Priscilla Jaiah, Helen Roberts-Evans and Mary Randall Zigbuo were blessed by the Global Ministries staff last week ahead of their return to Liberia to assist the Liberia Annual Conference and health board in the effort to contain Ebola. They will be on special missionary assignment for six months.
Missionaries Return to Liberia
By Linda Unger*
November 6, 2014—Global Ministries missionaries Mary Randall Zigbuo, Helen Roberts-Evans and Priscilla Jaiah return today to Liberia, where they will support efforts by The United Methodist Church annual conference and health board to help contain the Ebola epidemic.
“I’m anxious to get back and see what’s really happening,” said Roberts-Evans in comments before a blessing ceremony at Global Ministries headquarters in New York City last week, where staff gathered to pray and sing with the women before their departure.
“I am content; I’m already there,” Jaiah added. “Just being with the people, being present, will be something.”
Jaiah and Roberts-Evans were temporarily recalled from their ministries in education and church administration, respectively, in August. They and Zigbuo, who works at Global Ministries’ head office and has spent more than 20 years in Liberia, will be on special assignment, responding to the Ebola emergency, for six months.
“The Holy Spirit is at work in this response of mine,” said Zigbuo. “I feel very confident.” She said a verse from the book of Proverbs (3:5-6) has been meaningful to her as she prepares to return: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding….”
“Surely the One who called us will also keep us safe,” she said. “I’m there to support the efforts of those who remained. I’m happy that Global Ministries supports us in such a vital way.”
Zigbuo, Roberts-Evans and Jaiah join two other Global Ministries missionaries—Dr. Albert Willicor, chief medical officer, and Victor Taryor, administrator, of Ganta United Methodist Hospital—who have remained in Liberia throughout the current health emergency.
Foot washing, prayers and song were part of the blessing ceremony. Photo: Felipe Castillo
Willicor and Taryor will continue their work at Ganta Hospital, where staff continues to meet a host of medical needs and surgeries. Taryor reported that Ganta is the only hospital in the region that has remained open throughout the Ebola crisis.
The hospital also has donated a former eye clinic for use by the government as an Ebola treatment center, and it is being managed by Doctors Without Borders. Dr. Paye Nelson Gbarmie, a former scholarship recipient of the North Carolina Annual Conference while he was in medical school, is working at the center.
Zigbuo, Roberts-Evans and Jaiah will serve in Monrovia, the capital, where they will supplement the skeleton staff that has remained at work at the Liberia Conference headquarters. They will provide a point of contact with Global Ministries, informing about needs met and those that emerge.
Many of those emerging needs have to do with the “ripple effects” of Ebola, they indicated, including the need for psychosocial support, food security and the reintegration into family life of children orphaned by the disease and who have been left not only traumatized but stigmatized as well.
“There may be a few thousand people in Liberia who have Ebola,” said Roberts-Evans, “but there are several million who compose the whole population of the country, and everyone is affected by it.”
As the response to Ebola by the Liberia Annual Conference continues to unfold, aided by the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Global Health unit of Global Ministries, as well as by conferences and members across the United Methodist connection, the missionaries intend to share stories of how that support is making a difference in the effort to contain the disease.
During the blessing ceremony at Global Ministries headquarters, Thomas Kemper, the organization’s head, praised the women for their “free choices to return to Liberia.”
In a statement, he noted that the women could have remained safely in this country. “They have chosen in God’s grace to rejoin their colleague missionaries and others of the United Methodist community in Liberia to strengthen grassroots efforts to overcome the disease,” he said.
Rev. Judy Chung, associate general secretary of Missionary Services, said precautions are being taken to ensure the safety of the missionaries and that Center for Disease Control (CDC) travel guidelines are being followed.
“The missionaries want to be there,” she said, “so that they can be used by God in the midst of this crisis. And this aligns with our incarnational understanding of ministry: we don’t abandon people at their time of greatest risk.”
To learn more about Global Ministries’ response to the Ebola emergency and what you can do to help, click here.
*Linda Unger is senior writer for the General Board of Global Ministries.