Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, in whom you are marked with the Holy Spirit.
Let me take the opportunity to convey the concern and sympathy of the leadership and entire membership of the Association of Evangelicals in Africa (AEA) to the church and people of the Mano River Union, currently under the scourge of the hemorrhagic Ebola virus. Our heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families of the hundreds of people who have succumbed to the plague, many of these died while fighting to save the lives of others.
In a true African worldview, many people would be posing questions and proffering answers that border on the spiritual. Unfortunately, many would be confused by the kind of responses that are trending in social media. Some pastors claim their personal space, and by implication local church premises, are Ebola-free territories; special healing powers and suggest that the epidemic itself is a curse from God.
The situation is both a challenge and an opportunity for the church for sound biblical teaching with sensitive pastoral care. Today was declared a day of reflection (and prayer in Sierra Leone). As a Sierra Leonean myself, I am taking this seriously and I share herein some of my reflections:
Christians in the region will be looking up to the church leadership for answers and encouragement. It is important to remember that we live in a fallen world and on this side of eternity, people will go through pain and hurt; tragedies of all kinds afflict humans and Ebola is just one such situation of pain and hurt. Faith in Christ does not promise a trouble-free world. However, followers of Jesus Christ are not alone in their suffering, through the ministry of Jesus; God enters our painful situations to bring healing and redemption. By his stripes we are healed (Isa. 53:5). Christ offers comfort to our wounded souls. We do not always know why we go through suffering and pain, but we know the one who was wounded and scarred for us.
God has not abandoned his people, the Bible says, not even the ultimate evil (death itself) can separate us from the love of God (Rom. 8:37-39). Suffering of any sort is indeed not from God, it is a tool of the Devil to torment us (2Cor. 12:7) and something to thwart God’s plan for human flourishing. It is right for us to pray against this and for eradication of suffering and healing. Thank God, he does answer our prayers and sometimes he gives us complete healing. Ultimately, this is what he will do for all believers (Rev. 21:4).
However, this is not how God answered Paul’s prayer for his suffering. God did not take away his thorn, instead God told him “My grace is sufficient for you, and my power is made perfect in weakness” (2Cor.12:9). In the same way Christ was crucified in weakness (2Cor. 13:4) and God’s power was manifested in the resurrection of Christ (1Cor. 1:22-25). This is the reason Christians celebrate the cross like no other religion or human institution will do. It is the solution to human suffering. I pray that the wounds of Christ give you succor and comfort in this very difficult time and be assured of our continuous prayers for you.
Your brother in Christ,
Association of Evangelicals in Africa