SIM worker Nancy Writebol says remarkable return to health, captured in ‘Facing Darkness’ documentary, is ‘God’s story,’ not hers
CHARLOTTE, N.C.—One of the first Americans to survive a deadly Ebola outbreak — a recovery that made world headlines — hopes a new documentary about the 2014 health crisis in Liberia in which she was infected will raise awareness about ongoing needs in that West African nation.
SIM worker Nancy Writebol, along with fellow missionary Dr. Kent Brantly of Samaritan’s Purse, recovered from the disease, which claimed nearly 5,000 lives in Liberia before it was halted. Writebol and her husband, David, returned to Liberia, where she is helping with trauma counseling for those affected by the outbreak.
Many survivors in Liberia are still struggling with the physical and emotional effects and social stigma of the disease, said Writebol. Indeed, according to Bruce Johnson, president of SIM USA headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., “Our work and that of our partner churches in Liberia to bring physical, emotional and spiritual healing may be even more profound now.”
Currently back in the United States for a few weeks, the Writebols will be at the premiere of Facing Darkness in Atlanta, March 30. Made by Samaritan’s Purse, the documentary tells how the Christian relief organization, its SIM partner staff and others responded to the Ebola outbreak, and the remarkable recoveries made by Brantly and Writebol, who were both airlifted to the United States for treatment at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
“My great hope for the film is that people haven’t forgotten the Liberians or what has happened,” said Writebol, “and that people would continue to not only pray for Liberia, and that doctors and nurses and others would come to serve in Liberia, but that people would continue to give financially to the projects we have there.”
Additionally, she hopes that God will use the film to draw other people into relationship with him. The story is “his story, not ours,” she said.
Debuting next week in a series of one-night-only screenings across the country, Facing Darknessfeatures interviews with Writebol, Brantly and other missionaries caught up in the Ebola crisis as they cared for others. The 93-minute film has already garnered several awards, including the Accolade Global Film Competition’s Award of Excellence.
The Writebols had been serving in Liberia for only a few months when the Ebola outbreak occurred. Since returning to Liberia last year, when David Writebol took on the national leadership of SIM’s work there, the couple has found more open doors of ministry, including Nancy’s involvement with SIM’s trauma healing ministry (http://www.simusa.org/?s=Trauma.)
Going back after her life-and-death episode “has really given us a platform that we would not have had otherwise,” she said. “When people realize I too survived, the wall comes down. They really share what they have been through and what their struggles are, and it gives us opportunities to talk into their lives and share Christ with them and pray for them.”
Another SIM worker, Dr. Rick Sacra, also survived the deadly disease. He finished his treatment at The Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. Sacra has returned to Liberia several times to do clinical work and manage the startup of the Family Medicine Residency Program at SIM’s ELWA Hospital.
“The hidden suffering from Ebola remains very tangible for survivors of the disease and for those who didn’t contract it, but watched family and friends die,” said Johnson. “Emotions are raw in the wake of trauma, public ostracizing, grief and loneliness. That’s why SIM’s resilience and commitment to remain and stay engaged are so vital. Now might be the greatest time of need.”
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Founded as Sudan Interior Mission, SIM (www.simusa.org) is a catalyst for global mission that goes above in prayer and beyond in care to bring good news
to hard places. SIM’s multicultural, multi-skilled teams—composed of around 4,000 workers from more than 60 nationalities—serve among diverse people groups in nearly 70 countries on six continents. In addition to medicine, SIM serves in areas of education, community development, public health and Christian witness.
PHOTO CUTLINE: Nancy Writebol’s experiences as an Ebola survivor, captured in the new documentary Facing Darkness, have opened doors for her to minister to others affected by the 2014 Liberia outbreak through SIM’s trauma healing ministry.