Friday, December 25, 2015

Why Ebola Never Reached Many of Us: A Christmas Day Sermon from Tim Cunningham (and Rev. Wendell Griffen)

There's a beautiful Christmas sermon wrapped up in Tim Cunningham's narrative about why the U.S. and other affluent countries never had an Ebola epidemic (hint: it's about people working together across religious, ideological, ethnic boundary lines; it's about the amazing courage of some people willing to risk their lives to save the lives of other people). Tim, who's a pediatric emergency nurse in New York, and who went to Sierra Leone last year to combat the Ebola epidemic, writes,

Ebola never spread to the resource-rich countries, however. It never made it to your hometown, infecting hundreds of people, and this is why: 
People let go of religion, bias and beliefs and simply worked together. 
Not many people volunteered to respond to the Ebola crisis, and many of those early responders in West Africa quickly became sick from the disease, but people continued on, collectively. Most of my West African colleagues were Muslim, and the rest of the team I was on was a complete menagerie of backgrounds. We were Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist and Atheist. We were nurses, physicians, social workers and teachers. We were soldiers and pacifists. We were Socialist, Communist, conservative and liberal. We were all very different, and none of that mattered. The only thing that mattered was that we carried on the legacy of Dr. Kahn and his colleagues who died. We honored their lives by trying to save the lives of others. There was no time to debate religion or belief -- Ibrahim needed us, and thousands of people needed an integrated effort to quell Ebola.

As my friend Wendell Griffen said in his Christmas eve sermon at New Millennium Baptist church in Little Rock last evening, 

God came to us in Jesus to shine the light of divine love, truth, justice, peace, and hope into human darkness.  And although hate and fear led to the death of Jesus, the light still shines.  We, and others across the world, are the result of that light.  The darkness cannot overcome the light in us because the darkness is not stronger than God’s love, truth, peace, and hope.

The tiniest little flicker of flame can light an entire dark room. And all the more when that flicker sparks light in the candle next to it, and that candle in turn enflames another candle — until the whole dark room is ablaze with light, all of it coming from tiny, inconsequential sources . . . . 

A merry Christmas to all who observe Christmas, a day of love, truth, peace, and hope to all.

(Later: as I read the comments good readers left here yesterday, I suddenly discover that Colleen Baker recommended the marvelous essay by Tim Cunningham here yesterday — synchronicity, which has often happened as Colleen and I exchange thoughts over quite a few years.)

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