Orthodox Priest, Formerly an Australian Rock Star, Battles Ebola in West Africa
By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries
Freewtown, Sierra Leone (ANS) — A former Australian rock-star atheist, who found Christ and became a fearless missionary to war-torn Sierra Leone, West Africa, is now preparing for what could be the great challenge of his life.
Themi pictured in 1964 as a rock star
He is Fr. Themi Adams, who was once a member of The Flies, that once shared the stage with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and now runs The Holy Orthodox Mission in Freetown, the capital city of the troubled West African nation, is making urgent preparations to help possible victims of the deadly Ebola virus if and when it spreads to Sierra Leone.
Since February, more than 660 people have died of Ebola in West Africa – the world’s deadliest outbreak to date.
According to the BBC, it began in southern Guinea and spread to Liberia and could soon hit Sierra Leone. The virus kills up to 90% of those infected but if patients receive early treatment, they have a better chance of survival. It spreads through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids.
In a message to supporters, Fr. Themi, who was born in Egypt to Greek parents and raised in Melbourne, Australia, where he began his rocking career, described what has been going on.
Fr. Themi Adams caring for his flock
He said, “The present West African epicenter of this non-curable killer infection is in Guinea (Sierra Leone’s northern and eastern border neighbor). Now it has started to spread beyond the Guinean borders. It is interesting that Ebola has never been previously recorded in Guinea. Precisely because it is an unprecedented phenomenon, some local Guineans recently attacked members of the French medical organization, Doctors Without Borders, believing that they had deliberately introduced the virus into Guinea as part of a ‘foreign plot.’
“The Guinean government appealed for calm last Saturday, after a mob attacked a center where Ebola virus victims were being treated. The attack took place in the southern town of Macenta on Friday, at a center run by Doctors Without Borders.
“Now we face this new deadly menace and preventive measures in our Orthodox Mission in Sierra Leone have begun as we endeavor to protect our people.”
He went on to say that their mission in Sierra Leone is now on an “emergency alert footing,” adding, “We are monitoring the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone and taking various forms of preventative environmental, hygienic and spiritual measures to protect the people we serve here.”
Fr. Themi said that included daily prayer at the mission for protection against the deadly virus.
He said it also included “Preventative Hygiene Education”, stating, “Our Mission possesses three large compounds in the Greater Freetown area serving over 2000 children, youth and adults throughout our various educational, ecclesiastical and medical projects.
“We have an obligation to keep them safe from this deadly infection which has no known cure or therapy. In this case prevention from infection is the best and perhaps only possible policy.
Some of the children under his care
“Consequently we are providing a constant information outreach, discussions and updates to our pupils, parents and teachers, college students, lecturers, priests, parishioners and staff, concerning the nature of the infection and how to safeguard oneself from contamination. We have even enrolled the services of the Red Cross to assist us in this educational and preventative effort.”
This, said Fr. Themi, also included appropriate personal hygiene (washing of hands, washing clothes, boiling water, washing food before cooking etc.).
“We are ensuring that all our buildings are cleaned and disinfected; especially the toilet and washroom facilities,” he stated.
“Furthermore we are discouraging any travel to Guinea or Liberia for the time being. I would also advise that all overseas visitors planning to visit our Mission in Sierra Leone to cancel or postpone their trip until the danger period has safely passed.
“In case this killer infection reaches Freetown, of all our compounds perhaps the most potentially vulnerable is the Waterloo compound (at the outskirts of Freetown). Here we house a community of physically challenged people (mostly polio and amputees victims) together with their children and spouses – the St. Moses the Ethiopian Orthodox Village.
“At this point of time we have no complete perimeter wall around the disabled housing area. That means that the community is exposed to all types of threats from the surrounding and neighboring communities. For example, it is not unusual individuals from the surrounding vicinity to trespass at night and without permission use the St. Moses Community toilet facilities (as well as at times harass and steal). That means that if the Ebola infection reaches Freetown this compound is at great risk of exposure to contamination.
“Furthermore, while we are providing free accommodation, free medical services, free educational opportunities as well as financial assistance to the members of the St. Moses Community, nevertheless at the present time due to financial constraints the washing and bathing facilities are very primitive. This is another point of weakness in our compound which could attract the Ebola virus.”
Fr. Themi said he is requesting help for “the ensuring emergency messages to be implemented at our Waterloo Compound in order to provide a safe and hygienic environment for our Orthodox Community living there.
He added that they need to provide the following:
- We need to build a complete perimeter wall to protect our Waterloo disabled community from outsiders using the existing toilet facilities and hence potentially infect the compound. Construction on this wall has already started but it needs to be completed.
- To ensure optimal hygiene levels we need to provide decent washing facilities for our disabled brothers and sisters. This will consist of separate male and female compartments for personal bathing and for washing of clothes.
- Finally, if we are to ensure safe and hygienic washing facilities we will need to build a permanent water well, pump and an adjacent tower holding a sizeable water tank. The water well would have to be deep enough in order to have the capacity of supplying water all year round. Water would then be pumped up from the well to the elevated water tank which would permanently supply its water through taps and showers into the washroom. Naturally we will ensure a constant supply of soap and washing powder.
“God has so far protected and blessed the people of Sierra Leone. There have been many cases of Ebola in Guinea and in Liberia but not here!
“Their belief in God assisted with the new Minister of Health, Miatta Kargbo, a woman who has tirelessly worked with the World Health Organisation to ensure effective sanctions against the spread of Ebola in Sierra Leone is one reason why they believe the virus has not spread here.”
Update from Freetown
A recent picture of the courageous priest
On Friday, July 25th, 2014, Fr. Themi Adams had a telephone conversation with Wid Bastian, who is the screenwriter for the upcoming feature film about Father Adams’ life. The film, Themi, is scheduled to begin production in early 2015.
Father Themi told Wid, “In Sierra Leone the Ebola problem is shrouded in myth. There are two cultures, a medical professional culture – the politicians, the education people, etc. who are aware of the severity of this problem. On the other hand we have a vast sea of people who are not aware of what this disease is all about. There are a lot of urban myths in West Africa. Many people still prefer to seek medical help from herbalists, what those in the West would call traditional tribal medicine.
“There is a fear that has spread among the people that the medical doctors will kill you if you have Ebola. So they mistakenly believe that if you have Ebola and go to the hospital, rather than treat you the doctors will take your life. Today a lady went to the hospital in Freetown. She was the first confirmed case of Ebola in Freetown, as far as we know. Until this point Ebola has hit the major provincial cities, but not the capital. Her relatives came, forced their way into the hospital and took her away. Now she is in hiding in Freetown and no one knows where she is.
“Ebola is spread by touch, not by airborne transmission. So anyone who comes in contact with this woman, who touches her, may get infected. The local media and the BBC have been reporting on this situation asking that the woman be found and returned to the hospital where she can be isolated and receive proper medical care. So far, she remains at large.
“The government is working very hard to explain how this disease works and to separate fact from fiction. On our end, we have instituted a chlorine based cleaning program at our Teacher’s College and at the Waterloo compound. It is known that chlorine kills the Ebola virus. However, the population we serve here is very vulnerable. We have no perimeter fence to keep people out of Waterloo so the danger exists that an Ebola infected individual might get into our compound and spread the disease before we could act and properly quarantine and treat that person.”
Wid Bastian, who kindly provided much of this material for the story, told the ASSIST News Service, “Fr. Themi Adams is asking everyone to pray for the mission in Sierra Leone. The men and women serving there and the native people desperately need God’s protection during this time of crisis.”
For more information, Mr. Bastian can be contact by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org