Nearly three dozen people who attended a recent children’s event at a church in Arkansas have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to church officials.
Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assembly of God church in Greers Ferry, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 34 people who attended the event in early March at the Cleburne County church had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that an unknown number of others were awaiting test results.
Danyelle McNeill, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said a number of coronavirus cases have been associated with a church in Cleburne County, which she did not identify.
“We are still investigating newly reported cases and can’t definitively say they are all connected to one church,” McNeill told NBC News on Thursday. “This is a cluster within a larger outbreak in that area of the state.”
There were at least 310 reported coronavirus cases and two deaths in Arkansas as of Thursday morning.
When something like this Covid-19 virus touches the other side of the world, your first inclination is to assume that…Posted by Mark Palenske on Thursday, March 19, 2020
Mark Palenske, a pastor at the church, said in a lengthy Facebook post late last week that he and his wife, Dena, were among those to test positive for COVID-19.
The Pastor wrote:
When something like this Covid-19 virus touches the other side of the world, your first inclination is to assume that time and distance are on your side. That false assumption caught up with Dena and I this past week. We definitely tested positive for the virus, although that sounds much easier than it was. We were definitely sick, but the testing was not available. Not for us and not for dozens of us in the church. We pushed the envelope a little with some local medical help in the hope that our concerns could be set aside. One local doctor had a very small number of commercial tests and the rest is history, I suppose. 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. Dena had a very scary morning a few days ago, which included a seizure of sorts and required hospitalization. I’ll probably tell more of that story at another time. She is much better and we are both back at our house. We have learned a few things in the process. Remaining hydrated is an important key. It sounds so simple but it takes great focus as you deal with the above symptoms. Tylenol has been a great friend during all of this and doctors have advised against ibuprofen or Motrin. Facebook has been filled with a host of misinformation as people struggle to make sense of what is happening. First of all, we cannot pinpoint where the virus came from. Even though we were the original positives, there are people who have been sick longer than we have. It clearly made its way through a special weekend of children’s ministry at our church. Even before positive results were returned, we had already followed medical advice and canceled services. We were convinced that whether it was Covid-19 or another virus, we assumed that no one wanted what we were dealing with and sought to confine ourselves. I need to let you know that We did not travel out of the state of Arkansas. This virus is highly contagious and it is no respecter of persons. It seemingly picks its victim at random, so it’s best to remain very vigilant in hygiene protocols to the very best of your abilities. I would request that you spend some time in prayer for our medical personnel. They are dealing with hourly changes and yesterday’s plans are obviously not suitable for the circumstances. They are trying their very best and we are indebted to their diligence and their compassionate service. I would love to say much more and I intend to do just that in upcoming posts, but I really wanted to communicate three things to each of you. First of all, your prayers for Dena and I, our church, our community and our country are much appreciated. We can sense our loving support system carrying us forward. Everyone who struggles with this virus needs the same level of support. Secondly, 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. 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. Respect and compassion for the people around us must dominate our self-discipline. My last comment for now comes from Paul’s second letter to the corinthian church. He begins by stating that we have this treasure in jars of clay. Despite the miraculous creation of the human body, we each are susceptible to weakness and we are no doubt seeing this played out in our culture. I should finish the whole quote for you. “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed, perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” Paul’s advice is sound. There is nothing fun about where we are at this point, but it is not the end of our story. This is how he ends the chapter. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes on not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” I challenge each of you to live by and encourage others with this scriptural truth. Let’s keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.
He said that when such a virus spreads on the other side of the world, “your first inclination is to assume that time and distance are on your side.”
But “that false assumption” recently caught up with him and his wife, he said.
The couple and dozens of others from their church initially could not get tested, according to Palenske.
“One local doctor had a very small number of commercial tests and the rest is history, I suppose,” he wrote.
He said that before even receiving positive test results, the church had followed medical advice and canceled services.
The couple’s symptoms began with headaches followed by intense body aches and lethargy, as well as waves of chills, sweating and nausea, Palenske wrote in his post.
“Dena had a very scary morning a few days ago, which included a seizure of sorts and required hospitalization,” he said.
His wife’s condition has since improved and they are both back home, he said. Palenske said he could not pinpoint “where the virus came from.”
“Even though we were the original positives, there are people who have been sick longer than we have,” he said. “It clearly made its way through a special weekend of children’s ministry at our church.”
He requested that people pray for health care workers, and he advised that people “take this medical threat more seriously.”
“Maybe you assumed that it couldn’t happen to you, just like I did,” he wrote. “Please adhere to the social instructions that you are receiving locally and nationally.”