"I've seen several cases of cholera today," the Red Cross worker said, "and two yesterday."
Our hearts sank. We knew what that meant. We were at the beginning of a cholera epidemic. Several cases today meant a dozen tomorrow, and in a few days there would be hundreds.
We were in Mozambique. It was the year 2000, and there had been massive floods all over the country. Tony and I and two of our teenage kids were there because we are good friends with the Bakers. Rolland and Tony were at school together. When we heard about the flooding, we knew our medical training would be useful and so volunteered to help.
We had just set up camp at this particular resettlement village with a team of young people in their late teens and twenties. Should we expose them to the risk of cholera?
"Come and see my Red Cross tent," the Red Cross worker said. "It's just over there" (as he waved his hand vaguely past our makeshift campsite.)
En route to his tent, we passed the village well. It was a hole in the ground filled with filthy, muddy water. We watehed as people dipped plastic bottles into this water and drank it without any kind of purification. Small wonder they had health issues! We continued walking. After about 40 minutes ("just over there" is obviously relative), we came to his army tent. He had an old army cot, a bucket filled with the same muddy water and two or three packets or oral rehydration fluid. Not a bandage; not an aspirin. Certainly nothing we could use to treat a cholera epidemic.
Back at our tent, we debated what to do. We didn't have enough of the right medicines with us to deal with the situation we were facing. As we chatted, we remembered a passage in the Bible where Moses and Aaron stop a plague following Korah's rebellion.
"And Moses said to Aaron, “Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay incense on it, and carry it out among the people to purify them and make them right with the Lord. The Lord’s anger is blazing against them—the plague has already begun.”
Aaron did as Moses told him and ran out among the people. The plague had already begun to strike down the people, but Aaron burned the incense and purified the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague stopped.
"Quick," we said to our team. "We have to pray around the camp to stop the plague."
So the whole team went around the camp, crying out to God and praying that the plague would stop.
We didn't see a single case of cholera while we were there! Not only that, in the couple of days we were there, a church composed of entirely new believers began.
The spiritual realm is real!