“The Ebola Fighters,” many of whom were motivated by their Christian faith to risk their lives in battling the deadly disease in West Africa, have been named TIME’s “Person of the Year,” the magazine announced Wednesday (Dec. 10).
The magazine’s special issue recognized the group for doing the most to influence the events of 2014. TIME editor Nancy Gibbs wrote in announcing the decision that medical workers in West Africa “fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams” while much of the world was still “in denial and snarled in red tape” concerning the Ebola outbreak.
“Ebola is a war, and a warning. The global health system is nowhere close to strong enough to keep us safe from infectious disease, and ‘us’ means everyone, not just those in faraway places where this is one threat among many that claim lives every day,” Gibbs wrote.
“The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight. For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are TIME’s 2014 Person of the Year,” she wrote.
To date about 6,300 people have died in the Ebola outbreak, mainly in the West African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, according to the World Health Organization. There are more than 11,000 confirmed cases of the disease in the area with more than 6,000 additional suspected cases.
Among the five people to be featured on the cover of the Dec. 22/Dec. 29 issue of the magazine is Kent Brantly, an American medical doctor with the missions organization Samaritan’s Purse who contracted Ebola while running a treatment center in Monrovia, Liberia.
“I chose a career in medicine because I wanted a tangible skill with which to serve people,” Brantly told TIME. “And so my role as a physician is my attempt to do that. I’ll probably get tired of talking about my experience some day, but I went to Liberia because I long felt it was my vocation to spend my career as a medical missionary. Deep in the core of my heart, I still think that’s my calling. I don’t want to go on with life and forget this.”
Though TIME does not recognize most Ebola fighters by name, Southern Baptists have been on the front lines. Among them:
• Trevor Yoakum, an International Mission Board missionary, formulated a campaign in conjunction with Baptist Global Response to distribute 15,000 Ebola brochures in Togo.
• A worker in Guinea used storying and role-playing to teach Africans about Ebola prevention.
“We are able to share what Ebola is, how it is transmitted, simple things people can do to protect themselves from being infected and how to stop the spread of the disease,” the worker reported.
• A worker in Liberia also said in a previous report, “This nation that thrives on relationships is now being reprimanded for giving a handshake or a hug. Taxi drivers are wearing gloves and masks. Grocery store workers and others are wearing gloves. Tonight we went to the grocery store and before entering, we had to wash our hands with bleach water. A few restaurants and other businesses have shut down until Ebola comes under control.
“Borders to Liberia have been closed except for the three major borders and two airports. And tonight, I read that one of our major West Africa airlines has cancelled all flights between Liberia and Sierra Leone. This invisible enemy must be stopped and there is only One who is able to stop it — the Prince of Peace, Jehovah Rapha,” she said.