Facing the Darkness – A Christian Movie Review and Recommendation

I thought I understood the events surrounding the familiar names, Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol and Samaritan’s Purse of the 2014 West African Ebola Crisis.

After watching the documentary Facing the Darkness, I realized that I really did not.  Like most people in America,  I was watching the news and saw that Ebola had broken out and later that two Americans had caught it.  I had even prayed for them and the people of the countries.  But I had no idea of the extent of what was going on in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea at the time and what these regular folks like you and I suffered through.

Facing the Darkness tells the story of exactly what occurred when Ebola ravaged one of the countries, Liberia, and a handful of American aid workers tried to step in to help.  The truth is both mind boggling and inspiring

It is an intense, gripping and wonderful account of people putting themselves in harm’s way for the love of Jesus.  Though it is definitely challenging to watch – it is a documentary of the Ebola outbreak – I am very glad I did watch it.

I highly recommend you do too.  See this movie!  Full Review is below.

I was initially a bit skeptical when I saw that a documentary about the Ebola Crisis was coming out from Samaritan’s Purse.  I love what they do around the world.  I love their heart for the needy and have enjoyed previous media from them.

I just assumed that I knew all there was to know about the Ebola outbreak since it was all over the news at the time.  I had followed it closely, I thought and believed that the film might be repetitive or clinical.  It was nothing of the sort.

From the moment that it begins setting the stage showing Samaritan’s Purse’s pre-outbreak involvement in Liberia, the movie is riveting.

I did not know that Samaritan’s Purse was actually on the ground in Liberia at the time of the outbreak of Ebola.  Contrary to my understanding, they were not there as experts in disease control or horrific diseases.  They were not even there to help with the Ebola outbreak.  No one involved was from the CDC or a super-virus specialist with full blow up suit like you see in the movies.

Rather, the staff was made up of regular people there trying to help rebuild that countries infrastructure up from the ashes of its terrible civil war.  They were missionaries, family doctors, general practitioners and general health workers.  They were there to help mothers learn to care for their babies and treat general illnesses while sharing the love of Jesus, not fight the worst Ebola outbreak in history.

They were meant to be like a Jesus sharing Patient First in a country whose hospitals and medical structures had been destroyed.  You don’t go to Patient First for a deadly disease, right?  They are just not equipped to handle such an event.

Yet when the infections explode into the worst outbreak in history, Samaritan’s Purse as an organization and the staff individually don’t hesitate.

They have had an extremely difficult situation presented to them.  People are dying in the thousands from a disease that is highly contagious and causes death is a horrible way.  Other than Doctors Without Borders, there is no one else there to help care for the infected people.  Hospitals and medicals facilities are generally non-existent.  The world is ignoring the outbreak and the staff are unprepared to actually step in and help.  They just don’t have the training or facilities.  Setting up an Ebola ward and treating active patients is very different from teaching children to read or delivering babies.  But they cannot just walk away either.  The love of Jesus compels them to help.

In personal interviews with the folks involved, they talk about this decision making process.  How each one knew that they were dealing with something horrific and lethal.  Yet, they immediately, willingly stayed to try to help the people who were suffering so greatly.

The story proceeds from the initial outbreak of the infections until it is contained.  It takes the viewer along with the staff into the Ebola ward that they set up and details the difficult conditions that doctors, nurses, and helpers worked under.

Those in the ward were clad head to toe in multiple layers of mylar protection with masks and ski goggles covering every part of their bodies.  I could not imagine the heat involved.  The doctors in the ward were supposed to be limited to 40 minutes fully suited up due to the risks with dehydration and heat exhaustion, yet they often stayed for multiples of that to try to help the suffering.

There was very little that the medical personnel could do for those afflicted.  They either got better or they died in great pain and most died.  Whole families were wiped out.  Yet, the staff kept on risking their lives to do what they could to alleviate the pain and treat what they could.

All the while they knew that one single microscopic Ebola virus that they missed could leave them in the same condition.  Even now, three years later those interviewed appeared haunted by the relentlessness and invisibility of the danger.

Just a moment’s inattention  in hours upon hours of work was all that it took. Just a careless gesture of hand to an unprotected eye or even crying on the wrong person’s shoulder and they would likely be next in the ward.

Dr. Brantly and Nancy Writebol are then infected and the movie follows their sickness, near death and return to America for treatment.  They are both interviewed throughout the film and do a wonderful job of explaining their journeys.  Their respective spouses are featured as well.  Even though I was sure that they both survived, they are interviewed after all, their accounts are suspenseful.  The struggle between pain and fear and trust in Jesus on the part of these families is well documented and a wonder to watch.

The stories of each of the people featured in the movie are just amazing.  They are a testimony to believers living out their faith in Jesus in a harrowing circumstance.  All just to give that single glass of water to the least of God’s people.

I am glad that I watched Facing the Darkness.  I don’t know if I enjoyed it, given the content, but I definitely benefitted and appreciated the film.  It is really well done film that tells a great story.

As a general warning, the movie is intense and deals with a very difficult subject.  There are dead bodies shown as well as people suffering the effects of Ebola.  It is not for small children and requires parental guidance for bigger kids.


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