Alice is a widow, 72 years old. Her daughters have cared for her for years: going to the market to buy her food and making sure all her needs are met. That is, until her family came face-to-face with the epidemic.
Her oldest daughter grew ill first. After the first bout of terrible nausea passed, she lay on the floor looking up at her concerned mother, and said, "It's going to be alright, Mama. You are going to be OK." She knew death would come soon.
Then her youngest daughter succumbed to the disease. Both grandchildren. Finally, her son-in-law. He laid in the house where he died for five days before a crew came to remove his body and disinfect the house. No one has entered the house since. And Alice has no one.
She says she goes to the market alone now, but no one will do business with her. The vendors won't take her money. "No, No," they say. "You have the Ebola."
"I cry every day," she says. "I ask God, Why am I alive?"
Sweet Alice, I want to say. Alice, God's not done with you yet! God is using you, my sister. You have a Loving Father and he is the Great Comforter and an Almighty Healer. Alice, you are breathing so you can tell this story and I can hear this story and I can pray for you now!
I can be humbled in the midst of my wealth.
I can be broken in mercy for your pain.
I can exhort my brothers and sisters to uphold your cause.
I pray Alice's voice continues to be heard across the world. I pray she will not be forgotten. I pray safety and comfort for her and all our brothers and sisters suffering in West Africa now, and interceding daily for the missionaries who are living among them now.
The stories of American aid workers who've contracted the Ebola virus and been rushed home for treatment are uplifting: we find hope knowing that doctors are helping them to recover and perhaps developing ways to combat the outbreak, finally bringing it to a stop. I rejoice knowing that Jesus is working through His hands and feet and my prayers directly serve the body of Christ. God will be glorified in this!
But please, in the celebrations, never forget Alice.
One day, I will meet Alice in heaven and I will hug her neck with joy. I prayed for you, Alice, I can say. God used you in ways you couldn't fathom! You felt totally alone, but He was there with you, and I was, too!
As long as you are breathing, God's not done with you yet. Your life has meaning and purpose. You are beautiful, complete and deeply loved.
Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow. (Isaiah 1:17)
Image credits: top, Steve Evans via Flickr (Creative Commons license) | bottom three via CNN