Virginia Baptists launch initiative aimed at Ebola crisis

The Virginia Baptist Mission Board has allocated funds to Liberia and is working with a group of Liberian expatriates in Virginia.

By Robert Dilday

The Virginia Baptist Mission Board has launched a response to the burgeoning Ebola crisis in West Africa, allocating funds for relief and educational work and partnering with a group of Liberian expatriates who are mobilizing support in Virginia.

“We will focus on assisting Liberia at this time due to our historic ties with the area and the trust that has been developed with the leadership in that country,” said Dean Miller, team leader of the Mission Board’s glocal missions team.

Ebola 1The Mission Board, which resources mission activities for churches affiliated with the Baptist General Association of Virginia, has worked closely with Baptists in Liberia for decades. The country is one of the hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak, which so far has killed nearly 1,200 people in West Africa.

A $15,000 allocation was sent Aug. 15 to the Liberia Baptist Mission and Educational Convention to purchase food and provide educational materials to communities in the nation.

Education is an essential weapon in the battle against the virus. The outbreak is the first in Liberia, and many there are unfamiliar with the nature of the virus, how it spreads or what treatment to seek.

Consequently, international health officials have been activating a phone network that spans continents and enlisting Liberian Americans to help clear the confusion by reaching out to their families back home.

That’s partly what prompted the recent creation of Virginia in Action for Liberia Against Ebola (VALAE), which describes itself as a “movement to mobilize and consolidate support for Liberia.” Chairing the group is Calvin Birch, pastor of African Christian Community Church, a congregation which worships in facilities provided by Hatcher Memorial Baptist Church in Richmond, Va.

In an information sheet, VALAE coordinators said they were responding to a request from Liberian president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf calling on “Liberians living in the diaspora and friends of Liberia to assist Liberia in this very difficult hour.”

The group aims to provide protective equipment for health workers, implement awareness campaigns and dispel myths about Ebola, and provide emotional and mental health support.

Miller said the Mission Board will aid VALAE “by handling their contributions and assisting with the coordination of in-kind donations should they decide to become involved in that form of response.”

In addition, the board is partnering with Stop Hunger Now, an anti-hunger advocacy group, in sending an emergency shipment of meals to Liberia.

Financial contributions may be made to the Virginia Baptist Mission Board with the designation “Disaster Relief — Ebola Virus Response” on the memo line and sent to Disaster Relief, Ebola Virus Response, Virginia Baptist Resource Center, 2828 Emerywood Parkway, Richmond, VA 23294. Donations also may be made online here.