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FORT WORTH -- A Facebook photo shows Dr. Kent Brantly's church family joined in prayer for him last Sunday.

They put up the sign on Hemphill Street outside Southside Church of Christ before they knew the doctor, stricken with Ebola, would be evacuated to the states. It reads 'Pray for Kent.'

Consider that one prayer answered for many in the church.

'I can't describe it as anything but exciting and encouraging,' said Kent Smith, a friend of Brantly and a church elder.

But his friends and loved ones are still tempering their celebration in the hopes a bigger one is still to come.

'I have a heavy heart and will have [one] until he comes out on the other side,' Smith said.

The other side for Ebola survivors can include immunity to the virus. Bringing Ebola patients to the U.S. creates a scientific opportunity, according to Dr. Jeffrey Kahn of UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. 'We have to learn more about this disease for sure, and this is one way of doing that.'

He said Emory University Hospital in Atlanta is the perfect place to bring Dr. Brantly and colleague Nancy Writebol.

Dr. Kahn is much more concerned about containing the virus in Africa than he is about possible infections here.

'If one of these individuals who is infected gets on a plane, that would be a major risk,' he said, referring to travelers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

Even before he was infected, Dr. Brantly was urging the world to put more resources on the Ebola outbreak. Kent Smith believes his friend's battle will inspire others to take on such dangerous mission work.

'I personally think this is an unbelievably inspiring story,' he said. 'I feel like more people are going to say, 'I want to be like that guy.''

Smith said he wasn't surprised to hear Dr. Brantly passed up an experimental serum so that his infected colleague could have it.

'[Kent] is a selfless person who cares about other people more than he cares about himself,' he said.

They pray Smith can continue to be an inspiration in life.

'We believe in the power of prayer, and we're doing what we can,' Smith said.

E-mail jdouglas@wfaa.com

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