"In our fear, God helped us to respond generously and we decided to stay!"
March 2,,2017 - Sierra Leone
Fr Ubaldino Andrade Hernandez is a Salesian missionary who has worked in Sierra Leone. He was in Rome at the Generalate during the photographic exhibition: "Ebola, and beyond Ebola". His testimony is a sign of trust in God. He says that in those strange days of the epidemic they were living with "a real fear of death” but they decided to stay there as parents for many abandoned children." Looking at the pictures of the exhibition, the memories came to mind, and his eyes paused to remember his experiences. "Staying was the best option."
Why did you decide to stay where death was also your destiny?
We decided to stay among the people and take the risk of dying like so many others, but we were sure that God would help us, and we never felt alone. We chose to stay with the young people.
What do you remember on seeing the pictures?
The faces of the people. Hospitals full of people. The number of dead. A fear that you could reach out and touch. I remember so many families quarantined, blocked, left with no water and no food.
And seeing the faces of the children?
They are the faces of so many children that we accommodated in Salesian houses. In the African tradition, the child has to stay away from people who are sick. This helped many children to survive, but then left them alone in the house. I remember Ibrahim: everyone else was dead, he was the only survivor. When they arrived at his house to disinfect it they sprayed chlorine all over his body and he was left blind in one eye.
Did you hear any of the people saying that the disease was a punishment?
Throughout the whole experience of Ebola, I never found a single person who complained that God was punishing us. There was a very clear idea: God is with us.
When did you decide to stay in such a dramatic and difficult situation?
For us Salesians it was not easy. We felt so disoriented. We asked ourselves: "What will we do? Should we go? Can we leave everything?" We think God helped us to discover his will. We thought the best place we could be was Sierra Leone.
Were you afraid of this decision?
We had a lot of fear, like everybody else. It was then that the government asked us to help the orphaned children. In our fear, God gave us the means to respond generously. We did not feel alone, but accompanied by God, by the Rector Major and the Congregation. And we were in the midst of people, with all the risks.
Source: Agenzia Info Salesiana