In December 2013 an outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus began in West Africa. The first case in Sierra Leone was confirmed in May 2014. Thousands were infected, and hundreds died as the disease raced across the country. On July 30 the government deployed troops to enforce quarantines in areas where the disease was particularly rampant.
The quarantines and concerns about the disease had a negative effect on the country’s economy. Many families were already struggling to find their next meal when the government declared a state of emergency in August and announced that there would be a three-day national lockdown in September. “All of my money was gone in September,” said Sai Kamaia, a Church member concerned about how to feed her children during the lockdown. “People were afraid to trade. I did not know what I was going to do.” Like the widow of Zarephath in the Bible, Church members put their trust in the Lord.
Fortunately, Africa West Area leaders had begun organizing shipments of sanitary supplies, rice, and cooking oil for members in need in Sierra Leone before the lockdown was announced. Local members received the supplies and helped distribute them to those in need just before the lockdown began. “As a widow and the head [of] our family, I feel so good that the Church was able to help us,” said Mary Margay, a member in Freetown.
Even in the midst of these challenges, members expressed hope for the future. “Heavenly Father will guide us from this dreadful disease as He did for the Israelites in the land of Egypt,” Fatmaqa Oneil said the Sunday of the lockdown. Throughout the crisis, local missionaries continued to serve, adjusting to crisis conditions by teaching investigators and new converts by phone as needed. “We had no time to feel sorry for ourselves,” Bai Seasy, a district president in Kossoh Town, remarked. “We had the work of salvation to do.”
Some Church members died of Ebola during the epidemic. Haju Julloh, who worked as a nurse caring for the sick, also contracted the virus. “I could not attend church, so branch members called and encouraged me,” she said. While confined at home, she focused on studying the Book of Mormon. “I read about many spiritual experiences, including miracles that happened to ordinary people like me. I wanted a miracle but did not know if I should even ask,” she said. After several weeks of treatment and quarantine, she was healed. “That was a miracle to me,” she said.
Church members continued to minister to each other and share the gospel throughout the crisis. In March 2016, Sierra Leone was finally declared free of the virus.