Bishop Innis Addresses the United Methodist Church in Liberia

July 22, 2014

Christian Brothers and Sisters, Fellow Liberians:

I extend to you greetings of faith and hope in the healing mercies and power of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

It is out of great concern for the looming danger posed by the outbreak of the fatal Ebola disease in our nation that I address this Episcopal Message to you. As we all are aware, recent information provided by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, the Liberia National Red Cross Society and the United Nations has once more confirmed the grim reality that this instant killer disease is actually present in Liberia. What is more alarming, according to the information, is that the death toll from the virus is on the rise. Current statistics puts the total number of death for Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia at about 500.

These latest confirmations must now clear all previous and present doubts held by many Liberians about the truth of the presence of Ebola in the country. But even in the midst of doubts, there remains an abiding truth, which gives purpose and meaning to this Episcopal Message of faith and hope. That is, we, United Methodists, and the rest of the Christian Community, have all reasons to believe that Ebola is real. This is because ours is a Bible-based belief, rooted in the unerring Word of God which must be fulfilled in every nation and in the lives of its people.

Shortly before His death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus Christ gave a checklist of terrifying events that would unfold as signs of His second coming. For example, in Luke 21:11, He said that pestilences or dreadful diseases, some without cure, would occur in various parts of the world. We therefore believe, without any doubts, that Ebola, like HIV/AIDS, is a prophecy come true of the pestilences foretold by Jesus Christ.

But there is a related truth that also remains steadfast and which cannot be avoided. The truth is that, though Jesus Christ told His disciples that incurable diseases, earthquakes, hunger and other terrible events would take place but it did not mean that they would not be affected. As a matter of fact, Jesus Christ bluntly told the disciples that their plight would be more tragic and horrible. (Luke 21:12, 16-17).

Brothers and Sisters, Fellow Liberians, the same truth also applies to us today. Just because we have the faith and hold the belief as Christians and also as a nation founded and built upon the unchanging Word of God does not mean we are immune to the dreadful events Jesus Christ predicted. We are all living witnesses, for instance, to the devastating effect of war spoken of by the Lord.

Therefore, since it is true that the recent outbreak of the Ebola virus is not an exception to the signs of the end times, I wish to prayerfully appeal to United Methodists, members of the Christian Community, Liberians in general and residents alike, to take the Ebola outbreak seriously. I urge all of us to act upon the following:

  1. We must accept the fact that the Ebola Virus is actually present in Liberia.
  2. We must observe every medical advice given by Health authorities and institutions, which includes, among others:
  • Reporting every person showing the symptoms of the Ebola disease.
  • Avoiding the consumption of bush meat, particularly bat and monkey meat.
  • Avoiding contact with dead Ebola victims
  • Cooking our foods properly before eating them.
  • Washing our hands thoroughly before eating.

3. Specifically, United Methodist Pastors, District Superintendents and Sunday School Teachers must share the information about the Ebola virus with their local churches and districts.

4. Health workers and medical institutions must kindly provide all suspected and affected persons the necessary ethical and medical attention and must not refuse them when taken to their medical facilities.

Finally, I am delighted to inform our people that the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) Health Department is collaborating with the Liberia Annual Conference and the Sierra Leone Annual Conference in helping to raise the requisite funding for the purchase of medical equipment and drugs.

Let us, as a nation founded and established upon a firm Christian foundation, do our utmost best to combat and overcome the Ebola plague. And, above all, let us remain prayerfully hopeful in the reassuring words of Prophet Jeremiah: “For the Lord will not cast off forever; but though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion, according to the multitude of his mercies” (Lamentations 3:31.32).

Brothers and Sisters, Fellow Liberians, I want you to know that these words of hope of deliverance from the Lord have a far-reaching implication. They imply that wars, natural disasters and deadly diseases do not just happen for no cause. Most often than not, they are the result of repeated individual and collective evils committed within a nation. I therefore urge us to pray and fast so that the words of Prophet Jeremiah will be fulfilled in the wake of the gloomy shadow of Ebola over Liberia.

I wish to conclude with a passionate appeal to us. Every citizen must take serious responsibility in giving our major cities, towns and villages a facelift by cleaning the drainages, gutters and properly dispose of all our garbage. When we keep our surroundings clean, it will help to contain the Ebola virus.

Meanwhile, I extend my deepest condolences to all families who have lost loved ones to the deadly virus.

May the saving grace of God be with us all.
Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr. John G. Innis

Resident Bishop
Liberia Area
The United Methodist Church