(Message at the Operation Christmas Child Connect Conference on 3/12/15 from Dr. Kent Brantly, staff doctor working with Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia who contracted the ebola virus, was brought back to the US for treatment, and by God’s grace made a full recovery.)
When I read Scripture through the events of July & August 2014 everything seems new.
I Corinth. 1: 4 He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us. 5 For the more we suffer for Christ, the more God will shower us with his comfort through Christ. 6 Even when we are weighed down with troubles, it is for your comfort and salvation! For when we ourselves are comforted, we will certainly comfort you. Then you can patiently endure the same things we suffer. 7 We are confident that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in the comfort God gives us.
8 We think you ought to know, dear brothers and sisters,[b] about the trouble we went through in the province of Asia. We were crushed and overwhelmed beyond our ability to endure, and we thought we would never live through it. 9 In fact, we expected to die. But as a result, we stopped relying on ourselves and learned to rely only on God, who raises the dead. 10 And he did rescue us from mortal danger, and he will rescue us again. We have placed our confidence in him, and he will continue to rescue us. 11 And you are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety.
I feel like I could have written that passage to our supporters and to many of you who lifted us up to the throne room of God when I was sick. Thank you for praying for me, for my family and for holding us up before the Lord.
My wife Amber and I moved our family to Liberia in Octoer 2013 to be full-time medical missionaries. How do you know God called you? I know God called me because He has called all of us. In 2 Corinthians 5 God calls all of us to be His ambassadors. God reconciled us to Himself and gave us this glorious message of reconciliation. We moved to Monrovia as part of the Samaritan’s Purse post-residency program. This was the next natural step in a years-long journey of walking with Christ. We all have different starting points. Amber and I were raised in Christian homes and along life’s path we each had transformational experiences.
One of those experiences happened between my sophomore and junior year in high school when I left my small denominational Christian school and moved to a larger school. This seemed like a tragedy to me but broadened my view of God’s world and His church.
Another transformational experience came in the form of mentors who encouraged me. I want to ask you, “Who in your life are you in a position to mentor? Not to say to them ‘come emulate me’ but to put your arm around someone and tell them ‘walk with me and let’s try to emulate Christ.”
Between my junior and senior years of college I was a biblical text major and we were required to do a summer internship. So I went to Africa—Kenya and Tanzania—working with several different mission teams. I learned two very important lessons—first—I am a slave to Christ and a slave goes where his master wants him to go; second---God will give me what I need to be faithful to Him—whatever He calls me to. I understand that differently now than I ever did before.
After that summer I began to sense God’s call on my life to use my life to be an ambassador for the Kingdom of God so I began making decisions that pursued that calling. We made connections with people and communities we might never have otherwise encountered.
I met a doctor who introduced me to Liberia and invited me to be mentored by him. We also made the decision to be connected with a church. I give young people this advice—stay connected to a local church community that will mentor you and hold you accountable.
As I neared the end of college with my biblical text degree I felt called by God to have a skill set to use my life in service to others and that is how I chose medicine. It was never about becoming a doctor but about becoming the hands of Jesus to a hurting and broken world. I made a commitment to God and asked Him to open doors that I could walk through and if not, I asked Him to slam doors in my face. From that day…nothing has gone the way I expected it to.
I have seen the maturation of God’s call in my life from a life of service to a life of discipleship and participating in the discipleship of others. Ultimately it was that call to a life of discipleship that resulted in me getting ebola.
One thing I’ve learned is what it really means that God will give you what you need to be faithful to Him
While lying ill in my bed with ebola I listened to a song, “We are more than conquerors. What can separate us from the love of God. Nothing. Nothing.” What more do we need than to know that? That’s what I needed to be faithful to Him in that moment.
And I understand better now what it means, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” It struck me one day that I could have died and it would have been gain. But for me to live is Christ and because I live I am to be an ambassador for Christ.
Another lesson I learned is the safest place to be is wherever God leads you. Some said it was risky to take our family to West Africa. But they were at much greater risk in the US to have their lives consumed by materialism. We fool ourselves when we think that staying where we are will remove risk from our lives. I’d rather take the risk in whatever place God’s leading me to.
What does this mean to you—1,200 OCC volunteers; First, the most important thing is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength….and the second is like it: to love your neighbor as yourself.
It’s about being an ambassador for Christ wherever you are. Helping whatever neighbor is in need so we can work out the glory of God.
Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.