Ebola survivor shares her story of serving God at all costs
Nancy Writebol: “I never went to Liberia to be recognized in this way; I went to serve Christ.”
Nancy Writebol describes her experience with the Ebola virus as a spiritual battle that drew her and her husband, David, closer to God.
The Ebola survivor from North Carolina made international headlines last summer when she was among the first people from the United States to contract the deadly disease. She had been working as a nursing assistant with SIM, an international Christian missionary agency, in Liberia for about a year when she was diagnosed with Ebola, but she doesn’t know how she got it.
“It will always be a mystery. I was in a low-risk zone,” says Nancy who had helped dress and disinfect health care workers working at an Ebola treatment unit.
Nancy began feeling unwell on Tuesday, July 22 and went into isolation. By the end of the day she was running a fever. “I felt like I had malaria, and I tested positive for that,” she says, adding she was immediately treated for the malaria.
The following Friday Nancy had another malaria test and tested negative, but because she was still sick the next day, medical personnel decided to test her for Ebola. “On Saturday David told me that the test was positive,” she says.
While the news was devastating for the couple, Nancy says she “sensed the Lord’s great peace.”
Quarantined in her own home, David never left her side even though he could only talk to her through a window from outside. The couple, who have been married 40 years, prayed together and read through the book of Philippians.
“David would read Scripture to me and what really sustained me was God’s word. I asked God to recall it to my mind, and God was faithful,” she says. “I didn’t know that I would survive, but I had the Lord’s presence that no matter what, He was there.”
She says many of the doctors who took care of her are believers. “One doctor would read to me out of Oswald Chambers (devotional). It was speaking to all of us during that week.”
But Nancy also felt a spiritual heaviness throughout the ordeal.
“There were some very dark nights. I sensed we were in a battle. [God’s] word carried us through that.”
On August 4, Nancy was evacuated from Liberia to Emory University in Atlanta. By that time she was so weak she had to be laid on a baggage conveyor belt to board the aircraft because she could no longer walk.
David had to stay in Liberia for a number of days after Nancy was evacuated. “God’s sovereignty was at work. We leaned into the Lord heavily,” he says.
One verse that spoke especially to Nancy was John 10:28 which says “no one can snatch you out of the Father’s hand.”
“I had nightmares but John 10 was a huge comfort to me,” she says.
After seeing so many others die from Ebola, Nancy describes her own recovery as miraculous. Her intense treatment included hydration, blood transfusions and three doses of ZMapp—an unproven vaccine currently in clinical trials. She attributes her successful outcome to the care she received as well as to the hundreds, if not thousands, of people around the world who were praying for her. “God used all of that to accomplish His work.”
Months later, Nancy is still regaining strength and stamina. “The thing that still bothers me is my knees,” she says of her ongoing joint pain.
The Writebols are now urging Christians around the world to continue praying for God to grant wisdom to the doctors and scientists working on Ebola. “We need to stand in the gap of this medical crisis,” Nancy says. “It’s not just Ebola victims that are affected, it’s the whole medical field. Some hospitals (in Africa) have closed because of this, so the medical needs besides Ebola are just huge.”
Nancy encourages Christian medical personnel who are willing, to consider serving in Ebola-stricken regions. “This all brings awareness of who our neighbours are and to not bury our heads in the sand about what is happening in the world. We are to be the hands and feet of Christ. We need to be actively involved.”
The world is watching. In December, TIME magazine named the “Ebola Fighters,” including Nancy Writebol, as its top pick for the annual “Person of the Year.” Nancy later told her son (as reported by Moody Global), “I never went to Liberia to be recognized in this way; I went to serve Christ.”
The Writebols hope to return to Liberia to continue serving there with SIM.
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