Between two worlds, the fiancée of an Ebola victim finds a Bible course

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The Sunday Bible class at Wilshire Baptist Church began like many others: with a word for absent members. For Linda, fighting cancer. For Betty May, she has trouble walking.

Louise Troh needed quite a prayer.

As she prepares to emerge from an Ebola quarantine on Monday, two worlds await Troh.

There’s the Northeast Dallas Church and its mostly white retirement class, where Troh spent Sunday mornings reading Bible stories before she gave birth 21 days ago.

And there’s Troh’s family from the crippled West African nation she fled more than a decade ago – where her daughter died in childbirth this year and the man she wanted to marry caught the virus that killed him.

“Nobody deserves this much pain,” said class teacher Craig Keith.

Troh first entered Keith’s class last fall – a bright 54-year-old mother and grandmother with a deep West African accent.

“Here is this woman from Liberia in a Sunday school filled mostly with whites and pensioners,” Keith recalls. “The Lord’s mysterious ways.”

Troh came with three Liberian teenagers whom the class had asked for help. The girls have since left the church, Keith said, but “Louise got stuck.”

After weeks of parables and prayers, Troh has become a regular face in the back of the room, near a wall of clustered crucifixes. Sometimes she came alone. Sometimes she brought family members who occupied two rows of seats.

His two worlds were beginning to blend together.

“She always asked for a prayer for the people of Liberia,” Max Post said.

Post remembers one morning this spring when Troh told his classmates that his daughter had died. She went through history without collapsing.

After a long civil war that drove Troh out of the country, Liberia’s health system began to fail even before the Ebola outbreak. Troh’s daughter, about to give birth, had called her mother from a stretcher. The hospital wouldn’t admit him without cash.

“She was bleeding and she was scared,” said Laurie Taylor, who directs the Grievance and Loss Center of North Texas, which is located in the church.

Separated by thousands of miles, Troh stayed on the phone with her daughter while her son-in-law searched for money. Eventually, her daughter fell silent. Another phone call informed Troh that she and the baby were dead.

“Louise was very upset,” Post said. “And she’s definitely not out of it yet.”

About half a dozen members of Wilshire attended the memorial to Troh’s daughter. Liberians and Baptists crammed into his two-bedroom apartment in Vickery Meadow.

It was months before the man who came from Liberia to marry Troh, Thomas Eric Duncan, died of Ebola in one of his bedrooms. Before the workers emptied the apartment, burned almost everything she owned and buried the ashes. And before his three-week quarantine.

In his Sunday sermon, the Wilshire pastor compared Dallas’ “state of panic” over Ebola to the Israelites who wandered in the desert, fearing God had abandoned them. Troh and her family “have nothing, and yet people blame her,” the pastor said.

In the classroom above, Post couldn’t help but think of Troh as he listened to parables.

In one of them, a sick woman had been declared ceremonially unclean. Shunned, embarrassed and “cut off from life”, she braved a crowd to gain acceptance.

But overall, the class prayers were simple.

“More than anything, we’re going to be praying that she’ll be in that back row again next Sunday with us,” Keith said.

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