VIA coverage includes a look back at Bennett

Bennett has been gutted and is awaiting installation of a new steel infrastructure that will be used to construct labs and project space.

Bennett has been gutted and is awaiting installation of a new steel infrastructure that will be used to construct labs and project space.

Since 1930, one of the workhouse buildings on the Abilene Christian University campus has been Bennett Gymnasium, which is receiving new life this year as the future home of laboratories for the Department of Engineering and Physics.

Bennett in 1957 was a beehive of activity, from intramurals and P.E. classes to men’s intercollegiate basketball games and pep rallies, to  Lectureship events.

Bennett in 1957 was a beehive of activity, from intramurals and P.E. classes, to pep rallies and men’s intercollegiate basketball games, to Lectureship events.

Paul Anthony (’04), ACU’s advancement communication coordinator, described the transformation in our new Spring-Summer issue as “trading in hardwood and basketball for stained concrete and the hum of robotic experiments.” That’s a pretty good assessment.

Right now Bennett is a mere shell of its former self – the exterior is being largely retained – but soon its interior will be transformed into two stories of labs and project space that will become a showpiece for the fast-growing engineering program and a physics program that has long yearned for lab space to complement its ongoing world-class research work at places like Fermilab and Brookhaven national labs.

Bennett's most recent use was a venue for intramural basketball. The last wooden court was not original to the building, which opened in 1930.

Bennett’s most recent use including being a venue for intramural basketball. The last wooden court was not original to the building, which opened in 1930.

ACU Today’s cover story features 14 pages of stories and images about the exciting Vision in Action initiative that will build three science facilities and two stadiums on campus.

In the weeks and months to come, we’ll be profiling here and in the print edition the donors, faculty members, history and impressive programs represented by the university’s largest construction phase in 50 years.

Bennett will be the first of the five projects to be completed later this fall, and we look forward to showing you images of its earlier days and telling some fascinating stories about what was widely considered the finest gym between Fort Worth and El Paso.

Via-SpreadView “Building the Future,” our cover story in the new online issue

ACU Remembers: Ken Rasco

Ken Rasco 250x300After 23 years (1927-50), Clara Bishop was a hard act to follow as registrar of Abilene Christian University.

But Kenneth Hugh Rasco (’48) bettered her longevity mark in the Registrar’s Office with a record career spanning 35 years (1950-85). And if you were one of the tens of thousands of students to attend ACU during those three-and-a-half decades, his thumbprint was on your transcript and he personally approved your Commencement credentials.

Colleagues and students alike spoke of the kindness, humility, grace, patience and eye for detail with which Rasco carried out a role crucial to the success of any university and its academic endeavors. Those attributes also describe his life outside the tedious work he did in the Hardin Administration Building and the profession to which he dedicated his career.

Rasco died today in Abilene at age 93. A memorial service will be held at University Church of Christ on Saturday, Sept. 20, at 11 a.m., conducted by Piersall-Benton Funeral Directors, with burial afterward at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Abilene. Visitation with the family will be 5-7 p.m. Friday at Piersall-Benton (733 Butternut, Abilene, Texas 79602).

Ken was born Jan. 23, 1921, in Tyler, Texas, and graduated from Tyler High School in 1939. He was a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army Air Corps, serving from 1942-44 as a left-waist gunner on a B-17 in World War II. He earned four Air Medals with four oak leaf clusters, and the Distinguished Flying Cross for heroism during his 35 missions over Germany and France. Ken Rasco registrar

He married Marianna Yarbrough (’53) on Jan. 1, 1954, in Fort Worth. Later, she retired from ACU as professor emerita of family and consumer sciences after nearly 40 years of service to her alma mater.

He graduated from Tyler Junior College with an Associate of Arts degree in English in 1941 and from ACU in 1948 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He earned a Master of Arts degree in 1949 from Northwestern University and also did graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and DePauw University.

Ken joined the ACU faculty in 1949 as an instructor of English, retiring in 1986 as assistant professor emeritus of English and registrar. He was active in the Texas Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

He served as a deacon at Abilene’s University Church of Christ, where he and Marianna have been longtime members.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Hugh and Berta Lou McGlathery Rasco; brothers Edwin Rasco and Alvin Mack McCary; and a sister, Ethlene Buffington. Among survivors are Dr. Marianna Rasco, his wife of 60 years; a daughter, Dr. Amy Coffey (’79); a son, Kern Rasco (’80); five grandchildren; one great-grandchild; and a sister, Merle Holmes (’54). Memorials may be made to the Ken and Marianna Yarbrough Rasco Scholarship at ACU (Gift Records, ACU Box 29132, Abilene, Texas 79699-9132).

