Two days ago I visited Botsford International Travel Clinic and received all the necessary vaccinations and prescriptions for my travel to and stay in Uganda. While I was there I had such a good time talking to the doctor and nurse (who are eager to see pictures upon my return.) I left with bandaids covering shots for Meningitis and Typhoid in one arm, Yellow Fever and the first round of Hepatitis A in the other, and prescriptions for Malaria and travelers diarrhea medication.
It’s incredibly astounding to me that I live in a country where I can make an appointment, walk in to a medical center and receive all these vaccinations and drugs to protect myself from the diseases of this world. And beyond that-walk out only paying a small co-pay. The medical attention I receive in this country is something I have always taken for granted, and that will continue to become more clear to me as I go to live in a land where the native people struggle to find clean water, let alone precautionary medicine.
For many reasons, I have had people choose to not support me in my decision to spend three months in Africa this winter and most of those reasons have been related to their concern for my health and well being while overseas. I would like to address concerns that have been brought to my attention by several of you, namely- Ebola.
Ebola is a very deadly disease that was first discovered in 1976. This disease is very infectious but not extremely contagious.1 Ebola is not an airborne illness, such as the flu, but is transmitted by direct contact with fluids from an infected person. In 2014, cases of Ebola have been found in Guinea, Liberia, Mali (1 case, originating from Guinea), Nigeria, Senegal (originating from Guinea as well), Sierra Leone, Spain and the United States.
Nigeria is only a few countries away from Uganda, but according to the World Health Organization, after the 20 cases there were contained, as of October 20th, Nigeria is free from Ebola transmission2. In August, the Democratic Republic of Congo reported to the World Health Organization a small outbreak of Ebola, resulting in less than 50 deaths. This outbreak is unrelated to the outbreak in West Africa and is located in a part of the country farthest from Uganda’s borders, and according to NBC News, the Congo has announced the end of their outbreak after only 3 months.3
According to the Center for Disease Control, there have been 0 reported cases of Ebola in Uganda in 2014. The biggest reason for this is that Uganda is located approximately 4,000 miles from the region where the main Ebola outbreak is located right now. This is approximately the same distance from Juneau, Alaska to Orlando, Florida. I think it is also important to mention that people do not move around in Africa quite like they do in America. A great amount of traveling occurs on foot or by motorcycle (called bodas) and Uganda is separated from West Africa by several mountain ranges, the Congo Basin and countless rivers. Traveling by plane, thousands of miles for vacations or trips is not a common occurrence for people in these countries that cannot even afford food.
I recently spoke with a family friend that spent 10 weeks in Uganda over the summer, right when this Ebola epidemic became the biggest subject line of every news story. She told me, when she was there, Ebola was something that was talked about but not worried over. As far as other dangers and safety precautions go, her biggest piece of advice to me was to just be smart. Just like I wouldn’t walk down any city street here, by myself at night, I shouldn’t do it there either. Just like I wouldn’t get into a cab with a drunk driver here, I wouldn’t get on a boda in Uganda being operated by someone under the influence. She encouraged me to wear helmet on a boda, just like I would on a motorcycle in the states. These are all decisions I feel comfortable making while in Uganda.
I greatly appreciate the care and concern everyone has for my safety and health but I would like to state that any time we follow the Lord, we accept the inherent risks of the particular assignment He has given us, keeping in mind that He is fully capable of protecting us and providing for us in any circumstance. This experience will require that I rely upon the Lord more than I ever have in my life and I am so looking forward to growing closer to Him because of that.
Even if you do not wish to donate to me financially, please be praying for me. This is not something I can do without the encouragement and support of the people around me. Where I am going is perhaps not as safe as the suburban streets where I grew up, and definitely not what we, as Americans, would consider comfortable, but Uganda is where the Lord is calling me to go. There was once a famous missionary from England named William Carey, who spent more than half his life in India. In 1792 he wrote to his supporters saying, “I will descend into the pit, if you will hold tightly to the ropes.” So please, be praying for my health, safety, and ministry.
So, in this holiday season I am indeed highly vaccinated-one step closer to making this dream a reality. But I am also highly thankful. I have spent the whole month of school teaching my students about gratitude (my school’s moral focus of the month), and on this Thanksgiving I have gratitude that I live in a country where I can receive remarkable healthcare so easily, which allows me to go into the world to do the Lord’s work. I am thankful that there is a God who loves me enough to send His son to die for me and he now watches over me and protects my every step.
The Lord watches over you- the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
1 “Ebola Fast Facts.” CNN. Cable News Network, 25 Nov. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/04/11/health/ebola-fast-facts/>.
2 “Nigeria Is Now Free of Ebola Virus Transmission.” WHO. World Health Organization, 20 Oct. 2014. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.
3 Fox, Maggie. “A Tale of Two Outbreaks: Why Congo Conquered Ebola.” NBC News. N.p., 24 Nov. 2014. Web. 26 Nov. 2014.