The Ebola virus captured headlines and ignited fears across America and the globe when the illness started spreading like wildfire in West Africa back in 2014, leaving more than 11,000 people dead across the region.
At the time, evangelist Franklin Graham — executive producer of a new film about the Ebola ordeal titled, “Facing Darkness” — had already spent years working in Liberia through his humanitarian organization, Samaritan’s Purse.
“It’s a chessboard and God is moving different pieces at different times.”
But much of the work Samaritan’s Purse had done in the region focused on poverty alleviation and other efforts to ease social constraints; the Ebola outbreak forced Graham’s group to shift time, efforts and resources toward combatting the hemorrhagic fever.
“None of my staff (had) gone to Liberia to fight Ebola,” Graham told Faithwire in an interview on Tuesday. “But now we were asking them to fight Ebola and they said, ‘Okay.'”
Three years after Liberia’s harrowing ordeal in which more than 4,000 people died — the most casualties out of any of the countries impacted by the virus — Graham now says he sees how God’s hand was moving throughout the midst of pain and turmoil, particularly when it comes to the story surrounding two American missionaries who became infected.
“It’s a chessboard and God is moving different pieces at different times,” Graham said, explaining how Dr. Kent Brantly, a doctor who famously battled Ebola, survived after returning to the U.S. for treatment.
Watch Graham discuss the amazing story below:
Graham said that he “didn’t even know how to pray to God” after receiving the call from medical personnel on the ground in Liberia telling him that Brantly — who had himself been treating Ebola patients — had come down with the illness; considering that it’s a virus that gives most people at max a 10-day timeframe for survival, Graham knew that he had to act fast.
“…I was afraid, realizing I could bring somebody into this country who could infect other people and people could die.”
While the evangelist was advocating that Samaritan’s Purse bring Brantly back to the U.S., others — like then-businessman Donald Trump — were publicly critical of such a move, expressing fears that Ebola could spread if infected patients were brought back into America. Trump had taken to Twitter on Aug. 1, 2014, to write, “The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!”
And Graham wasn’t naive to these arguments or to the threat, either.
“There was a risk,” he told Faithwire. “And I was afraid, realizing I could bring somebody into this country who could infect other people and people could die.”
But Graham knew that Brantly and fellow medical missionary Nancy Writebol, who was soon after also infected, stood the best chance of survival if they were brought back for treatment in America.
And considering that Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, had been training for a crisis such as this for years, the facility offered to take the patients in if Graham could get them back on U.S. soil. So, he set out to make that happen.
The U.S. cannot allow EBOLA infected people back. People that go to far away places to help out are great-but must suffer the consequences!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 2, 2014
First, the evangelist tried to go through insurance, but the company that covers Samaritan’s Purse reportedly refused to honor its agreement, citing fears over transporting an Ebola patient. Undeterred, Graham called the State Department and was miraculously able to reach a mid-range staffer who allowed Samaritan’s Purse to pay for an aircraft that could safely transport Brantly.
The clock was ticking, so Graham moved quickly to send payment — but the roadblocks didn’t end there.
“Wednesday the plane left, halfway across the Atlantic it had to turn around and come back. It had a pressurization problem,” he recalled. “Now the plane was delayed 24 hours.”
By Thursday night, Brantly had “started to die,” Graham said, noting that the doctor was warning those around him that he didn’t think he’d make it through the night. That’s when Graham more intensely turned to prayer.
“I got down on the floor of my office … and just prayed, ‘Lord, it’s not too difficult to save him,'” he recalled. “People all across our offices were praying (and all around the world).”
And here’s where things took a fascinating turn. While it seemed like the plane being diverted and delayed was a dire curse, Graham said it ended up being a blessing in disguise.
“I hope it will raise up another generation of young people that say, ‘You know what? Here I am Lord, just send me anywhere in the world.'”
Just a few hours before Brantly started going downhill on Thursday evening, Graham said someone from the National Institutes of Health had approached Samaritan’s Purse with an experimental drug called ZMapp; it had never been used on humans, but had shown some promise in previous animal trials.
As it turns out, that drug, which was in extremely short supply, was on its way to Brantly in Liberia and, had he gotten on the plane earlier as expected and headed to the U.S., he would have missed the dosage. Here’s why that matters: Taking the drug, Graham said, opened a bigger window for Brantly so that officials at Emory could help save his life; he might have died without it.
“This package came by canoe, it went across a river, came by small plane, a taxi and this lady just shows up, ‘Here this might help,'” Graham said of the remarkable journey the ZMapp drug took to reach Brantly.
As Faithwire previously reported, Graham’s new film “Facing Darkness” will tell the unbelievable story surrounding Liberia’s battle with Ebola and the role that Franklin Graham’s organization, Samaritan’s Purse, played in helping fight against the disease.
Set for release nationwide during a one-night-only showing on March 30, 2017 (and a follow-up show on April 10), the movie will take viewers deep inside the harrowing ordeal.
“I hope that it will show what a group of young people, with the help of almighty God, what they were able to do. Everybody in this film is mid-30s or younger that were fighting Ebola,” he said. “I hope it will raise up another generation of young people that say, ‘You know what? Here I am Lord, just send me anywhere in the world.'”
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