VIA News: Track/soccer stadium progresses

This view from a live webcam atop Edwards Hall shows progress on the new stadium for ACU's soccer and track and field programs.

This view from a live webcam atop Edwards Hall shows progress on the new stadium for ACU’s soccer and track and field programs.

With new engineering and physics labs still being built on the south side of campus, attention also has turned to the north, where crews have begun work on constructing a new stadium for ACU’s successful soccer and track and field teams.

A live webcam is tracking the progress of the stadium, which is the second of five facilities to begin construction in the historic Vision in Action initiative.

Fundraising continues for Vision in Action, but ACU’s Board of Trustees has given approval to use funds already received to begin work on the Engineering and Physics Laboratories at Bennett Gymnasium and the as-yet-unnamed new stadium. Groundbreaking on larger projects – construction of Wildcat Stadium and Halbert-Walling Research Center, and the transformation of Foster Science Building into the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center – will not begin until money for them has been raised.

James “Jim” Orr (’86), J.D., vice president for advancement, told the Optimist this month that about 75 percent of the projects’ $75 million budget has been raised thus far.

The new track/soccer stadium also will feature space for some field events, with other venues to be located north of Ambler Avenue, and a new track and field fieldhouse alongside the current fieldhouse shared by the soccer and softball teams. Construction is projected to be complete in the spring, in time for a mid-April NCAA Division I track meet to be hosted at the stadium.

Along with closing Oliver Jackson Boulevard and a portion of the parking lots surrounding the site, construction has displaced the soccer team, which is playing home games in Shotwell Stadium this fall and practicing at Action Zone.

Spring-Summer 2014 issue is here

2 Science Buildings for BlogIt’s a little later than originally planned, but we wanted to be sure you received the most recent news about some exciting developments at Abilene Christian University.

Although it’s in the mail, you don’t have to wait for the Spring-Summer 2014 issue of ACU Today magazine to arrive. You can sneak a peak now at its 130 pages (84 from the printed issue and another 46 of Bonus Coverage you can only read online). 

New Stadiums for Blog

It’s been a busy spring and summer at ACU getting the Vision in Action (VIA) initiative started. It’s a massive project that will see three new science buildings and two stadiums built on the Hill – the most transformative growth in facilities since the Design for Development campaign built Moody Coliseum, Brown Library, McGlothlin Campus Center, Don H. Morris Center and other landmarks in the 1960s and 1970s. The $75 million initiative began with the announcement in February of $55 million in gifts, including an ACU-record $30 million from Mark (’86) and April (Bullock ’89) Anthony of Dallas.

The Anthonys made an historic gift to their alma mater.

The Anthonys made an historic gift to their alma mater.

VIA coverage in ACU Today includes a look at the latest architectural renderings for the Robert R. and Kay Onstead Science Center, Halbert-Walling Research Center and the two stadiums, which are in some cases a good bit different than those you may have seen back in February. Wildcat Stadium will allow home football games to be played on campus for the first time in decades. There also are profiles of major donors, details about the five building projects, and some fascinating history. Other major stories this issue:

  • Profiles of ACU’s 2014 alumni award winners, led by minister Rick Atchley (’78), who preaches for the largest Church of Christ congregation in the U.S.
  • “High Hopes for H2O,” a profile of Abilene mayor Dr. Norman Archibald (M.S. ’74) and his work to secure reliable, long-term water resources for ACU’s hometown;
  • A Q&A with Rep. Janice Hahn (’74), a California congresswoman who loves representing her constituents and her alma mater, has a family legacy of public service, and fond memories of ACU;
  • “Leading the Way,” a look at Dr. Gary McCaleb’s (’64) 50 years of leadership at ACU, an achievement the campus celebrated in April;
  •  “For the Least of These,” stories and images of alumni dedicated to caring for orphans in Tanzania, Kenya and Rwanda;
  • Bonus Coverage: an expanded look back at Sing Song and Wildcats wrapping up their first year in NCAA Division I;
  • “The Great Commission’s Greatest Friend,” a Second Glance essay reflecting on the amazing influence of the late Dr. Clyde N. Austin (’53); and
  • Other ACU news, including the latest from your classmates in EXperiences, plus a profile of attorney Lori (Halstead ’01) Windham, who successfully argued Hobby Lobby’s case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Watch this blog in the days to come for backstories of some of these major articles in the new issue.

