As the U.S. government works with other nations to battle the disease itself, the best thing a group like SALT can do is send money or food.

“The funds we raise will go directly toward supporting the cause to fight Ebola and provide food that will be distributed by the outbreak mission teams in Liberia,” Ownley said.

Donations for the effort can be made through any SALT member or by contacting Lynn Brinkley at (910) 894-4319 or brinkleyc@campbell.edu. Deadline to make a donation is Nov. 25.

— Story, photo by Billy Liggett