Educational mission work sponsored by Mercer University has been suspended in the wake of the West African Ebola crisis.
The Mercer on Mission program has worked for years with the Ricks Institute, a K-12 school in the Liberian capital of Monrovia. Mercer education majors have been working on shoring up teaching efforts at the school in the years since a Mercer alumnus took the helm of the school following the Liberian Civil War.
Dr. Craig T. McMahan heads the Mercer on Mission program. He said that the decision to suspend work was made after looking at the broader picture of Ebola in West Africa with officials from the Mercer School of Medicine.
“Wanting not to be a problem but part of the solution, we have opted not to go this coming year, in 2015, recognizing that the situation will likely not be stable,” McMahan said.
McMahan cited the potential spread of the disease by affected missionaries, plus the siphoning off of medical supplies that could be used for affected Liberians as reasons to keep students home.
Though the Ebola danger in West Africa is daily becoming more widespread and generalized, McMahan said the danger for people at the Ricks Institute is acute.
“It’s very near where the Ebola is breaking out. It’s there,” McMahan said.
McMahan said the epidemic has also halted the starting of a brand new program in Ghana.
McMahan said that the strong roots the Mercer on Mission program has set down in Liberia leave him hopeful about the possibility of returning to the country after the epidemic subsides. More troubling is the state of the school the program might be returning to.
“Now that this has scattered everyone, bringing the school back itself I think will be the major challenge,” McMahan said, “Not quite so specifically our program but just in general the whole school coming back together after this crisis. Because we really don’t know how long and extensive this crisis will be and who will be affected.”
McMahan said that most public buildings in Liberia are shut down in order to stem spread of Ebola.
McMahan said that he and other officials will be watching the moves of larger organizations like the Red Cross and the Peace Corps as the Ebola epidemic changes in order to gauge when it might be safe to return.
In the meantime, McMahan pointed out the effort to raise money to feed students and workers at the Baptist Theological Seminary in Liberia, another school with strong Mercer ties, as they wait in isolation for the end of the Ebola epidemic.