GREERS FERRY, Ark. — An Arkansas pastor and his wife have been both fighting the novel coronavirus, as well as more than two dozen church members. The pastor says he wants people to take the virus seriously but also stressed disseminating the hope of Christ during this time.
Mark Palenske of First Assembly of God in Greers Ferry posted about the illness on Facebook, advising that while he cannot pinpoint exactly where the virus came from, he believes it can be traced back to a special children’s ministry event earlier this month.
At the first sign of being sick, Palenske canceled services and he and his wife stayed at home. After some prodding, they were tested for COVID-19 and both came back as positive.
“Our symptoms began with a headache followed by intense body aches and lethargy. Beyond that we have had to deal with waves of chills, sweating and nausea,” he outlined on Thursday. “Dena had a very scary morning a few days ago, which included a seizure of sorts and required hospitalization. … She is much better and we are both back at our house.”
On Sunday, Palenske said that he and his wife were beginning to feel improvement — 12 days after the onset of symptoms, but noted that 26 members have likewise tested positive with more awaiting test results, at least five of whom have been admitted to the hospital.
Multiple reports published since the weekend state that 31 members and staff have been affected, as well as two outside evangelists who were present at the event and one visiting child.
“There was very little in my training for the ministry that covered the full measure of what our church family has dealt with in the past few weeks,” he wrote. “The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously. An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else.”
According to reports, William Barton, 91, a greeter at the church, died on Tuesday at Conway Regional Medical Center.
Palenske used his posts to urge others to follow the instructions of medical professionals and to pray for the doctors and nurses who are working to help the sick.
“I would love to have you take this medical threat more seriously,” he exhorted. “Maybe you assumed that it couldn’t happen to you, just like I did.”
“Please adhere to the social instructions that you are receiving locally and nationally. We must keep the affected population to as low a number as possible,” Palenske said. “Our singular act of stubborn independence can have far reaching effects on someone else’s life. Respect and compassion for the people around us must dominate our self-discipline.”
He noted that the coronavirus outbreak is a demonstration that human bodies are subject to weakness, but even so, there is hope in Christ. Palenske pointed to 2 Corinthians 4.
“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God and not of us,” it reads. “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”
“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day,” the chapter later concludes. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen, for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”
“I challenge each of you to live by and encourage others with this Scriptural truth. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus,” Palenske urged.
He also asked that the names of the medical professionals who are working to tend to the sick be posted during this time, that they may be applauded for their work.
“Fill Facebook with the names and faces of the heroes of this season. Tell others about how they impacted your life,” he recommended. “Encourage! Uplift! Refuse to voice the negative and share hope with each other!”