You’ve probably heard the tragic news that the Ebola virus is, once again, destroying entire communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo. So it is with great joy that we bring you an uplifting example of how your prayers and gifts empower MAF aircraft to join forces with those fighting the good fight in the heart of Africa.
‘The hospital here in Kikongo urgently needs to get a specimen to the National Research Lab in Kinshasa.’
This was the emergency phone call received by Katherine Niles, a doctor’s assistant with MAF partner organisation American Baptist International Ministries.
The situation was relayed to Katherine at great speed. She quickly realised that the scenario bore all the ominous hallmarks of the deadly Ebola virus.
Two children had arrived from a distant village, both with high fevers, virulent diarrhoea and bleeding from their noses and mouths. One had died shortly after arriving. The father then reported three other deaths in his village of people displaying similar symptoms.
Kikongo Hospital was now on a knife-edge with visitors and patients fleeing at the horrifying news, while a brave doctor worked all night to save her young patient.
But the hospital is 300 miles from the capital Kinshasa – access is by a grass airstrip and a dirt track which barely passes for a ‘road’. To know for certain whether or not Kikongo was in danger from the epidemic, a specimen had to be analysed within hours.
‘In dire emergencies,’ Katherine says, ‘we know we can charter an MAF flight. When I called them, it was a huge relief to hear that one of their planes was leaving Vanga en routeto Kinshasa – Kikongo is in the middle of that exact same flight path!’
Ebola occurs most typically in remote areas. It can take weeks for news of an outbreak to reach those who can help, for a sample to be collected and a diagnosis made.
However, because of MAF, it took less than three hours for the blood specimen to be delivered to the National Research Laboratory.
The unlikely combination of events that led to this successful delivery was proof positive that the prayers you offer up to God remain the bedrock of MAF’s unique ministry:
- The initial phone call to Katherine was made on a satellite phone – the only instant form of communication in Kikongo and a very rare device in that part of the world
- The MAF flight was taking off at the perfect time and on a flight path which meant landing at Kikongo would cause minimal delays
- A friend of Katherine’s managed to locate the phone number for the laboratory so that an ‘after-hours’ collection and diagnosis could be arranged
- Neither the anticipated storms nor the approach of nightfall caused MAF Pilot Jonathon de Jongh any problems
- The all-important specimen made it through the inevitable traffic jam of Kinshasa thanks to a driver with excellent local knowledge
Throughout a restless night, Katherine prayed for the doctor at Kikongo and her patient. She also found herself estimating the amount of gloves, gowns, masks, rubber boots and disinfectant one of our planes could carry.
Should the diagnosis prove positive, her first act at daybreak would be to buy these items. Once that terrible news broke, international agencies would then arrive with equipment and personnel, but those first critical hours would be in the hands of Katherine’s team.
‘Until then,’ she recalls, ‘there was nothing I could do but count on God’s mercy.’
At 6am, an email came through from the hospital. The young patient had responded to the emergency treatment and was showing definite signs of improvement. No more patients had arrived in the night and calms had settled on Kikongo.
Seven hours later, the laboratory called. The tests for Ebola were negative – praise God!
As Katherine puts it so aptly, ‘In uncountable – sometimes dramatic – ways, by miracles and circumstances, God uses the prayers you offer for us. Thank you!’