At the same time, Sierra Leone’s government said on Tuesday that it would deploy hundreds of troops and police officers to ensure that patients and family members who may be infected remain isolated.
The New York Times is reporting that a battalion – 750 soldiers – will be sent to clinics housing Ebola patients in areas where the disease is most virulent, and the police presence will be reinforced at homes where family members are at risk of having contracted it, said Abdulai Baratay, a government spokesman.
“Sierra Leone has become the center of the worst-ever outbreak of Ebola, which has instilled fear across West Africa and has spread to four countries. Sierra Leone, a country of 5.7 million people and the size of South Carolina, has recorded the highest number of cases, 646, and the second-highest deaths, 273,” said the story.
Despite the fact that the Ebola mortality rate is so high – up to 90 percent – and lawlessness has broken out on the streets of Freetown, where Fr. Themi runs several campuses of the Orthodox Mission, he says that, after agonizing about returning to Australia, where he was once a member of The Flies, a 60s rock group that shared the stage with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, he cannot forsake the people he is taking care of.
In a message to Louis Toumbas, International Director of Paradise 4 Kids (paradise4kids.org/contact-p4k-au-australia), a full volunteer Australian organization operating as a division of Paradise 4 Kids Inc. USA, which is part of the ministry that helps support his work, he said, “As you know my return annual fund raising trip to Australia this year was booked for August 7th. This booking was made 12 months ago well before the recent lethal and tragic Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone.
“Therefore, following from our recent telephone conversation, I would like to explain my reasons for the firm and even hard decision I have made to postpone this year’s return trip to Australia.
“Our Lord Jesus has taught that the shepherd of the flock does not run away when danger or an enemy approaches but remains to protect the sheep. The hireling runs away. ‘But he that is a hireling and not the shepherd … seeing the wolf coming leaves the sheep and flees….the hireling flees because he cares not for the sheep. (St. John 10. 12-13). I am not a hireling!
“Consequently since the next 30 to 60 days are the most crucial in this current Ebola crisis my natural place for the next few months or as long as the emergency period remains is here in Sierra Leone.
“Our Mission is serving over 3000 families – school pupils, college students, two congregations, and Mission staff. We are in the front line of this incurable epidemic.”
Fr. Themi, who was born in Greece, said that there is “much to do” to ensure the protection of his people, which he detailed below:
* There is a need for a central coordinator to ensure that strict safety, health and even quarantine measures are put in place in all the Mission compounds and projects.
* It is imperative we continue Ebola education and sensitization since some people are in denial here or submit to irrational myths.
* The Mission’s budget needs to be seriously revised in the light of this emergency period. I have to be here to supervise this process.
* I need to be here to ensure that church services are conducted on a daily basis during this immediate critical month.
* Furthermore there is a widespread feeling among the Sierra Leoneans that whenever a dangerous calamity strikes the nation the white people run away – even if they belong to a charity organization. By and large this is what happened during the civil war. I do not wish to give a cowardly image to the Orthodox Church.
Themi, the rock star back in 1964
The Greek Orthodox priest went on to say, “I am sure you understand and I know you agree with my decision and reasons to remain. Indeed I feel relieved and encouraged that strong believing Christians like yourself agree with the postponement or even perhaps complete cancellation of my return to Australia for 2014. With the help, grace and protection of our Lord Jesus Christ I will monitor the situation. When the emergency period is over here we can consider if I return for a few weeks back home. God knows when.
“Given the crucial significance of our annual fundraising events in Australia for the financial survival of the Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone, my only concern is that my absence from the fund raising functions not affect the indispensable Australian assistance to our Mission. I pray and hope that our Mission’s friends turn out in full force in support of our work here.
“However you have my sister Mary there who is imminently arriving in Australia having recently stayed in Sierra Leone. I am positive that she will prove more than a capable replacement. Thank you for all your help. Please send my warm regards and blessings to all our friends.”
He signed it: In Christ’s Royal Service, John 15:13 King James Version (KJV) “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”