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Couple’s story of Ebola and faith is worth telling — and retelling

“Kent, bud. We got your test results. And I’m really sorry to tell you it is positive for Ebola.”

These words, spoken by Dr. Lance Plyler to his friend, Dr. Kent Brantly, would soon resonate around the world. 

In “Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic ,” Brantly and his wife, Amber, along with contributing writer David Thomas, detail the physician’s fight for his life — and how his harrowing journey drew a global audience into West Africa’s Ebola crisis.

In Print | Steve CloerKent, Amber and their children are a part of the congregation where I preach. We are thankful for their story, and we rejoice that now others can hear what we have heard from them. 

The book basically divides into two parts. The first details the Brantlys’ life story leading up to Kent’s diagnosis. They share a short history of themselves, including their courtship and decision to become medical missionaries.

They give a brief description of living and working in Liberia. Kent offers heart-gripping narratives of patients he treated — many of whom died from Ebola.

The second part reads like a medical thriller. It walks us through the details of Kent getting sick, being diagnosed with Ebola and the fight for his life. The Brantlys give a step-by-step account of the progression of Kent’s sickness and recovery interjected with their thoughts and feelings. Needless to say, the story grips the emotions.

The book alternates between Kent and Amber as storyteller. This style becomes particularly powerful during the description of Kent’s illness. The book reads as a biography, yet along the way, the physician passes on pieces of spiritual wisdom on such topics as calling, compassion and the idols of comfort and fear.

The book contains funny moments, such as Kent’s awkward proposal to Amber without a ring. It has terrifying moments — when Kent grabs the ankles of a Liberian man in a last-ditch effort to keep him from leaving the mission clinic with the dead corpse of a family member who had Ebola.

Then there are redemptive moments, such as the tender description of Kent’s first embrace with Amber after a month apart, during which they were uncertain if they would see each other again.

The writing is honest and real. The Brantlys do not shy away from hard questions. (Why was Kent saved as others died?) They do not hide difficult moments in their story, including Amber’s response when she heard the diagnosis. Rather, the book reads as if one were having a conversation with both of them.

“Called for Life” is easy to read and can provide great inspiration for church members seeking to deepen their faith. Throughout the book, the Brantlys speak of God’s mission, God’s faithfulness and God’s mercy. Though God calls us to mission, he walks with us in trial and gives us what we need to be faithful to our calling. The Brantlys repeat this theme throughout the book.

This is a story worth telling and re-telling. It was a moment when, as Amber told Kent after he made it to Emory hospital, “The whole world was watching you.”

And while the world was watching, God was glorified through faithful servants.

STEVE CLOER is the preaching minister for the Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth, Texas.

Filed under: Reviews

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