Southsider Voice correspondent
The American missionary doctor stricken with Ebola and being treated in Atlanta has deep Southside roots.
Dr. Kent Brantly grew up on the Southeastside, attended church and grade school at Southeastern Church of Christ, where he was baptized, and graduated from Heritage Christian High. He returned home last summer with his wife, Amber, and their two children and gave a heartfelt sermon at his church.
“We shared life together. I grieved and cried, rejoiced, swam and skied, celebrated birthdays and worshiped and prayed and played and grew up with my family, my church family here,” Kent said during that sermon.
In a fitting tribute to the congregation, he said, “Every one of you who knew me when I was a little boy or saw me grow as a teenager or offered me friendship as a college student or graduate student have touched my life and shaped me as I am today.”
Kent is the son of Dr. Jim and Jan Brantly and has many relatives on the Southside. Jim Brantly, an elder at Southeastern Church of Christ, is a retired physician who was employed 35 years by Johnson Memorial Hospital in Franklin.
Those who heard Kent speak about leaving his church family and his roots to go to Nigeria as a missionary are praying for his survival against deadly Ebola. He arrived in Atlanta via special medical air charter Saturday for treatment in an isolation unit at Emory University Hospital near the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Southeastern Church Pastor Greg York was uplifted when he watched TV and saw Dr. Brantly walking from the emergency vehicle to the hospital.
“It caught me by surprise simply because we just didn’t know what the situation was,” he said. “Obviously, it dawned on me that it was Kent; it was very exciting that he could walk.”
Brantly, 33, and an aide, hygienist Nancy Writebol of Charlotte, N.C., contracted Ebola while serving as missionaries for Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia, Liberia. She is to be treated at Emory also.
A 2009 graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine, Brantly is the medical director for the Ebola care center there. The disease is spread through bodily fluids and blood, which makes it easily spread in countries that are not as advanced in medical care as the United States.
Brantly last summer revealed that his “life-changing experience” came after his senior year at Abilene Christian on a mission to El Salvador and Honduras, where he eventually met his wife, who was a medical aid. Amber is in Atlanta and can communicate with her husband from a separate room.
She released the following statement: “It was a relief to welcome Kent home. I spoke with him, and he is glad to be back in the U.S. I am thankful to God for his safe transport and for giving him the strength to walk into the hospital.”
Last summer Brantly also recounted his preschool days at Southeastern Church and the mission trips he took to Kenya and Honduras with the McDaniel, Lantz and Cole families.
York emphasized that the congregation – while praying for Brantly’s recovery – is also drawing strength from his life at the church and as a missionary. “There is strength because it focuses us together,” he said. “Congregations are deeply affected and grow together in meaningful ways when there is something of deep importance that draws us together. This reminds us of the importance of life, the sacredness of life and the brevity of life. What are we doing now with the blessings that God has given us?
“We obviously are still in the stage of concern and are praying for his complete recovery and his ability to return to doing what he is trained and called to do…not only our congregation but his church in Texas (Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth) are active in supporting him with prayer.”
Brantly’s words last summer still resonate with the local congregation today: “We are called to a holy life, not because of anything we have done, but because of his purpose and grace.”
The Southsider Voice is praying his recovery so he can continue to serve those in need and that his story becomes a never-ending story for all.