ACU missions faculty describe Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03) as a compassionate physician whose work early in his medical career shows the natural outflow of his desire to follow God’s lead even into potentially dangerous territory.
Brantly was serving a two-year fellowship with the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse in Liberia when the Ebola virus broke out. He contracted the virus last week and is undergoing intensive treatment at the ELWA Hospital near the capital city of Monrovia. Samaritan’s Purse reported this morning that even as he battles to survive Ebola, Brantly is still focused on the well-being of others.
“Yesterday, an experimental serum arrived in the country, but there was only enough for one person. Dr. Brantly asked that it be given to Nancy Writebol,” Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse, said on the organization’s website. “However, Dr. Brantly received a unit of blood from a 14-year-old boy who had survived Ebola because of Dr. Brantly’s care. The young boy and his family wanted to be able to help the doctor that saved his life.”
Dr. Gary Green, director of ACU’s WorldWide Witness program, and Dr. Chris Flanders (’89), assistant professor of missions and director of the Halbert Institute for Missions, spoke with media Wednesday about the challenges posed by the missions work Kent and many other ACU graduates and students are engaged in around the world. Out of respect for the wishes of Brantly’s family, neither Green nor Flanders addressed details surrounding his medical condition.
Brantly and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), spent a summer interning overseas through WorldWide Witness. The program gives students from all academic backgrounds a short-term, focused vocational missions experience that shows them how to effectively serve God and others wherever their career takes them.
Here’s what the Brantlys’ former professors and mentors had to say:
Dr. Gary Green:
“Everyone here who has been connected with Kent knows him to be someone who is very compassionate, considerate and always upbeat in all he does – the kind of guy who always has a smile on his face. Kent and his wife, Amber, are both very capable, intelligent people who are able to handle cross-cultural stresses in amazing ways. [Their work in Liberia] is a natural progression of who they are and their ability to see a need and to try and fill it with the gifts and talents that they’ve been given.
Kent’s the kind of guy who would weigh benefits versus risk, then try to take himself out of the equation so that he would be thinking, ‘What do I bring to the table? Is the risk [I face] worth taking because I can benefit so many people?’ That’s just the way he is and the kind of person he is in his heart.
It’s never an easy decision to go somewhere like Liberia to work, and we always encourage our students to think about three things. We encourage them to spend a lot of time in introspection. Who am I? How am I wired? What can I handle? What call has God placed in me? We ask them to do a lot research. God gave us a brain and he expects us to use it. Then we ask them to take [their plans] to a community that understands them and understands the environment.”
Dr. Chris Flanders:
“We train students to open [themselves] up to new situations, learn the culture [where they’re going], and then try to place [oneself] in a position of vulnerability. That opens up opportunities to connect and serve. Sometimes when you do that, you run into situations of severe crisis, but [it’s] a natural extension of putting yourself out there in a world that sometimes is dangerous.
We never seek to put people in situations of danger, but sometimes the commitments people have lead them inevitably to a place that is potentially dangerous. We think that’s what is going on here.
We could point to multiple examples all over the globe of people doing similar kinds of work – people who are [working to fight the] trafficking in women and children, then suddenly they find themselves a target because the people who are benefiting from that sex trade now realize there is a threat. This is just an extension of being moved by the love of Christ.
Kent’s work is really an extension of this notion [we see in] 2 Corinthians 5:14, that says the love of Christ controls us and compels us. Sometimes when you follow God’s lead you find yourself going into places that are not safe.
If you look through Christian history, you see that many times it was the compassion of believing Christians who were caring for the sick that led the world to stand and take notice. It’s just a natural extension of what we see in the life of Jesus, that He was willing to follow God’s leading even to the very end, even to the ultimate sacrifice – the giving of His life. So those of us who follow Jesus want to stand in line with that ethic and say, “No matter how risky it is, if we feel that this is where God is going to use us, we want to have the courage to be able to step into that situation regardless of how dangerous it might be.
This is a dangerous world and sometimes God puts us in situations that are dangerous, and as much as we would like it to be otherwise, God doesn’t always exempt us from danger and death. That Kent put himself in that position is sad and unfortunate, but I don’t know if given the opportunity to do things differently, knowing the kind of person he is, that that would have changed things. This was the path that love compelled him to take.
Pray. Pray for Kent’s well being, pray for his family’s well being – for those who can’t be with him right now, but also pray that this opportunity will result in people being alerted to the fact that there are those who put their lives on the line to help others. That’s a noble calling and we need more people like that. Maybe his situation can serve to illuminate opportunities that exist all around us – to step out of our comfort zones and into situations of great danger in order to bless others. That’s what Kent’s example seems to me to be teaching all of us.”