Ebola waning, but food crisis continues in West Africa

Childen in Liberia celebrate arrival of aid shipment from Texas Baptists. (BGCT Photo)

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DALLAS—Although the spread of Ebola in West Africa has slowed, the food crisis caused by the epidemic continues, a Liberian Baptist leader told the director of Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery program.

olu menjay130Olu MenjayOlu Menjay, president of the Liberian Baptist Missionary & Educational Convention and principal of Ricks Institute, a Christian boarding school located about 15 miles from Monrovia, Liberia’s capital, recently met with Chris Liebrum, director of Disaster Recovery for the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Reports of people infected with Ebola dropped from a peak of 500 cases per week to five cases a week, Menjay reported. He and his family—who were visiting in the United States when the epidemic hit and were not allowed to go home—will return to Liberia soon. He will reopen Ricks Institute, which closed by government order because of the Ebola outbreak.

“Even with the reduction of the illness, the crisis of food and orphan care is still present,” Liebrum said after his visit with Menjay.

Many farmers in Liberia and Sierra Leone who contracted Ebola died, leaving farm laborers without jobs. Food prices throughout the region spiked due to decreased production.

1.5 million meals to Liberia and Sierra Leone

Texas Baptists have sent 1.5 million meals to Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the convention’s disaster recovery ministry hopes to send up to 3 million meals by the end of summer. Liberian Baptists are using churches as distribution points, Liebrum noted.

Texas Baptists have shipped five 40-foot food-filled containers to West Africa. Convoy of Hope and Life Line Ministries donated food for three containers, and two other containers are from Food for Kidz, paid for by Texas Baptist Disaster Recovery funds.

The Texas Baptist Hunger Offering made available $35,000 in 2014 to support hunger relief in West Africa. The funds covered shipping costs for two containers for Liberia and a third container for Sierra Leone. They also provided support to Restore Hope Sierra Leone, a ministry of Global Connections Partnership Network, related to First Baptist Church in Arlington

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Three additional containers have been secured and will ship soon.

A call for help

Texas Baptists’ Disaster Recovery is encouraging churches and organizations to sponsor events to help pack two remaining containers. For more information on how to hold a food-packing event or give funds for shipping costs, contact Marla Bearden at (214) 537-7358 or visit www.texasbaptists.org/disaster.

On the Martin Luther King Jr. National Day of Service, Texas Baptist volunteers, working in partnership with Texas Baptist Men and Meals4Multitudes, a ministry based at First Baptist Church in Athens, packed 23,000 prepackaged meals for Liberia—enough to cover two pallets. Twenty pallets will fill a 40-foot shipping container. 

McLane Shipping Company in Houston has committed to cover the cost to send two containers to Liberia.

“All of this is possible because of the caring and cooperative spirit of Texas Baptists,” Liebrum said. “In recent years, when specific needs have been discovered in Haiti, Japan, Philippines and now West Africa, our BGCT family has shown the spirit of generosity—a great example of an association of churches that are equally committed to both the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.”

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