View the new online issue

College Football Hall of Fame has ACU flavor

Wall of Helmets CFB HOFWhile in Atlanta recently for the football game with Georgia State University, some Abilene Christian University fans had the opportunity to tour the new College Football Hall of Fame, which was recently relocated from South Bend, Ind., and re-imagined in a media-rich, state-of-the-art venue that has wowed visitors.

ACU Helmet in CFB Hall of Fame

ACU’s helmet is among more than 700 displayed in the College Football Hall of Fame.

A Wildcat helmet is one of 768 displayed in The Quad on the Helmet Wall Presented by Southwest Airlines. The Hall of Fame also includes a 45-yard-long playing field for testing fan skills, and many interactive and augmented reality displays designed to engage visitors in the Game Day experience; celebrate accomplishments of players, teams and coaches in a one-of-a-kind museum; and relive memorable plays from college football history. The College Football Hall of Fame and museum is on Marietta Street N.W., adjacent to Centennial Olympic Park and the Georgia World Congress Center.

Montgomery (left) kids with Walter Payton after their induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Montgomery (left) kids with Walter Payton after their induction to the College Football Hall of Fame. Both received commemorative rings as part of their recognition.

Former ACU running back Wilbert Montgomery (’77) is featured in one of the exhibits. Montgomery, who is beginning his 27th year as a player or coach in the National Football League, was inducted in 1996 when the Hall of Fame began to add players and coaches from college-division universities. He was in the first class of honorees, which included Louisiana Tech University quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Jackson State University running back Walter Payton, Jim Youngblood of Tennessee Tech University, Neil Lomax of Portland State University and Buck Buchanan of Grambling University, among others.

Wilbert M Photo in CFB HOF

Montgomery is highlighted in one of the College Football Hall of Fame exhibits in Atlanta.

Today, Montgomery is the running backs coach for the Cleveland Browns. He played nine seasons in the NFL (eight with Philadelphia, one with Detroit) before beginning his career as an NFL assistant coach in 1997 for Rams’ head coach Dick Vermeil, his former head coach with the Eagles. The Rams won Super Bowl XXXIV over the Tennessee Titans and advanced to Super Bowl XXXVI, losing to New England. Montgomery coached running backs for the Super Bowl XLVII-winning Baltimore Ravens. During his playing career, Montgomery set Philadelphia Eagles rushing records for a career (6,538 yards) and season (1,512 yards in 1979), earned all-pro honors and played in the Pro Bowl. He led the NFC in kickoff returns as a rookie in 1977 and the NFL in all-purpose yards in 1979. He helped the Eagles to Super Bowl XV after the 1980 season, and Montgomery was a member of the inaugural class of the Eagles Hall of Fame. A native of Greenville, Miss., Montgomery led ACU to the 1973 NAIA Division I national championship.

Montgomery delivers his induction speech in 1996.

Montgomery delivers his induction speech in 1996.

Grambling State University head coach Eddie Robinson, Billy "White Shoes" Johnson, Montgomery and Walter Payton were presenters or recipients on induction day in 1996.

Presenters or recipients on induction day in 1996 included (from left) legendary Grambling State University head coach Eddie Robinson, Billy “White Shoes” Johnson, Montgomery and Walter Payton.

Wilbert Montgomery's induction was celebrated by two of the head coaches he once played for, Dick Vermeil (left) of the Philadelphia Eagles and ACU's Wally Bullington (’52).

Montgomery’s induction was celebrated by two of the head coaches he once played for: Dick Vermeil (left) of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and ACU’s Wally Bullington (’52).


‘Saving Dr. Brantly’ airs tonight on NBC

matt lauer with dr. kent and amber brantly

NBC’s Matt Lauer with Abilene Christian University alumnus Dr. Kent Brantly and his wife, Amber. Photo courtesy NBC News.

While Dr. Kent Brantly (’03) was lying in a hospital bed in Liberia fighting for his life, he remembers saying to God, “I know you can save me … but even if you don’t, I want to be faithful to you.”

Now, 15 days after the medical missionary was released from Emory University Hospital in Atlanta and declared free of the deadly Ebola virus, Brantly has no doubt that it was God who saved his life.

Dr. Kent Brantly

Dr. Kent Brantly

In an exclusive interview with NBC’s Matt Lauer, Brantly and his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06), relived those first terrifying and emotional days after he learned he was infected with a disease that has up to a 90 percent mortality rate. The interview will air tonight at 9 p.m., Central, on an NBC News Primetime Special “Saving Dr. Brantly: The Inside Story of a Medical Miracle.”

