The Ebola threat can't keep Tom and Becky Brockelman, a Baptist missionary couple from Texas, from returning to West Africa.
That was the theme of a fascinating Dallas Morning News feature over the weekend:
For months, Ebola had been a faraway worry, a concern but not a threat to the Brockelman family.
Then, one by one, relief workers started to leave Sierra Leone. Medical workers. Support staff. Other missionaries.
When Ebola finally landed near their home in a rural part of the Freetown peninsula, the Brockelmans decided it was time to return to Texas.
“We love Sierra Leone. It is our home,” Becky Brockelman said recently at her mother-in-law’s house in Sherman. “But as this thing began to spread, the rumors began to flare.”
The deadly Ebola virus was erupting throughout West Africa, with Sierra Leone and neighboring Liberia and Guinea the hardest hit. The disease was virtually uncontrolled and thousands of people were dying across the region. The meager medical centers were overwhelmed by the disease, and the Brockelmans realized they would have few options if they became ill.
The couple, Baptist missionaries, came back to Texas in early August with the Sierra Leonean boy they are adopting. They isolated themselves for 21 days, to ensure they had not contracted the deadly disease, and tried to wait out the epidemic.
But their hearts won out. Not even Ebola can keep them from their life’s work in West Africa.
Why do they feel such a strong calling to return to Sierra Leone? That was my question as I kept reading.
To a certain extent, the background provided by the Morning News helps answer that key question:
They started their new life in West Africa in November 2010.
“We were seeking the Lord, and what the Lord wanted us to do,” Tom said. “We knew that God was calling us to go there. I’ve never had any second thought on what we were meant to do. I’ve never had any doubt that God led us there.”
They settled quickly into their new home about 12 miles from the heart of downtown Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone.
Obviously, the Brockelmans believe that God called them to West Africa in 2010. But what about now?
In the story's final section, the Dallas newspaper hints strongly at the reason:
Unfinished business, however, remains in West Africa for the Brockelmans.
They have watched and waited as Ebola continued to ravage their adopted home and briefly moved into North Texas. They know the dangers of the deadly illness and the devastating effect it can have on families and communities.
Shapiro of First Baptist McKinney said the church decided not to send a team in May because of concerns about Ebola, but officials have let the Brockelmans decide when they should come and go. “One of our biggest prayers right now is for Sierra Leone to be able to emerge from this,” he said.
The Brockelmans miss their friends in Sierra Leone. And they miss their missionary work feeding the hungry and building facilities that can sustain relief efforts for years to come. They want to expand their support to another 15 to 20 families in the coming months. They need to build a wall for the orphanage. There are street boys who haven’t been helped.
Disease is a part of life in West Africa, and the Brockelmans say they’ll adapt to the dangers of Ebola, too.
“We know we belong there,” Becky Brockelman said. “People are in dangerous positions all over the world. I have no fear.”
That's a nice ending, but still, holy ghosts lurk.
I wanted the Morning News to delve deeper into the Brockelmans' faith. I wanted to know how they see God's role in their decision to return. I wanted to know whether they believe God will protect them. Concerning the couple's stated lack of fear, I wanted the seemingly obvious spiritual dots more overtly connected.
Despite my nitpicking, please don't misunderstand me: This was a generally well-done story worthy of praise.
My point is simply this: A more direct answer to the "Why?" question might have made it even better.