October 29, 2020 will be a day I won’t forget. First, it was my 55th birthday. My birthday in the midst of a pandemic. The previous four days were busy. I went to church Sunday morning October 25. We had a great church small group meeting that night. 12 of us in attendance. We had food. Spent time in the Word. And finished the night watching The Chosen.
That week was going to be busy. I’m the president of Keys for Kids Ministries. Thursday, November 12 was our biggest fundraiser of the year. I had TONS of video to shoot. Many details to iron out. Matching funds to raise. Monday and Tuesday were spent in an out of the office. Wednesday, I decided I would shoot my part of the video at church. All went well. Then, I get a call from my office. “Are you coming in today? We’re having a surprise birthday party for you and if you’re not here all this pizza and cake will go to waste.” So, I traveled to my office for some festivities. We did a lot of laughing. That night, I went back to church for my men’s Bible study. I lingered a little while afterward talking to friends and delivering special Harvest edition Keys for Kids devotionals to people who wanted to hand them out to trick-or-treaters. I went to bed and all was well — until I woke up on my birthday.
I woke myself up coughing in the early morning hours. I typically get a cold this time of year. Usually, however, it starts with a sore throat, lots of congestion, then it settles into my chest for weeks of coughing. THIS time is STARTED with a productive cough and nothing else. Because it was my birthday, I took the day off. My plan was to run six miles when I got up. But, I just didn’t feel right. By noon, I had an irritating head ache. By 7:00pm I had a 102 temp. And, the coughing was worse. I was sick. Was it a cold, or COVID-19? Not feeling TOO bad I had my birthday dinner at home. Then, I went to bed — freezing cold.
Friday, it was worse. Chills, cough, fever, headache. My wife said, “Maybe you should be tested.” I agreed. The soonest I could be tested was Saturday, October 31 at 5:20 pm. When I arrived at Zeeland Community Hospital I was directed to drive to a white pop-up tent where the samples were taken. They stuck a long Q-tip type swab in my nose, stuck it as far back as they could, swabbing the very back part of my sinus. It seemed endless. I kept thinking, “This is not fun. Are you done yet?” It was finally competed and I was on my way.
My symptoms kept getting worse over the weekend. I lost taste and smell on Saturday. I was coughing like crazy. It was keeping me wake at night. My fever was up and down. The Tylenol was keeping the fever at bay. But I felt terrible. By Monday November 2, I was feeling bad enough that I called the doctor. They suggested I go to Urgent care because my coughing was so bad. Since my test hadn’t come back yet, they treated me for my symptoms, NOT COVID-19. I received an Albuterol inhaler, a prednisone steroid, and cough medicine. Then, they sent me home instructing me to go to the ER if my breathing become labored, my fever went over 103. That night I discovered I was COVID-19 positive.
My fever went away November 3, election day. I was only able to vote because of an emergency absentee ballot request. Because I was feeling a bit better, I thought I was recovering. I was feeling well enough to work from home. Since we had a major fundraising event I HAD to finish some logistics up so we could be ready for it. Each day I felt like I was improving. I had self-quarantined myself upstairs. My wife downstairs — sleeping on the couch. I allowed myself to go into the kitchen, but I had to wipe EVERYTHING down before I left. We were extremely careful. My wife NEVER got it.
Fast-forward to Saturday, November 7, I was a mess. I was coughing SO HARD I was seeing stars and I had pulled a muscle in my stomach. I felt so out of breath. But still no new fever. Since Ann was visiting the other side of the state to stay away from me so she wouldn’t get it, I drove myself. Long story short. O2 levels were good. Heart was fine. Breathing treatment was required and sent me home again.
Again, I rallied all weekend. I was doing better each day. I had enough strength to finish the fundraising video for our November 12 event. Things were moving forward. But Monday, November 9th the wheels. I was just SO lethargic. Light headed. Coughing continued (that never stopped). I just kept getting worse. The fear was so intense. For the first time in my life I was depressed. I told God that if He wanted to take me He could, but I wasn’t going to do it. The anxiety that filled me was so great. I felt like a huge dark cloud was going to smother me with oppression. I couldn’t see any way out.
What got me out of it? Friends and family pointing me to Christ. With the incredible emotion I was feeling I posted my prayer need on Facebook. The responses to my request for prayer on November 13 was phenomenal. Here was a portion of my post that day:
What a journey this has been. For those that don’t know I contracted covid-19 symptoms on my birthday, Oct 29…Coughing has been awful. Yesterday was the first day I could say “I’m starting to feel better.” This has been a butt kicker. I’m still having a few coughing fits. I hope I’m turning the corner (as I type from my bed). Emotionally I’m a mess. I’m an utter mess. I could really use your prayers. I am lonely, sad, frustrated, scared, and emotionally spent. To think we won’t have thanksgiving with my family has me heart broken (I love family get-togethers). Yet, I’m thankful that God has gotten me this far in the recovery. He’s spared me from so much worse. So, I post all this to ask you to pray for me. Any words of encouragement would be so meaningful right now. Thank you friends!
And people responded. Some called me. 280+ people left comments. What I would have done without those comments? I don’t know. But I know God used them to help start me on a journey. I could hardly stop crying, I was so distraught. Why? Because God was using COVID-19 to reveal the idols in my life. I came to grips with sin in my life that needed to be addressed. It also uncovered a lack of grief for unsaved people. It exposed my lack of passion for discipleship — especially in kids and teens. AND I believe God revealed to me a HUGE hole we have at Keys for Kids Ministries. That is the lack of any training material to help train parents how to lead their families to Jesus and help them grow in their faith.
I remember the turning point like it was yesterday. I was sitting in my home office, looking out the window, and I could hardly see because the tears in my eyes. I was so full of grief because of my exposed sin (lack of faith), the lack of urgency to lead friends and family to Jesus. Why wasn’t I more concerned about that? Why didn’t I have a plan or strategy? Why was I even the president of Keys for Kids Ministries if I wasn’t more grieved for lost people and more passionate about discipleship? Out of that remorse told God, “I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want to be as grieved about lost people as I am about those dying with cancer. I want to be as passionate about discipleship as I am about strategizing a strategic plan for Keys for Kids Ministries. And, I want to love people better. God, I JUST WANT TO KNOW YOU MORE! MORE, AND MORE!”
That’s when I started digging into to the Word and really studying it. That’s when I made a list of people I need to share Jesus with. They’re dying without him. They NEED to know Him. I started thinking through how Keys for Kids Ministries can help parents be better discipleship coaches of the kids. And, began strategizing and planning for what training material will look likes as we attempt to train parents to evangelize, disciple, and lead their families in the walk with the Lord.
I wouldn’t wish COVID-19 on anyone, unless you’re anything like me and you needed it to rock your spiritual world. I needed it. I needed the fear. I needed the anxiety. I needed God’s discipline in pointing out my sin and how it keeps the Spirit from working effectively in my life. It uncovered flaws in my character that I need to address. And it revealed something I wasn’t looking for. But now its clear.
Moody Radio Grand Rapids was interested in my COVID-19 story and did an interview with me. My side of the audio is a little strange. I sound like I’m in the witness protection plan.