Pastor reminds Dallas leaders of challenges faced by fiancée of Ebola fatality

Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Wilshire Baptist Church Pastor George Mason and Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins spoke about the latest developments in the Ebola infections at a press conference Oct. 20. (City of Dallas Image)

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DALLAS—When Dallas civic and faith community leaders gathered to talk about how the city successfully weathered the Ebola crisis, one Baptist pastor urged them to remember the continuing challenges that confront the fiancée of the one person in North Texas who died from the virus.

“We’re discovering people are finding more reasons to say ‘no’ than to say ‘yes’” to Louise Troh and her family, said George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church.

Troh, a member of Wilshire, was engaged to marry Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from Ebola Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

‘Not all roses’

“It’s not all roses here,” Mason told the governmental and religious leaders who met at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas for a final update on the city’s Ebola response.

Troh, her 13-year-old son and two nephews who lived with them endured a 21-day isolation period when medical personnel monitored them to see if they developed the Ebola virus. They lost their apartment, and officials who decontaminated it burned all their possessions.

The Catholic Diocese of Dallas provided short-term housing for Troh and her family during their three weeks in isolation. But when friends at Wilshire Church tried to find them permanent housing, they faced repeated roadblocks, Mason reported. Landlords in the Vickery Meadows area of northeast Dallas where she had lived 14 years refused to rent to her.

Wilshire Church may have found a solution by purchasing a condominium for Troh and her family, he continued.

“Members of our church agreed to buy it and rent to her,” Mason said. But even that plan faces hurdles, such as homeowner association covenants, as well as the need to provide Troh with furnishings and other living supplies.

Celebrated cooperation

Mason’s comments contrasted with most presenters on the panel, who celebrated the cooperation governmental and religious leaders demonstrated when Duncan first was diagnosed with Ebola and later when two nurses tested positive for the virus.

Mayor Mike Rawlings reported the second group of people in contact with Duncan cleared 21 days of monitoring with no evidence of the Ebola virus, and the final group considered at risk end their period of isolation Nov. 7.

“Thank God for this city, where we used science and sensibility, where we used facts and not fear, in making decisions,” he said.

In contrast to the one fatality from Ebola, Rawlings reminded the group 18 people in Dallas County died of West Nile virus in 2012, and more than 20 women were killed by their husbands or boyfriends this year.

“Domestic violence is much more a scourge to this city than Ebola,” he said.

County Judge Clay Jenkins acknowledged some parents in his children’s school ostracized them and his wife after he visited Troh. But he applauded Paul Rasmussen, his pastor at Highland Park United Methodist Church, who “walked my family to school.”

Prayer for those ‘in fear’

While Jenkins praised the “health care heroes” who provided care for Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, he also requested prayer for those “who don’t understand the science” and respond in fear.

“If we want to demonize anything, let’s demonize the terrible disease—not anyone for their reaction to it,” he said.

Mason joined in thanking city and county officials for the way they handled the Ebola incident. Even so, he reminded participants at the gathering of the impact unreasonable fear continues to have on one family.

“It’s easy to celebrate the good that happened. Only one person died. Only one family was completely dispossessed. But that family has no place to live yet. And we as a church are going to stay with them. We are committed to seeing them through this,” Mason said.

“There’s some serious loss here—loss of life, loss of possessions and, to some degree, loss of reputation. … We need to restore the lost and repair the broken. When people get whole, the community gets whole.”

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