The deadly Ebola virus has killed nearly 10,000 people, but the negative effects go beyond those numbers. Tens of thousands of survivors and family members who have been quarantined, including orphaned children, have been shunned and left to face the stigma associated with Ebola. Even though a person in quarantine is declared Ebola-free after 21 days without showing symptoms, neighbors are reacting with fear.

It was my first time being at a training event when youth leaders didn’t occupy the atmosphere. I felt a little out of place because it seemed as if everyone in the room already understood so much of what I was just beginning to grasp. And there weren’t any breaks for up front games or dance marathons. I even ate a cupcake without sprinkles. (Diets are hard.) But it was one of those days I’ll always remember.

COMPASSIONATE MINISTRY TRAINING- TRAINING FOR TRAINERS

We were going to learn how to train those who will teach others how to do holistic church-led compassionate ministry.

A year ago–I wouldn’t have imagined being a room like this. Now, I sit in these rooms as a bridge. How do we take the tools that help others serve in significant and compassionate ways to the next generation?

Part of my learning was an activity led by Gustavo Crocker. He put us onto teams based on what we felt most called to do. For me, it was advocacy, being a voice for those who don’t access to their voice yet.

We were given an assignment and one single hour to come up with an mock advocacy campaign for Ebola, a deadly viral outbreak–still effecting many in West Africa. It would be an exercise for us to be able to teach others how to form a campaign.

At first, we had a hard time thinking of ways we could talk about Ebola. But the group that is hurting became obvious to us. Those who survive it also suffer.  Tens of thousands of  survivors must be quarantined and are faced painful stigma and isolation. 21 days of quarantine. Can you imagine?

That question. Can you imagine… opened our eyes to what we could present to the class.

Conceptually, we would provide a 21 Day prayer campaign called 21 AND FREE where pastor’s could educate churches and communities about the Ebola virus, how it’s spread, and what happens when family members are quarantined. People would pray in the suffering days of those being kept in isolation. Praying through the emotions of isolation, fear, anger, despair and making our ways to prayers around hope and freedom. We suggested making beaded bracelets with 21 beads, one for each day plus one for freedom. It was a simple idea.

It was presented and the coordinator from Africa as well as the class wanted to implement the idea. It was decided that we should move forward to making 21 & Free a reality.

I couldn’t believe it, that something we imagined in an hour could be implemented so quickly. That’s what happens when you put the hurting before you own ideas–when you decide to do something with the person or situation in front of you. I felt a sense of deep gratitude to get to be in a place to shape things that churches , families, and  youth ministries could do TOGETHER!

The campaign was further developed by leaders in West Africa. They did beautiful work. I pray that our beautiful work would be to respond.

You already know that when we were brainstorming that day, I had teenagers in mind.

I was thinking of the ways that they hear about Ebola and how many feel like there isn’t much they can do outside of giving money to support relief efforts. Giving is good. But there is so much more for youth to give. They have so much passion and creativity. It’s a shame to limit it with our lack of vision.

And, here it is.

A tool for you, your family, your church, your youth ministry. You can use this to help your teenagers be a voice for those who are suffering in Ebola affected areas. You’ll journey through the emotions that a person might feel when they are faced with searing loss or scary isolation and you’ll share hope in it.

Local churches in Sierra Leone and Liberia have begun the campaign called “21 and Free” as a way to educate their communities and support their neighbors and members. At the same time, churches and individuals around the world are invited to participate alongside brothers and sisters in West Africa in an act of support and solidarity. (Ahem, that’s you!)

There are 4 ways to get involved through 21 and Free:

PRAY. Quarantine lasts 21 days. Pray for those affected for 21 days. You’ll find a prayer guide in the 21 and Free guide, which you can download here.

GIVE. Use your resources to support the church’s efforts to respond to Ebola. Funds given to the Ebola Response Fund will go toward education programs prevention and hygiene supplies, and food and vitamins for people in affected communities.

WEAR. Make and wear a bracelet with 21 beads as a reminder to pray and as a conversation starter.

SHARE. Use your voice to fight the fear and stigma. Mobilize your church, youth group, or small group in making bracelets and praying together.

Additional downloads: Explanation Guide, Powerpoint Slides, and 21 & Free Poster.

I would love to know what your thoughts are and if this helps you unleash passion, significance, and serving in the youth you lead–in your home or in your ministry.

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Coming soon: The Justice Movement

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Twitter: @thejustmove

 

 

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