I am not sure how helpful anecdotal accounts of various Covid-19 cases are, but I thought I would share my experience with those who are interested in reading about it. I am not writing to push any particular political agenda or to advance any conspiracy theories. I am writing because I have a church family who has been praying for their pastor and sending well-wishes in the form of cards, texts, and social media posts. I am writing because I want you to hear how the Covid-19 virus impacted my family, my world, and my ministry.
Covid-19 began to hit close to home as church family members began contracting the virus. I am glad that the church I serve has been able to meet together on Sunday mornings. I am glad that we have not become an epicenter or a conduit for the disease. But our church members have been impacted by the virus. On August 10, we lost a 100-yr-old saint (Carlos) to Covid-19. On August 11, we lost another good friend (Roxie) to the virus. I officiated Carlos’ funeral on Friday, August 14. I also did a funeral that same afternoon for the father of one of our church members. Roxie’s funeral had not yet been scheduled.
On Wednesday, August 19, I woke up with a headache and body achiness that were similar to symptoms that I normally experience when I get the flu. As a precaution, I decided to work from home. Throughout the day, I tried to work on sermon prep but was unable to focus for any extended period of time. I had also found out that Roxie’s funeral had been scheduled for Saturday, August 22. I began working on that service as well. In the past, I have been able to take some Theraflu and push through any symptoms of sickness. In 22 years of preaching, I have missed only one Sunday night service due to illness (an illness I think I contracted while on mission in Haiti.)
On Thursday, August 20, I woke up and decided that I would continue to work from home. I knew I needed to get the funeral written and I was running out of time for Sunday’s sermon prep. In addition to the achiness, I developed something like vertigo. I could not stand without the world spinning. I moved from the couch to the bed and back trying to find relief from the aches—to no avail. On Friday, August 21, I wasn’t getting better; the symptoms were not subsiding. I was able to finish the funeral I was preparing to officiate for Roxie. I was planning to officiate the funeral, even if I had to do so while feeling sick. But I was nervous about being around people with these particular symptoms. That afternoon, I went to the urgent care facility to get tested for Covid-19, and the result came back positive.
Friday evening, I made two very difficult phone calls. I had to call the family and the funeral home to let them know that I had tested positive for Covid-19. My heart was broken because I wasn’t able to see Roxie in the days leading up to her death. I wasn’t able to sit with her and read the Psalms. I wasn’t able to convey to her how much we loved her. And now, I wouldn’t be there to share words of comfort and hope with her family. In God’s providence, the family had a pastor friend who was planning to be at the funeral to deliver a eulogy. I was able to email my notes to him, and he was able to officiate the funeral in its entirety.
Since I tested positive, my official quarantine had begun. That Friday night, the church staff took over and began making preparations for my absence from the Sunday service. I am grateful for the staff that God has placed at Parkview and their ability to lead well in my absence. I woke up Saturday evening with the same aches and pains that I had been dealing with for four days. If I had a fever, it was very low-grade, but getting comfortable was impossible. I called the doctor and set up an appointment to see him on Monday. I spent Saturday night and the early morning hours of Sunday (1:30 to 4:30am) plagued by headache and body ache. After few hours of finally being able to sleep. I woke up Sunday morning in time to catch the 11:00 service.
As I watched that service, I was overwhelmed by sadness. I wanted to be with my church family. I wept during the song portion of the worship service. The words to “Yes, I Will” resonated in my heart in a special way.
I count on one thing; The same God that never fails; Will not fail me now; You won't fail me now. In the waiting, the same God who's never late is working all things out; You're working all things out. Yes, I will, lift You high in the lowest valley. Yes, I will, bless Your name. Oh, yes, I will, sing for joy when my heart is heavy. All my days, oh yes, I will.
I couldn’t even get the words out of my mouth. I was literally trying to lift Him high in the lowest valley. My heart was heavy, and yet in my mind I knew I needed to sing for joy and bless His name. But I felt so bad. I felt so inadequate. I felt so weak. I was able to stay with the service as JonSeth preached. This staff needs to know how proud I am to be able to serve with them.
Sunday afternoon, I was able to start on an antibiotic that the doctor had called in. But Sunday was again, a very difficult day. Body aches, headaches, and a low-grade fever continued to create a discomfort from which there was no relief. Judy was now five days into caring for me. She was working and sleeping and basically hanging out in a different section of the house. Because she had been in close contact with me (a positive confirmed case) she had to quarantine as well. She would set her alarm throughout the night (not that she could sleep) to check on me, bring me Tylenol, make sure I stayed hydrated, and basically did everything she could to get me well.