Brantly was serving in Liberia with the aid organization Samaritan’s Purse when an Ebola outbreak hit the West African country. He and his wife chose to stay and continue their work, and Brantly took over treatment of Ebola patients at the hospital.

Parts of Lauer’s interview with the couple aired this week on NBC Nightly News and on The Today Show. Those clips offer a glimpse of what went through the Brantlys’ minds as they realized he might not survive. Amber and their two children had flown back to the United States for a family wedding days before he became ill.

Brantly family

Kent and Amber Brantly with their children.

“I was so thankful that Amber and the kids were not there,” he tells Lauer. “Yeah, I wanted to be close to them. But that gave me great relief, knowing they were gone three days before I had any symptoms. That would have been an overwhelming mental burden, if I had woken up sick next to my wife with one of my kids snuggled up next to me.”

According to NBC, as part of tonight’s one-hour special, Lauer will talk with the doctors who treated Brantly and will visit the isolation room where he was treated.

Brantly earned a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Abilene Christian University in 2003 and later graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine. His wife earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing from ACU in 2006.

While undergraduates, both Brantlys served internships overseas through the university’s WorldWide Witness program that gives students from all academic backgrounds the short-term, focused vocational missions experience that shows them how to effectively serve God and others wherever their career takes them.

Watch previews of the interview from The Today Show.

Kent Brantly’s nephew shares lessons learned

If there’s something familiar sounding about the name Brantly Houston, it’s no accident. The Abilene Christian University senior advertising and public relations major is the nephew of Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), the now world-famous medical missionary whose seemingly miraculous recovery from the Ebola virus still has the medical world buzzing.

ACU senior Brantly Houston, left, with his uncle, Dr. Kent Brantly

ACU senior Brantly Houston, left, with his uncle, Kent Brantly, M.D.

Houston spoke to fellow students and faculty in ACU’s Department of Journalism and Mass Communication during a special Chapel on Sept. 2, sharing lessons he learned dealing with media after his uncle’s illness became international news.

While Kent Brantly was beating the odds to win his fight against Ebola, his namesake’s role was to fend off reporters from major media outlets whose persistence had besieged the family for days. One came all the way from London to ask for an interview, while others have made good use of the phone. At one point, Houston said, calls from inquisitive journalists across Europe and the United States were coming at the rate of one every five minutes.

Houston said the stories he most enjoys telling about his uncle are the ones involving family get-togethers – of birthdays, Christmases and special visits. “I have lots of good memories, and I treasure all the time he invested in me,” Houston said.

But it’s the stories of how Houston dealt with international media contacts that had his fellow students so interested. Here are a few things he said he learned:

  1. When dealing with media, learn to keep personal details to yourself. Reporters will ask for the moon, but it pays to know when to quit talking.
  2. Reporters are persistent. Give them a “no” and many will keep coming. Some will be pushy, while others will be respectful.
  3. Mass media is not always reliable. Houston said every network misstated at least one significant fact or resorted to fear-mongering. “I challenge you future journalists that when you’re working for major news organizations, get your facts straight,” he said.
  4. Networking is important. Houston says he was glad he had older adult friends who knew plenty about crisis communication and were willing to share their knowledge with him on short notice.
  5. Ignore the haters. Donald Trump tweeted and Ann Coulter shared comments by way of an essay that were hurtful to the Brantly family. “You just have to shake it off and remove yourself from the situation,” he said.
  6. Remember to seek spiritual strength. Houston said he has found himself praying “constantly, without ceasing” all through the travails his extended family has faced. He also tried fasting and found the practice to be a source of strength.
  7. Remember your community. “Several people came up and said, ‘Hey, we’re praying for you and your family. How are you doing? I know everyone is saying this to you, but I want to let you know you’re on my mind.’ Well, that was comforting to me every time,” he said.
  8. Keep your ACU community even closer. “Look around the room,” Houston said. “These are people you might grow apart from, but these will be the same people who will rally around you when you need them. Hold your ACU friends near and dear to you, because they really are the ACU difference.”

DaDaDa, DaDaDa: Fans, team on ESPN stage

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GAThe Abilene Christian University Wildcats didn’t play football this past weekend, but only because they opened the season with a rare midweek game last week. They’ll be on national or regional TV four more times this season but won’t have the captive audience it had Aug. 27 when their matchup with Georgia State University was the only college football game being played, much less broadcast on ESPNU.

