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Darkness to light: West family will continue ministry

Love wins: Holly West (right) continued to minister during the hospitalization of her husband Myron. (Contributed photos)

Love wins: Holly West (right) continued to minister during the hospitalization of her husband Myron. (Contributed photos)

By Jason Green | Special to the Advertiser

Editor’s note: This is the second of a two-part series. The first installment can be found here

Dark days have surrounded the West family recently.

Myron battled his illness for more than six weeks before succumbing to it. The family spent weeks on the move, first in Gulu at a small medical facility then to Uganda International Hospital in the capitol city of Kampala. That stay was followed by a more than 22-hour journey by plane via Istanbul and Atlanta to the MICU and Palliative Care units at UAB Hospital in Birmingham.

Along the way, the family said it has discovered something familiar taking place. Love was winning elsewhere as it had been in Africa.

The family agrees that a ministry rooted in the African continent has now begun to have a powerful influence on America, whether at an airport hotel in Atlanta, hospital hallways and waiting rooms in Alabama, or in churches and communities around the country praying for a missionary named Myron.

“Myron always said talk was cheap,” said April Etheridge, sister of Myron’s wife Holly West. “He loved people others wouldn’t. And that has made a difference to the Acholi. And it’s made a difference to people here, too. The love Myron had is a love that can only come from God. It’s a love this family has. It’s something God had to give them.”

Showing love: The Wests’ daughter Rachael holds an Acholi child.

Showing love: The Wests’ daughter Rachael holds an Acholi child.

The “uniqueness” of the West family, as described by UAB employees, began to become evident early on in Myron’s transition. The waiting room in MICU at UAB, just as it had in Kampala, became a ministry field for Holly as she built relationships and shared Christ’s love with people suffering through similar circumstances as her family.

Watching Holly’s compassion, grace and dedication to remain vigilantly attentive at her husband’s side left many employees asking the question, “What is so different?”

According to unnamed employees, contact with the West family left those with no religious beliefs asking questions about the Christian faith. It left those with fragile faith wanting what they called a “deeper relationship” with Christ similar to what they saw from the entire West family.

Often staffers in palliative care would leave Myron’s room, visibly shaking their heads. When asked why, one staffer simply said, “You don’t see such selfless, loving people very often. That family is the real deal. I don’t think I’ve been doing a very good job as a Christian. They’ve got it right…just so much love.”

And members of the family have said the experience has left them with similar impressions.

“My sister is my hero,” Etheridge added. “I’ve realized by watching her that I’m not where I need to be as a Christian. I pray, but do I really pray? Do I really trust the Lord? We all have to ask ourselves that question.”