Since the beginning of March this year, an outbreak of the Ebola virus disease has been spreading through countries in West Africa. On Thursday evening, Calvin students joined the African Student Association (ASA) in the Chapel Undercroft to pray for an end to the disease and healing for those being affected.
The event began with a look into what Ebola is and what areas of West Africa are being affected. Students then sang a few worship songs and participated in a time of individual prayer. At the end of the evening, those present gathered in a circle to pray as a group for West Africa.
“Obviously Ebola isn’t the only humanitarian disaster out there,” said junior Anthony Greco, who organized the event. “But this one especially has a component about it that’s really evil. You get this disease, and nothing can be done.”
Greco has been to Liberia three times and has personal connections to some of the areas being affected. He decided to organize the event after watching the Ebola outbreak continue to worsen.
“I felt that Calvin College, as an international school, cares a lot about the world,” said Greco. “We have a lot of students from West Africa here. I thought it was really important for Calvin to have some sort of response to this outbreak.”
Greco worked with the ASA at Calvin to organize Prayer Night for West Africa. The ASA’s mission is to integrate, educate and celebrate African culture at Calvin.
“When Anthony approached us, I was really happy there was someone who wanted to do this,” said Nii Adoteye-Anum, vice president of ASA. “It’s a serious disease. Praying is the only thing we can do.”
“I know that people have been concerned about this outbreak,” said first-year student Emily Roloff. “But I think that coming together in prayer is a very important part of responding as a community.”
Over 4,000 people have died from the Ebola virus outbreak to date, but it is estimated that in the coming months the death toll could reach 15,000. The health systems of West Africa are overtaxed and infected individuals are often sent back home.
“This disease is just ravaging these countries,” said Greco. “I saw a story of a man in Sierra Leone who had lost 38 members of his family in the past six months. It’s just devastating.”
“I pray this virus doesn’t go any further,” said Adoteye-Anum, a citizen of Ghana. “I can’t deal with staying here knowing my mom and cousins are at risk. With this event, we just wanted to go to the feet of God and pray for mercy and grace.”
Greco hopes that the night of prayer for West Africa encouraged students to dedicate continued thought and prayer to the areas being affected by Ebola.
Adoteye-Anum agreed with Greco: “This was a chance for us to intercede and just come together to pray, because truly there is nothing else we can do. They’re our brothers and sisters, so I think that their suffering should matter to us.”
A correction has been made to this article. In a quote above, a previous version incorrectly quoted Greco referring to “a man in Syria.” The country is “Sierra Leone.”