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

McKenzie grew up near Atlanta, where he was a fan of the NFL’s Falcons, who call the Georgia Dome home.

Head coach Ken Collums’ team came four seconds short of making it a memorable one when GSU kicker Wil Lutz booted a 24-yard field goal at the end of the game to spoil a 37-35 Wildcat lead and give the Panthers a 38-37 win. Still, it was a memorable experience to play on national TV in the sports history-rich Georgia Dome, site of the SEC football championship, the Chick-Fil-A Bowl and several NCAA men’s basketball Final Four games.

Sophomore quarterback Parker McKenzie had his own cheering section and the native of Georgia gave his fans plenty to be excited about, completing 30 of 40 passes for 403 yards and four touchdowns in his first college start. That was good enough to be named Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Week and represent the best passing performance of any first-time Wildcat starter in ACU history.

A pass he completed to senior wide receiver Demarcus Thompson in the second quarter of the game (see inset) was No. 6 on SportsCenter’s Top 10 Plays of the day. Thompson had a career day as well, catching nine passes for 156 yards and a touchdown.

ACU alumni, friends and family gathered before the game for a tailgate sponsored by the ACU Alumni Association.

The Wildcats open their home season this Saturday at 6 p.m. when they host Northern Arizona University at Shotwell Stadium.

Demarcus Taylor wowed fans and ESPN with this backward-diving catch of a tipped pass.

Demarcus Thompson wowed fans and ESPN with this backward-diving catch of a tipped pass.

August 27, 2014:  Abilene Christian vs Georgia St - Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA

Family and fans of sophomore offensive lineman Codey Funk of Gridley, Ill.

The Matt (’99) and Amy (Chupp ’00) Melching family from Aragon, Ga., attended the tailgate meal.

The Matt (’99) and Amy (Chupp ’00) Melching family from Aragon, Ga., attended the tailgate meal.

Shey (’06) and Rebecca (Adams ’06) of Kennesaw, Ga.

Shey (’06) and Rebecca (Adams ’06) Howard of Kennesaw, Ga.


Wildcats open season tonight on national TV

Georgia Dome West Plaza 600x600 webIt would be an understatement to refer to Abilene Christian University’s game tonight in Atlanta with Georgia State University as the only game in town.

In fact, it’s the only college football contest being played in America and ESPNU will broadcast it nationally beginning at 6 p.m. CST. ACU’s Alumni Association is hosting a pregame tailgate on site for fans at 5 p.m.

The venue – Atlanta’s 71,250-seat Georgia Dome, home field for GSU and the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons – will be the third largest in which ACU has ever played. The Wildcats played in the historic Cotton Bowl (92,100 capacity) in Dallas in 2009, and have twice played in AT&T Stadium (80,000 capacity), home of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys.

Don’t expect to see a crowd anywhere near that, as attendance at Panther home games can look meager in that large of a venue despite GSU enrolling 32,000 students. Still, it’s a thrill for Wildcat student-athletes to play in the Georgia Dome, which is one of the top sports stadiums in the nation and the largest cable-supported domed stadium in the world. Georgia Dome field 600x600 web

The Georgia Dome hosted the NCAA men’s basketball Final Four in 2002, 2007 and 2013; the NCAA women’s Final Four in 2003; Super Bowl XXVIII and XXXIV; and gymnastics and basketball events for the 1996 Olympic Games. It also is the site of the annual SEC Football Championship, the Chick-fil-A Bowl, Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game(s), and various Georgia high school competitions, among a host of concert and other events.

The 2014 season is just Georgia State’s fourth to play college football. The ambitious Panthers began competition as a Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team in 2010, and moved up to Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) last year. They are members of the Sun Belt Conference. After tonight’s game with ACU, the Panthers have games with New Mexico State of the Sun Belt and non-conference opponents Air Force and Washington. The Panthers have a non-conference road game Nov. 22 with Clemson.

The Sun Belt is one of the nation’s most geographically far-flung FBS conferences with member institutions in Arkansas, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas. ACU plays another Sun Belt member – Troy State – in Troy, Ala., on Sept. 13 in a game that will be broadcast on ESPN3.

