Dear Jorge, October 14, 2014

I wanted to get this to you right away both since you asked me for it and time is of the essence given the ebola pandemic in Sierra Leone (and elsewhere). I spoke with pastor Andrew Sesay (director of Iris Ministries in Sierra Leone) tonight again to get a few more details and to hear more of his heart for the current situation. I hope this helps you and those who may read this to have a better understanding of the situation and the possibilities there.

First, here are a few facts that you may or may not know:

  • Ebola has arrived in Freetown. Most cases seem to be in isolated pockets at this point. Towns such as Aberdeen (only a few miles from Andrew’s house and the Iris base), Hastings, and Laka are experiencing ebola. These are all suburbs of Freetown. Andrew oversees a church in Aberdeen. Waterloo has had a major outbreak of ebola. It is perhaps 20 miles NE of Freetown and on the way to their village outreach where there is an Iris high school built by Andrew as the overseer, and a missions base that he is in charge of. A friend of Andrew’s has died of ebola, Jabbie. He was a nurse caring for the sick. His doctor has also died of it. Andrew tells of whole families being wiped out: father, mother, and all the children.
  • Fear is gripping the country and is being manifested in many ways. People are afraid to go out in public. Just touching someone now can cause great anxiety and anger. Although the streets are not completely cleared out, things are much quieter now. Where once ebola was somewhere else for them, now they have the reality that the next person to get it may be their neighbor or someone close. It appears the epidemic is picking up speed.
  • Many companies are closing down because of the crisis. He says people are being layed off all around him. These people are cut off without any means. And it is happening in large numbers.
  • Inflation is occurring in the country. Food staples are going up. Airline tickets have more than doubled in price.
  • Andrew pastors and oversees 5 churches right now. Attendance is up–a lot.
  • All schools are closed officially until January. Of course, if ebola continues to run through the country, all schools will be closed indefinitely.
  • The government is planning a mandatory 7 day shut down/curfew at the end of October for the entire country. No one will be allowed to leave their house during that time. Martial law will be in place. No gatherings of any kind will be permitted–for any reason including church gatherings and prayer groups. The very poor will suffer terribly at this time. So many people live hand to mouth and have no way to store or protect 7 days worth of food. This is a looming national crisis in and of itself.
  • The government is distributing some food to the poor, but there is widespread corruption and graft. Much of the food is being stolen and sold on the black market.
  • The goverment currently has ebola clinics in a few places around Freetown (Hastings, Laka, and Waterloo).
  • There are already an estimated 3,000 ebola orphans in Sierra Leone already.
  • Many churches are praying and gathering to seek the Lord, but not much action is taking place to address the suffering. Again, fear seems to be the problem.
  • As of yet, Andrew has not seen nor heard of anyone being healed of ebola by the Lord. Some are recovering, but from overcoming the illness through their immune systems.

I also asked Andrew what he/they need and what he would like to do further in response to the situation. This is what he said.

  • They need access to food, both for their family and for the team and church members.
  • They also will need extra help during the lockdown/curfew
  • They want to expand their feeding of the poor, especially during the lockdown (or just prior to it and after it). But also, since the economy is shutting down, he knows the poor will explode in numbers all around them. He wants to open a few feeding centers on a semi-permanent basis where they already have outreaches.
  • He wants to open an orphanage (or several around the country) for the children that have been left behind. They don’t have the funding to do this, but he wants to devote himself to this cause as the Lord provides.

Obviously, Andrew Sesay is a kingdom minded person. Ultimately, he wants the Lord to get all the glory and for His kingdom to be furthered throughout this crisis. He has big dreams, but he doesn’t just dream. He is also a man of action.

The W.H.O. is projecting over a million cases of ebola in West Africa by January. If even half these numbers are realized, it will cripple the three countries currently involved. Andrew and Iris has had a presence in Sierra Leone for around 9 years now. He is friends with president Koroma. He is well known throughout Freetown and beyond.

It is my hope that we can get behind this man, his wife, his team, and all the people he serves. So many can be touched for Christ during this time. But time is of the essence. We must not delay.

All His Blessings, Chris Chaney