Most ministry students know they will return from their required seven-month ministry internship. This was not the case for senior Lindey Kuvshinikov, who almost had to stay in Ghana, Africa because of the Ebola virus.
Kuvshinikov, a double major in Youth Ministry and Intercultural Studies Missions with a double minor in Teaching English as a Secondary Language and Bible and Religion, is currently serving at Agape Children’s Home, or “Orayifa,” as part of her Practical Research and Immersion for Ministry Effectiveness (PRIME).
Located in West Africa, Ghana is just 586 miles away from Liberia — the country where, according to the World Health Organization, the Ebola virus has killed over 2,700 people. Tucked between Côte d’lvoire and Togo, Ghana is neighbored by the Ebola-infected countries of Sierra Leone, Guinea and Nigeria.
“When Ebola began spreading in West African countries, there was panic among people,” Kuvshinikov said. “It was the hot topic to talk about. You would hear about it on the radio, TV and in conversations all the time.”
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever is a deadly disease with the West African outbreak being the largest in history. Ebola is spread through direct contact through blood and body fluids with symptoms ranging from painful diarrhea to bleeding from the eyes.
As of Nov. 16, Ghana has no reported cases of Ebola. But Kuvshinikov’s church took precautions regardless.
“We had to install hand sanitizer dispensers to make members feel safer,” she said. “Also, we had to skip the greeting part of the [church] service, when people shake hands, because there was a complaint that people did not want to risk getting Ebola.”
She said her biggest fear was the U.S.’s reaction to declared cases of Ebola in the Ghana borders. Kuvshinikov’s mentor in Ghana said there was concern over America closing its borders to West Africa to prevent the spread of the virus.
“We had an intense conversation about how America was not taking Ebola seriously, and therefore, if they did not take the proper precautions, they would eventually be on their knees at the mercy of the epidemic as a result of their arrogance,” she said. “Therefore, my mentor and her family believed that America would have to take action of closing borders.”
Her mentor offered her the opportunity to leave Ghana early to return home.
“It was a very confusing time because a lot of this information was being related to me through word of mouth, and the
related to me through word of mouth, and the university never contacted me,” Kuvshinikov said. “However, my PRIME adviser [Karen Jones, Ph.D.], eventually emailed me and told me the situation that there is concern for my safety. However, no one could force me to come back.”
Kuvshinikov discussed her plans with her mentor and her parents.
“Both my parents have been supportive of me being here even when they first heard about Ebola,” she said. “Both of them believe that no matter where you are in the world, even at wherever you call home, there’s risk of some type of danger.”
Kuvshinikov’s mom was in constant contact with Jones and Lindey. Since Jones was planning on visiting Lindey, her mom recommended that Lindey stay and finish her PRIME. Her mentor said the same thing.
“When I talked to my mentor again, she said that she had been thinking it over for the past few days and realized that America could not close its borders to American citizens,” Kuvhshinikov said. “Also, if America were to close their borders to African countries, it would probably just be countries with reported cases of Ebola.”
Eventually, Kuvshinikov chose to stay and complete her ministry in Ghana.
“That weekend was probably the most emotional weekend I have ever experienced,” she said. “I went from 90 percent sure that I was leaving to finding out that I was going to stay. Since then, everyone just keeps checking the news to hear America’s plan of action to cease the spread of Ebola and thus far, it seems that no action of closing borders is going to be taken.”
Kuvshinikov said living through the experience in Africa has given her a new perspective on how America responds to international crises.
“I think what I was frustrated about was that the majority of Americans did not understand the severity of Ebola as it spread in different African countries and killed thousands of people,” she said. “However, right when one case was reported in America, it became a concern.There was an article that I read that had an illustration. The illustration depicted multiple Africans all in hospital beds with Ebola, one infected Caucasian in the middle on a bed, and there was a reporter with a camera taking a picture of the Caucasian. It seemed somewhat accurate to me. … Therefore, I guess, overall lack of awareness of how severe Ebola is, is what frustrated me.”
Kuvshinkov will return home Dec. 12 and will graduate from the university May 2015.
“My parents believe that wherever God has called you is the safest place to be because He brought you there,” she said. “Not [safe] in the sense that nothing bad can happen to you, but that God has led you there and will bring you through it.”