Burn survivors of a late December fuel tanker explosion in Totota, Liberia, may or may not remember much about the moments before their lives changed. One minute they were watching people poke holes in an overturned tanker to harvest the fuel. The next, they were on fire. At least 40 of their fellow residents died instantly.
Dozens of badly injured survivors were transported by friends, family, and local officials on an hours-long ride along uneven roads from their town to the capital, Monrovia.
They were sent to a local state-run medical facility and to ELWA (Eternal Love Winning Africa), one of our longtime partner mission hospitals.
Samaritan’s Purse deployed a five-person medical team specializing in burn care to relieve the exhausted staff of ELWA. Burn nurse Joany McDougall said the ELWA staff were wearied after two days of caring for the 22 survivors who were sent there, a task that would have “even overwhelmed a hospital in the States.” Their tireless efforts saved lives.
“If you do not adequately treat these patients quickly enough,” McDougall said, “they will die in 24 to 48 hours.”
It’s a grim reality for even the best equipped team. Five people passed away the night before our team arrived.
The Samaritan’s Purse medical Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) immediately got to work, giving the weary local staff much needed rest. We began long hours of cleaning and redressing deep wounds, a painful procedure that eventually led to surgical skin grafts.
We praise God that these daily regimens helped save lives and allowed our team to minister in Jesus’ Name, sharing His love and the truth of His Gospel in the midst of their fear and suffering.
“We’ve seen God at work in our patients and in the hospital staff,” said DART member Josh Verner. “The staff had been through multiple sleepless nights in a row, only to see patients pass away.
Now there is so much more joy among them. And I remember one patient say he didn’t want to leave the OR (operating room) because that’s where Jesus is.”
Each morning as the patients were wheeled in for their treatment, they would call out the names of the staff as they walked in. Some would share what God was teaching them, including one who had received Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior during his time at the hospital.
Several others had started attending hospital chapel each morning, after years of staying away from church.
“We would remind them ‘you’re getting better every day’ so they would know that the pain they were experiencing had a purpose. One of my patients began praying during treatments, whispering ‘Jesus. Jesus. Jesus,’” McDougall said. “And I would whisper, ‘He’s here. He’s here.’”
Caring in Jesus’ Name Around the World
In the last two years, we have deployed DART burn care teams a number of times—to war-torn Ukraine to treat victims of missile attack and bombings and even to earthquake-devastated Turkey during our medical and relief response to Antakya