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Chattanooga missionaries hear from friends dealing with Ebola crisis in West Africa

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - The Ebola crisis in West Africa hits close to home for some Chattanoogans. Local missionaries are hearing grim news from friends in Sierra Leone, where thousands have already died from the virus.

Health officials warn there could be up to 10,000 new Ebola cases per week in West Africa by the end of the year. Now some residents are asking their old missionary friends for help -- and especially for prayers.

Words from almost 5,000 miles away reached Southern Adventist Professor Michael Dant's Facebook inbox Thursday afternoon.

Dant's friend, Samuel, works at a hospital in Sierra Leone. Nearly 5,000 people have died from the virus in West Africa, and the death toll continues to grow.

"We have been quarantined for 25 days and lost two staff members during that period," Samuel wrote. "The hospital is now going to be used as a holding center by the government until the crisis is over. The welfare of the staff and their families are the major problems now. Thank you so much for your concern."

The two met during a mission trip in 2012 -- before Ebola was a concern.

"Because we've had such a personal experience with them, this is something that now will be ongoing prayer requests, especially as this gets worse and worse," Dant said.

Sierra Leone is close to the heart for members of Cavalry Chapel in Chattanooga.

"Ports are closing down, airports are closing down, a lot of their food supply is down, and so they have a lot of need there," said Zack Rannick, who works in the church's missions department.

Pastor Shodankeh Johnson, a Sierra Leone resident, visited the church earlier this summer. He wrote them, asking for help.

"It's no exaggeration at all by the international media," Johnson said.

"He's even asked for a vehicle to extricate the bodies from these remote places," Rannick said.

Cavalry Chapel has raised 15-thousand dollars so far, and donations keep coming.

"They're hurting, they're suffering," said Rannick, "and so any way we can step up and help out, we want to do that."

Because the need is great. And the outbreak's end -- not yet in sight.
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