On Monday, August 24, I went to the doctor. They performed a baseline EKG and then prescribed hydroxychloroquine. I started taking it that Monday and by Monday evening I was feeling better. We thought we had turned the corner and would begin being able to push through the symptoms of the virus. All of that changed on Tuesday. On Tuesday, August 25, I thought that we were starting all over.
In addition to the body aches and headaches, I developed a fever. I had been intentionally trying to take deep breaths because I wanted to make sure that if my breathing became labored, that we would catch it as quickly as possible. Judy had purchased an oximeter so that we could track my oxygen levels. It was borderline, but not low enough to have to go to the hospital. I struggled all day Tuesday and throughout Tuesday night, not sleeping for more than a couple hours at a time and unable to find comfort or relief from the aches or fever.
Finally, on Wednesday morning, August 26, at about 6:00am (7 days into Covid-19), we decided that I needed to go the emergency room. My fear had been that we would wait too long and that the doctors would reprimand us for not coming sooner. My fear was that when I finally decided to act, that I would be too late. But I also did not want to be admitted to the hospital and have to be there alone. All I could think of as we were getting ready to go was that I needed to print out a copy of my life insurance policy. There were so many things that I needed to take care of to “make arrangements,” and I realized that I had failed miserably in preparing my family and Judy for my death.
The emergency room doctors checked my lungs and my heart, and they said everything seemed to be fine. They affirmed my course of treatment and sent me home. There was a sense of relief in that it didn’t appear that my symptoms were life-threatening, but there was still no relief from the headaches, body aches, low-grade fever, and a new symptom, constant queasiness.
By this time, the staff had broadcast a prayer meeting for our Wednesday night midweek service. Daniel, our children’s pastor was quarantined, having tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday. Becky, our office manager was also in quarantine from a positive test result. The office closed down and everyone worked from home until they could be tested for the virus. I am thankful their test results all came back negative. I am also grateful that throughout the entirety of our quarantine together, the Lord protected Judy from having to deal with any Covid-19 symptoms.
On Thursday, August 27, the queasiness turned into nausea which turned into dehydration and loss of appetite. For the next several days, every time I would think I was feeling better, a debilitating headache would set in. I was constantly tired and could not get comfortable. On Friday morning, by 10:30 I had responded to some text messages that I was doing better. By noon, I couldn’t function. This pattern was a recurring pattern throughout the weekend. Our team did a great job of leading in worship on Sunday. By Sunday afternoon I was miserable again. Judy got me an appointment to see the doctor again on Monday. We were told that many Covid-19 patients have lingering effects from the virus long after the virus has passed. I struggled through the rest of Monday, but on Tuesday I began to feel better.
I was able to enjoy a Zoom call with my family on Tuesday night, September 1. We were celebrating my dad’s birthday. Again, I was only able to focus for a short period of time before the headache started to set in. On Wednesday, September 2 (Day 15), the pain from the headache was almost paralyzing. I couldn’t hold down any food or liquids. Judy was ready for me to go back to the emergency room. I wasn’t. I continued to breathe deeply to make sure my chest was clear. I took some Tylenol, and eventually I was able to sleep.
On Thursday morning, September 3, I felt like I had finally turned the corner. I was able to drive myself to another doctor’s appointment. I received a prescription for the headaches (a medicine that I was told was being used in hospitals to help hospitalized patients deal with the pain). I affirmed with the staff that I would be available to preach this Sunday. I was finally able to sit down and focus on sermon prep. That evening, several of the deacons, wives, and staff came and stood on our front lawn and prayed over me (I stayed inside even though my quarantine had expired). I finally began to feel like I was among the living. Friday was a good day. I am looking forward to being with my church family this Sunday. I will more than likely stay somewhat isolated, only coming out to preach. I will rest in my office between services. I will probably sit on a stool like I do for our midweek services. But I will be where I am supposed to be on Sundays—worshiping with my Parkview family.
I cannot say enough about Judy and how amazing she was throughout this entire process. She was trying to take care of me while at the same time being knee-deep in the start-up of Columbia County Schools. She has managed both well. I want to thank our church family for praying for her even as you prayed for me. Thank you for the cards and your concerns expressed through text messages and social media posts.
I am heart-broken over the families that have suffered loss. I continue to pray for those who are listed on our prayer sheet. I pray that this virus would spare our community any further from its devastating and debilitating effects. I pray that in the near future, our church can begin adding back the discipling programs that serve to equip us for service in the kingdom. I pray that our church family, even in the mist of the uncertainty of the future of this virus, would begin to join with us again as we gather for worship on the Lord’s Day.