An Arkansas pastor, his wife, and at least 30 others with connections to the church have tested positive for COVID-19 — the potent novel coronavirus that has brought the world’s health and economy to its knees.
According to Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assemblies of God Church in Greers Ferry, Arkansas, told a local news outlet Monday that 34 people who attended a children’s event at the church from March 5-8 have tested positive for COVID-19.
Of the individuals tested, 31 are either on staff at or members of First Assemblies, including Pastor Mark Palenske and his wife, Dena.
The others are two outside evangelists and a child who was visiting for the event. Those who tested positive have been quarantined while other attendees are still waiting for their test results.
In a lengthy Facebook message posted Sunday evening, Pastor Palenske urged his congregation to take the virus seriously and to treat it with wisdom and restraint.
“The intensity of this virus has been underestimated by so many, and I continue to ask that each of you take it very seriously,” the post reads. “An act of wisdom and restraint on your part can be the blessing that preserves the health of someone else.”
He also noted that at least six of those infected had to be taken to the emergency room, including his wife, who experienced “a seizure of sorts” earlier in the week. Palenske said the symptoms “began with a headache followed by intense body aches and lethargy” with “waves of chills, sweating, and nausea” soon after.
Pastor Palenske also used his Facebook post to encourage members to allow “respect and compassion for the people around us [to] dominate our self-discipline.”
“I would love to have you take this medical threat more seriously. Maybe you assumed that it couldn’t happen to you, just like I did,” he continued.
“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. Our singular act of stubborn independence can have far-reaching effects on someone else’s life.”
Finally, Palenske urged his congregation to take time and pray for those who are diligently serving others during the coronavirus crisis. They are putting their lives on the line to help those infected return to health.
“I would request that you spend some time in prayer for our medical personnel. They are trying their very best and we are indebted to their diligence and their compassionate service.”