Ebola Survivor’s Journey Comes Full Circle at the Billy Graham Library
July 25, 2015
A year ago, Dr. Kent Brantly would have never guessed he’d be sitting in the Billy Graham Library talking to people who had prayed for him from the other side of the globe.
In October 2013, Kent, along with his wife Amber and two children, moved to the West African country of Liberia to serve as medical missionaries with World Medical Mission, the medical arm of Samaritan’s Purse. Months later, the world watched as West Africa fell susceptible to a widespread Ebola epidemic. Kent was diagnosed with Ebola on July 26, 2014, and was one of two Americans who contracted the deadly virus in Liberia.
After Kent’s miraculous healing, the Brantlys wrote Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic. On Saturday, they had the chance to sign copies of their book and personally thank a handful of the people who prayed for his healing.
“We heard from so many people about how they have been impacted by our story. We felt a responsibility to tell our story in a deeper way to a broader audience so this impact can be multiplied,” Kent explained. “We really hope this book will glorify God, encourage people of faith to stay faithful in the midst of trial and difficulties, also encourage people to wrestle with hard questions. And of course, we want it to challenge people to ask themselves, what would it look like to say yes to the call of God on my life?”
One of the Library visitors, Kim Abernethy, knows what it means to be called for life. She and her husband Jeff, along with their first daughter, were in Liberia as missionaries from 1985 to 1992. As someone with a love for the Liberian people, she feels a sense of kinship with the Brantlys and wanted the opportunity to connect with them.
“There’s an inexplicable bond when you share love for a particular people group that God loves. Being a missionary wife on the field, and not knowing what’s going on with your husband is very daunting. As the news of Kent’s diagnosis unfolded, I felt like I specifically needed to pray for Amber in ways I understood.”
The news coverage of Kent’s journey brought memories to Abernethy of her family’s time in the African jungle when her husband was exposed to Lassa fever, another serious hemorrhagic disease. She remembered how afraid she was, but she also remembered God’s faithfulness in His call on their lives.
“What came back to me is if we are called by God, our lives are His,” Abernethy said. “I really felt that God would take this beyond what Kent and Amber ever imagined. And He has.”
Something else happened during the book signing they probably wouldn’t have imagined: Dr. Debbie Eisenhut, one of the missionary doctors who cared for Kent in Liberia after his diagnosis, showed up for a reunion with them. She had not seen either of the Brantlys since his evacuation from Liberia.
During her free weekend between two conferences in the Carolinas region, Dr. Eisenhut checked out Charlotte area attractions via Google maps. The Billy Graham Library listing caught her attention. She went to the website, and saw the Brantlys would be there signing books.
As someone who does not believe in coincidences, she knew God had given her this gift of a reunion with someone who she had cared for during a life or death situation—and two people who have been on her heart over the past year.
As Dr. Eisenhut stepped forward to the table where the Brantlys sat, they immediately jumped up to hug her. For several minutes, the three of them stood in a tearful huddle, greeting one another and praising God for what He has done.
“This was an evil that happened to them, but God turned it for good, both for the nation of Liberia, for West Africa and for the world,” Dr. Eisenhut said. “And through it the name of Jesus was glorified. That’s what Kent and Amber have done—throughout all this, they have consistently praised the name of Jesus Christ.”