If you haven’t read Al Mohler’s brilliant response to Ann Coulter, you need to. Or, if you prefer a version with zombies in it, read on.
Last week an American doctor, Kent Brantly, and a nurse who contracted the Ebola virus on a medical outreach trip to Africa were flown home to be treated. Ann Coulter, a (loud) mouthpiece for political conservatives opined that the misguided Christian do-gooders ought rather to have stayed Stateside and focused their philanthropy on, say, Hollywood tycoons, so the world could be reached by the inevitable trickle down effect of Christianized American culture.
No, I’m not putting words in the horse’s mouth:
If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia.”
Ms Coulter went on to describe missionaries as cowards who slink off to Africa rather than boldly evangelising fellow capitalists. Mohler’s reply gave a voice to us Christians who were choking on our Chick-Fil-A in dumbfounded astonishment at her suggestion. He reminded us that Jesus deployed his disciples to go into the nations with the gospel, not just stay put and commandeer the entertainment industry.
That’s why we call them missionaries, and not stationaries.
And then there is the happy side-effect of medical missions: if US doctors don’t stop Ebola in West Africa, the virus could soon be teeming on the doorsteps/doorknobs of Westwood. This observation, posited by Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, reminded me of a scene in World War Z.
Brad Pitt’s character expresses surprise that the Israelis were permitting any survivors of the zombie epidemic into the quarantined city of Jerusalem, irrespective of their nationality. The dialogue ended with a wry but astute observation, “Anyone who doesn’t become a zombie is one less zombie we have to fight.”
(Incidentally, I wonder if Dr. Brantly had reached out to Brad Pitt, who also produced the movie, whether the script would have contained a theological metanarrative about the spiritually dead, or something?)
Zombie movies belong to a genre I wish would just die and stay dead, but what I liked about WWZ (besides Pitt’s acting prowess in executing lines about zombies with a straight face) was that it illustrated vividly how rapidly an infectious disease can spread in our global village linked by a web of flight plans.
In fact, the first thing my wife said to me when we heard about the revenant outbreak in West Africa was “Doesn’t Nigeria Air fly into Johannesburg every day?” With a ten-day incubation period, and a virus that can thrive on the surface of a luggage cart’s handle, or elevator button, South Africa is only ten days away from a serious problem.
But as a South African I want to say thank you to Dr. Kent Brantly and every other foreigner who leaves their air-conditioned comfort and Starbucks and expansive cereal aisles and free refills of soda, to come to Africa, despite the Mayo Clinic’s warning, for no good reason other than to share the gospel while helping people who need their help. There is something disarming about a person coming to you from afar with a message that cost them something to deliver it.
Yes, there are studio executives who could use a faithful plastic surgeon to share the gospel with them; but I’m guessing there are enough doctors in California to cover the movie magnates and a spare one or two for Liberia.
I am sickened by some like Donald Trump who expressed their parochial view that people like Dr. Brantly should have been kept out of America for fear of spreading the pathogen. First, don’t you want to be a citizen of a country that let’s you come home to be treated?
And second, have you seen how they brought him in? It’s not like Brantly flew coach; he was in a sterile oxygen tent, on a dedicated jet, to be treated in an isolated recovery unit by people clad in in space suits. That’s how you want the virus to travel: carefully. What, a US birth certificate is good enough to make you eligible for the presidency, but not for treatment on home soil?
Brantly recently wrote from his sickbed:
My wife Amber and I, along with our two children, did not move to Liberia for the specific purpose of fighting Ebola. We went to Liberia because we believe God called us to serve Him at ELWA Hospital. … As you continue to pray for Nancy and me, yes, please pray for our recovery. More importantly, pray that we would be faithful to God’s call on our lives in these new circumstances.”
I for one am thankful for the STM teams who slink off to visit our church in Africa. The gospel is contagious and spreads most effectively when the current host is visibly affected by the gospel.
Medical missionaries are a dying breed. Praise God that they just won’t stay dead.
Clint Archer’s new book Holding the Rope presents a biblical, theological, and practical approach to Short-Term Missions. The book offers advice on everything from why go rather than send money, to how to write a support letter.