Thursday, April 02, 2015

Lockdown Life

     Last weekend there was a lockdown. Technically I’m not supposed to call it a lockdown. It was a “Stay-At-Home” which meant that from Friday at 3pm to Sunday at 6pm, people (not all people though…our staff who have vehicle passes used them to come visit us at the compound multiple times over the weekend without being stopped by the police) were restricted to their houses and all businesses were closed. The point of the “Stay-At-Home” was to allow surveillance, contact tracing and social mobilization teams to go from house to house to actively search for cases and promote important messages. Unfortunately, nobody visited us at the compound to share any of these important messages with us. As far as I know, the lockdown resulted in an increase in reported cases, but I haven't seen any increase in the number of confirmed cases on the NERC website which is concerning because it's likely that there are, in fact, a lot more confirmed cases now. There were also some reports of "corpse smuggling" coming in. Basically, some of the people who went for treatment died and, although they had been willing to be treated at a medical facility, it would appear that their families were unwilling to allow them to be safely buried. So these families smuggled the bodies of their loved ones out of government run morgues so that they could perform traditional burials as opposed to the safe and dignified burials that are needed to prevent the spread of Ebola. You can see just how spiritually significant traditional burials are thought to be if people are resorting to corpse smuggling to ensure that they happen.

     Anyway, the lockdown weekend was actually a pretty stressful though (I was remarkably unproductive on Friday so that probably contributed to the stress experienced over the next two days). Annisha and I were working hard to complete the training manual for our Social Mobilization Rapid Response Teams as well as the flipbook of pictures they will be using to share a story about Ebola with the communities they visit. It required a lot of work, but the final product looks great!! On Saturday we had a compound lockdown BBQ. There was food, swimming and good company so naturally it was a blast. Friends from the other compound (which is about a three minute walk away from our compound) came as well. I made Rice Krispie treats which apparently aren’t a common thing in either Europe or Africa so I forced everyone to try them and pretty much everyone loved them. I was convinced I was going to mess them up because I don’t know how to cook anything at all, but they were pretty good. Success.

     This week has been a whirlwind. Annisha and I held training for our Social Mobilization Rapid Response Teams. On Wednesday I led a few of the sessions. I spoke about the details of Ebola with an emphasis on transmission, symptoms, treatment and prevention. I also led a session where we discussed the concepts of surveillance, contact tracing, swabbing, the difference between a confirmed and a suspected Ebola case and frequently asked questions about Ebola and how to respond to them. The teams are great. Many of them were far more knowledgeable about Ebola than I expected them to be. I had been trying to keep things simple, but then they started asking me about different strains of the virus and talking about how bats are the host and I realized they knew a lot more than I thought they would. So I got to talk about Ebola at almost the same level as I would if I were talking to my classmates at BUSPH and it was awesome. One guy in particular, Mohamed, is easily one of the nicest people around. Today before he left he started talking to me about my time in Sierra Leone and wanted to make sure I felt welcome here. He's really a stand up person and I'm so glad he's working with us. I think he will be very beneficial to have in the field.

      On a totally unrelated note, today (well, yesterday for me at this point) is Holy Thursday. Good Friday and Easter Monday are both public holidays here in Sierra Leone which means I have a four day weekend. My supervisor is in the field and all the other people that I know in my compound are going to the beach for the weekend so I will be alone for most of the weekend. I think that this is a suitable way to spend the weekend because I’ll have the opportunity to really reflect on the meaning of these few days without any distractions. One of my favorite stories from Holy Week is when Jesus washes the feet of the disciples. I’m sure you all know the story. Jesus gets up during supper, wraps a towel around His waist, pours some water in a basin and begins to wash the feet of the apostles. This was something servants did for their masters and when Peter sees Jesus, the Master and Savior of the world, trying to wash His feet he refuses to let Christ do it. Jesus’ level of humility was as baffling to Peter as it is to us at times. In the face of Peter’s refusal, Jesus lays things out pretty clearly and calmly replies, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Then Peter, the eager beaver that he was, says “Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!” But Jesus says no. He tells Peter, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean.” So, on the one hand, we have Peter refusing to have his feet washed and being unwilling to humbly and obediently accept Christ’s will for him and on the other hand, once Christ directly tells him he needs to be washed, we have Peter overreaching a bit, trying to do more than needs to be done, trying to make up for refusing Christ two seconds earlier. And isn’t that a typical scenario for a Christian? Like Peter, we have been saved by our faith in Christ. We have been washed in His blood and we are clean. Yet sometimes we refuse to allow Christ to change us (or, to wash our feet) because we’re stubborn and changing is hard and we don’t want to submit to someone else’s will and then, when we realize what we’ve done, we try to make up for it in all sorts of ways. But here’s the thing…we’re already clean. We don’t need to do things to make up for our dirty feet. Our feet will always be dirty just by virtue of our humanity and the fact that we live in a fallen world. We will never be perfect and yet through Christ we are made perfect. When we repent and submit to His will, we are allowing Him to wash our feet, but our feet are part of a body that has already been made clean through nothing more than our faith in Christ. Jesus then asks the disciples, “Do you understand what I have done to you?” (I think we can probably assume the answer was pretty much no). He goes on to say, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” I don’t know if this is the case in all translations, but in the translations I’ve read, this chapter doesn’t refer to the twelve as “apostles,” but instead refers to them as “disciples”. I think this is important because an apostle is a messenger or a champion of a particular cause, but a disciple is a follower and a student. The disciples had spent three years learning from Jesus Himself and they still didn’t understand everything that was happening. Ultimately, He is our example and we are meant both to champion his cause as an apostle would and continuously follow and learn from Him as a disciple would.  

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