“He saw virus particles shaped like snakes, in negative images. They were white cobras tangled among themselves, like the hair of Medusa. They were the face of nature herself, the obscene goddess revealed naked. This life form thing was breathtakingly beautiful. As he stared at it, he found himself being pulled out of the human world into a world where moral boundaries blur and finally dissolve completely. He was lost in wonder and admiration, even though he knew that he was the prey.” The Hot Zone
Why are we all here floating on this ship under a Spanish flag in the Canary Islands? Well, that is a bit of a complicated question but we can’t deny that Ebola is at least partially responsible.
For me, that answer runs much more deep than the current outbreak ravaging its way through Western Africa killing mercilessly. Ten years ago I read the book The Hot Zone by Richard Preston and it changed my life. My eyes were opened to a world of infinitely small and uniquely beautiful organisms that left unchecked could easily kill the human race. I had visions of going into caves in Africa or working in a level 4 research lab in the states suiting up each day into full hazmat gear. The virus didn’t terrify me, it fascinated me.
In college I found myself in classes like epidemiology thinking about what a future would look like in such a field. There are people in this world whose job it is to track an outbreak to its origin or to predict how much longer it will last.
Fast forward a number of years and yeah, I’m heading to Africa in the middle of an Ebola outbreak but it is not to do research and it is not to work on the front line of the hot zone. In the last ten years the Lord has given me the calling on my life to serve and follow him. I know full well that I am on this ship because he called me here. I know that I am still fascinated by the virus and when our CMO gives us a debrief on the realities and dangers of Ebola my heart starts racing out of sheer excitement and anticipation. I look at the photos of the “shepherd hook” structure and see them as works of art.
So where will this lead me in the future. For now I, along with three hundred plus crew of men woman and children, sit in Gran Canaria awaiting the location of our next field service. We will sail to Africa and we will bring free surgical care to the world’s forgotten poor as our mission statement says. After that, after my years on board this vessel, will I find myself donning the suit and coming back under a different calling? I don’t know.
All I know is that for now I am trusting God day to day with the future and ask you to join me in prayer for the people in West Africa who are being torn apart by this virus.