Ebola survivor Nancy Writebol, an unassuming Christian missionary who has spent years humbly and boldly serving vulnerable populations abroad, had a monumental choice to make when the deadly virus began spreading in Liberia in March: whether she should leave to protect herself, or stay behind and help.
She and her husband, David, both natives of Charlotte, North Carolina, had been serving in the West African nation since 2013 and made the choice to remain in Liberia to help battle Ebola on the front lines — a decision that ended up posing life-threatening consequences.
[sharequote align=”center”]”The thing that really drives us is just our love for the Lord — for what Christ has done for us.”[/sharequote]
“Our mission [group SIM USA] gave the whole team the opportunity, if they felt uneasy about being in Liberia, that they could evacuate and Dave and I just felt like we really needed to stay,” Writebol told TheBlaze in a phone interview Friday.
The couple continued working at ELWA Hospital, where Writebol‘s role quickly changed from equipping fellow missionaries and overseeing patient care to helping disinfect doctors and nurses who were directly treating Ebola patients.
Considering her brave decision to stay in Liberia and her long missionary career serving orphans and vulnerable children in Africa and other areas across the globe, TheBlaze asked Writebol what motivates her to do so much good.
“I think the thing that really drives us is just our love for the Lord — for what Christ has done for us. That’s what drives us,” Writebol said. “It’s all about him and our lives being committed to him and serving him no matter where we are, no matter what we’re doing. We just want to bring honor and glory to the Lord.”
And that devotion came with a price for Writebol, who nearly lost her life to Ebola over the summer.
[sharequote align=”center”]”We just want to bring honor and glory to the Lord.”[/sharequote]
She contracted the virus in late July and was quarantined and treated in the Liberian home she shared with her husband. On Aug. 5, three days after another infected American aid worker, Dr. Kent Brantley, was flown back to the U.S. for treatment, Writebol was transported to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, where she too ultimately overcame Ebola.
Writebol told TheBlaze there were times during the journey out of Liberia that she wasn’t sure she would make it, and she shared a pivotal exchange she had with God in the midst of uncertainty.
“The night that they put me on the airplane to evacuate me and bring me back to the U.S. … I was very, very ill and not sure that I was going to make it across the ocean — not sure if I would see David again or our [two sons] again,” Writebol said. “And I remember, as they put me on the airplane, that I just told the Lord, ‘Lord, I don’t know what’s going to happen and I need your help.'”
[sharequote align=”center”]”I was very, very ill and not sure that I was going to make it across the ocean.”[/sharequote]
And that’s when she said she felt God responding to her with an important question: “Nancy, if I take the boys, if I take David away from you and if I take your life and you are with me, am I enough?”
Writebol said that in that moment — when she was faced a mountain of uncertainty — she told God that he was indeed enough, and placed her full trust in his hands.
“I just rested in God’s arms and in his presence and in his peace that he was enough,” she said.
Writebol relied on scripture and her faith to sustain her during the long and grueling recovery process, often reading the Bible along with her husband and two sons.
“It was God’s word that comforted me and there would be so many times when the Lord would just bring back to memory scripture that I had memorized or known — and the Lord would bring it to my mind at the right time just when I needed it,” she said.
[sharequote align=”center”]”I just rested in God’s arms and in his presence and in his peace that he was enough.”[/sharequote]
Three months after the ordeal began, Writebol, who was declared virus-free and discharged from Emory on Aug. 19, said that she is amazed at how God carried her through her health struggles, giving her strength and renewing her stamina.
She said the lessons that she learned throughout the ordeal helped to refine her Christian faith and that she truly learned about God’s goodness, regardless of her circumstances.
“I think that one of the things that I really took a hold of is [that] God is good if I survive, and God is good even if he takes me and if I die … God is still good,” Writebol said.
[sharequote align=”center”]”God is good if I survive, and God is good even if he takes me and if I die.”[/sharequote]
Writebol, who said that she and David aren’t sure what the Lord has in store for them next, wants to take as many opportunities as she can to speak about her experience so that she can raise awareness about the Ebola outbreak ravaging West Africa.
As for whether she will return to Liberia, Writebol said that she’s not sure, but that her family is willing to go wherever God calls them.
“We just don’t really know what the Lord holds for us — and it may mean going back to Liberia eventually but we don’t know that yet for sure,” Writebol said. “Where we can most honor and glorify him. That’s where we want to be.”
The missionary said that she wasn’t looking for the intense media attention she’s received in recent weeks, but that reporters and outlets have been “very gracious” in allowing her to tell her very personal story and to publicly thank those who prayed for her during the ordeal.
Writebol also encouraged people to get involved by helping stem Ebola’s spread. From appealing to God to helping sponsor the efforts of SIM USA, among other groups, she said that there are plenty of options for the public to help those affected by Ebola.
“First, we need to stay on our knees and pray,” she said, going on to encourage people to give to her organization.