Church responds to Ebola for members, missionaries

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The Oneil and Smith families conduct sacrament meeting in their home during lockdown in Sierra Leone. Local Church leaders authorized and encouraged Church members to stay at home during the two-day lockdown in September. (Mormon Newsroom)

Missionaries, members and humanitarians involved with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints are responding to the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana and around the world.

The Church, known for its participation in humanitarian efforts, evacuated missionaries from the African nations of Sierra Leone and Liberia on Aug. 6. By the first week of October, most Church members in West Africa received sanitation supplies and were encouraged to worship at home. LDS Charities and International Medical Corps are providing medical clothing, supplies, food and hygienic supplies to affected countries.

Missionaries

McKay Randall, a sophomore from Mesa, Arizona, was a firsthand witness to the missionary relocation. Randall’s younger brother, Ryley, was called to serve in the Liberia Monrovia mission May 21 of this year. Shortly before entering the Provo MTC, Randall received a new mission call reassigning him to the Ghana Accra mission.

“(The Church) didn’t say anything to us,” Randall said. “They didn’t say anything about where he was going until they sent us a new (call) in the mail, and that one said he is going to Ghana.”

Randall said his brother believes he will serve in Ghana for a short time until the Liberia mission is reopened.

Prior to evacuation, missionaries in Liberia and Sierra Leone were advised to stay home. Mission presidents throughout Africa have been instructed by the Church to train missionaries in precautions they should take to avoid the disease.

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Elder Ryley Randall poses in Ghana. Randall was reassigned to the Ghana Accra mission after the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Randall was originally called to serve in the Liberia Monrovia mission. (Photo courtesy McKay Randall)
“I remember when they pulled them out I thought, ‘Wow, that’s just a little thing,'” Randall said. “It seemed premature to me, but I think the Church was onto something before the world was.”

Humanitarian efforts

LDS Charities has provided emergency supplies to approximately 7,800 families in Sierra Leone. Supplies included rice, cooking oil, hygiene supplies and chlorine.

The Church has partnered with International Medical Corps to provide a local hospital with medical clothing and supplies.

Gene Cole, an environmental health sciences professor, said reusing needles and syringes is one of the biggest problems when it comes to spreading Ebola. “The biggest problem contributing to the spread of Ebola is lack of effective control processes in health care facilities,” Cole said.

The Church encourages members around the world to follow health guidelines and recommendations given by local officials.

Church members

During a two-day lockdown in September, members in Sierra Leone were authorized by local leaders to conduct Sunday sacrament meetings from home. Two families met at the home of Bishop Titus Oneil and his wife, Fatmaqa Oneil, to share their faith in Christ.

“If we continue to be faithful in keeping the commandments, we will be blessed, our country will be blessed,” Fatmaqa Oneil told Mormon Newsroom.

Of the 7,800 families that received emergency supplies, 2,500 were members of the Church.

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Church members receive food and supplies from LDS charities in Sierra Leone. Members in quarantined areas have been supplied with two months of food. (Mormon Newsroom)

Members in Sierra Leone are especially suffering in quarantined areas now facing food shortages. The Church has supplied members with two months of food.

Ebola has claimed the lives of two Latter-day Saints in Sierra Leone. According to Mormon Newsroom, Sierra Leone is home to 13,078 Church members. Liberia is home to 8,081 members. There are approximately 422,000 Church members in Africa.

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