By Dr. John Frankhauser
"E-L-W-A. You people are doing good," said the man, smiling broadly. We were in downtown Monrovia when this stranger saw the ELWA sign on the side of our car. He wanted to let us know that he was aware of the great work SIM's ELWA Hospital was doing to save lives in a time of crisis.
This was a big encouragement. ELWA is well known in Liberia as an organization people look to for help. In fact, many Liberians say that at one time ELWA was the "voice of Liberia." People have been watching our response to Ebola. God has been at work at ELWA through health care, through the local churches and through the radio ministry. These services have been making an indelible impact on the country.
The Ebola crisis brought many changes to the ELWA campus. Before the outbreak, it was a very busy and active place. It was the venue for a number of church meetings each week. There were regular youth conferences, as well as evening soccer practices and weekend games. The nearby beach, one of the nicest in the country, attracted hundreds of people each weekend. It was normal to see people playing on the sand, splashing in the waves and enjoying themselves. All of this changed.
People stopped coming to ELWA for recreation, and the children living on campus were instructed to stay close to home. Nevertheless, ELWA is still an extraordinary place. It became home to the world's largest Ebola treatment unit, ELWA-3 and our hospital medical director, Dr. Jerry Brown was responsible for another Ebola unit, ELWA-2. For many weeks these two units represented one-half of the total Ebola treatment beds available in Liberia.
Under Dr. Brown's leadership, ELWA-2 has discharged many Ebola survivors. Patients have received excellent care here. Each person admitted receives IV fluids and is actively cared for. Their spiritual well-being is also addressed. Prayers are offered for each individual in the unit, and those who are recovering encourage others with Scripture reading. Each day radio ELWA broadcasts an hour-long program focused on encouraging those who are in the Ebola treatment units throughout Monrovia. Dr. Brown's team has instilled a tremendous amount of hope in patients and their families.
And there is good reason for the hope. More and more people are surviving Ebola. The rapid increase in cases that we saw from July 2014 until the end of that year, started to lessen in 2015. Community education is having a significant effect on the epidemic and radio ELWA is contributing. Because our station has one of only a few shortwave transmitters in the country, we have been able to reach those who live in remote places in the interior of the country, communicating the facts about Ebola, its prevention and treatment in a number of indigenous languages.
ELWA Hospital has been a model for delivering general medical care in Liberia. Before the outbreak the country's health care system was in a period of rebuilding. Now the fragile medical system has been decimated, and many have died from treatable conditions like malaria, typhoid fever, and trauma. At ELWA we are delivering babies, performing emergency surgeries, including Caesarean sections, and treating both chronic and acute illnesses. Slowly and safely we are expanding our services.
Thankfully, the world has responded to the Ebola threat with people, equipment and funds. But the needs here are still immense. We need health care professionals that can commit not just weeks, but months of service. We need resources and financial support. But most of all, we need your prayers. Please continue to remember the people of West Africa. Pray for an end to the Ebola epidemic, and for our health care system to be restored. And pray that God will be glorified through the work of the believers at ELWA.