The Wildcats’ 2014 schedule (* = Southland Conference game):

  • August 27 – at Georgia State (Georgia Dome), Atlanta, 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
  • September 6 – Northern Arizona, Abilene, 6 p.m.
  • September 13 – at Troy (Ala.), 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • * September 20 – Incarnate Word, Abilene, 3:05 p.m. (Southland Conference TV)
  • * September 27 – at Houston Baptist, Houston, 7 p.m.
  • * October 4– Lamar, Abilene, 7 p.m.
  • October 11 (Homecoming) – Ave Maria, Abilene, 2 p.m.
  • * October 18 – at McNeese State, Lake Charles, La., 6 p.m. (ESPN3)
  • * October 25 – at Sam Houston State, Huntsville, 3 p.m.
  • * November 1 – Central Arkansas, DFW-area location TBA, 2 p.m (Fox Sports Southwest, delayed broadcast)
  • * November 8 – Northwestern (La.) State, Abilene, 2 p.m.
  • * November 15 – at Stephen F. Austin, Nacogdoches, 3 p.m.

Brantly grateful to be released from hospital

Kent Brantley, M.D. (’03) was joined at today’s press conference by his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06).

Kent Brantley, M.D. (’03), was joined at today’s press conference by his wife, Amber (Carroll ’06).

“Today is a miraculous day. I‘m thrilled to be alive, to be well, and to be reunited with my family.”

Those words – the first Abilene Christian University graduate Kent Brantly, M.D. (’03), has said publicly since he contracted the Ebola virus two months ago – came during a Thursday morning news conference at Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital.

Brantly’s hospital care team says he appears to have fully recovered and “can return to his family, to his community and to his life without public health concerns,” according to Bruce Ribner, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and professor in Emory’s School of Medicine.

“We are tremendously pleased with Dr. Brantly and Mrs. [Nancy] Writebol’s recovery and we are profoundly grateful for the opportunity to have applied our training, our care and our experience to meeting their needs. All of us who have worked with them have been impressed by their courage and determination,” said Ribner.

Emory University Hospital officials said Writebol, a nursing coordinator for Samaritan’s Purse, had been released Tuesday.

During his statement to reporters, Brantly spoke about the events leading up to his infection and treatment.

“We moved to Liberia because God called us to serve the people of Liberia,” said Brantly. In March, he and his team began “preparing for the worst” and started treating patients in June, taking every precaution to protect themselves from the disease.

On July 20, Brantly said his wife and children returned to the United States and redoubled his efforts to fight the epidemic. Three days later, his life “took an unexpected turn” with the first sign of his illness.

Over the course of nine days in bed while still in Liberia, Brantly said he prayed God would help him be faithful through illness. “I prayed that in my life or in my death, He would be glorified,” Brantly said.

He said he was moved to learn that there have been “possibly millions” of people praying for him around the world.

“I cannot thank you enough for your prayers and your support, but what I can tell is that I serve a faithful God who answers prayers. … God saved my life – a direct answer to thousands and thousands of prayers,” he said. “Thank you to my family, my friends, my church family and all who lifted me up in prayer, asking for my healing and recovery. Please do not stop praying for the people of Liberia and West Africa for a quick end to this Ebola epidemic.”

Brantly said he and his family are “going away” to reconnect, decompress and regain strength.

“Above all I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life, and I’m glad for any attention my sickness has attracted to the plight of west Africa in the midst of this epidemic,” he said. “Please, continue to pray for Libera and the people of west Africa, and encourage those in positions of leadership and influence to do everything possible to bring this Ebola outbreak to an end.”

Brantly became infected with the Ebola virus while serving a two-year fellowship for Samaritan’s Purse, working at a missionary clinic outside Liberia’s capital. He served his medical residency at John Peter Smith Hospital and attended Southside Church of Christ in Fort Worth before he and his family left for Liberia in October 2013.

Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan’s Purse, shared a written statement on the organization’s website:

“Today I join all of our Samaritan’s Purse team around the world in giving thanks to God as we celebrate Dr. Kent Brantly’s recovery from Ebola and release from the hospital. Over the past few weeks I have marveled at Dr. Brantly’s courageous spirit as he has fought this horrible virus with the help of the highly competent and caring staff at Emory University Hospital. His faithfulness to God and compassion for the people of Africa have been an example to us all. I know that Dr. Brantly and his wonderful family would ask that you please remember and pray for those in Africa battling, treating and suffering from Ebola. Those who have given up the comforts of home to serve the suffering and the less fortunate are in many ways just beginning this battle. We have more than 350 staff in Liberia, and others will soon be joining them, so please pray for those who have served with Dr. Brantly – along with the other doctors, aid workers and organizations that are at this very moment desperately trying to stop Ebola from taking any more lives.”

Follow coverage from Samaritan’s PurseCNN and USA Today here.