Editor’s note: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the doctors, nurses and health-care workers of the world have been fighting to save lives, every day, on the front line. Even while working long hours, under extreme pressure and, at times, with limited resources, they claim duty, not heroism, drives them on. However, by simply doing their duty, they are more exposed to the virus, with the tragic result being that many have lost their lives. In this collection of testimonies, three True Jesus Church members who work in health-care recount their experiences with COVID-19, and how God’s grace comforted and, ultimately, preserved them.
A BRUSH WITH COVID-19
Yoke Fah Chong—London, UK
COVID-19, caused by a novel strain of coronavirus, started an epidemic in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019 before swiftly spreading across the globe. At the time of writing (June 20, 2020) the pandemic has infected 8.5 million people and claimed the lives of over 400,000. This microscopic virus has turned the world upside down—changing cities into ghost towns, and decimating economies and industries overnight. The world will never be the same again in the wake of this pandemic.
Nobody in my country of residence, the United Kingdom (UK), took it seriously to begin with—neither the government nor the citizens, myself included. With almost nine thousand kilometers between Wuhan and London, from a nation that borders the eastern edge of Asia to a country off the western coast of continental Europe, you could be forgiven for having a blasé attitude. During the SARS outbreak of 2003, also originating from China and caused by another strain of coronavirus, only Asian countries were affected. As a hospital doctor at that time and having learned of only four reported cases of SARS in the UK, I assumed that it would be the same this time.
It was not until the virus struck Europe in early 2020, and the casualties started rapidly mounting up in Italy, Spain, and France, overwhelming their health-care systems, that we began to pay attention. The British government and the National Health Service (NHS) scrambled at the last minute to prepare for the inevitable, but it was too little, too late. When COVID-19 hit our shores, we were woefully unprepared for the onslaught. The government had to resort to the blunt instrument of a national lockdown to contain the outbreak as there was no other viable option.
Broaching the topic of the pandemic, a preacher quoted from Psalms:
Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place,
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. (Ps 91:9–10)
The word of God resonated with me and instilled a quiet confidence in God’s protection. Another overseas preacher contacted me and asked me how I was coping, knowing that I work in the medical field. I shared this biblical passage with him. He concurred but also turned my attention to verses 11 and 12, which were employed by Satan to tempt our Lord Jesus to throw Himself from the pinnacle of the temple. It was an apt reminder for me to do my best to protect myself while trusting in God’s word. Trusting God is not an excuse for complacency, negligence, or failure to play our part.
In the beginning, there was only one reported case in my district, but the situation deteriorated at an alarming rate. The numbers climbed steeply. Soon, there were reported cases of my patients contracting the virus, and then,news of some of them dying from it. The next group of victims in the line of fire would be the health-care workers.
At the general practitioner (GP) surgery where I work, we have eighteen members of staff, including doctors, nurses, receptionists, and a manager. Staff started falling ill and had to self-isolate, with the most severe case ending up in the intensive treatment unit (ITU) on a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine to help her breathe. At its worst, in mid-May, there were only six of us left standing—a skeleton crew of two doctors and four receptionists. On top of that, the test for COVID-19 was only available for the most serious cases. Only three members of staff were ill enough to qualify for the test, and all three tested positive. The remaining nine who were ill had no clue whether they had the virus, so they had to self-isolate for the full fourteen days before they could be allowed back to work, even if they had already become entirely asymptomatic.
To make matters worse, due to a worldwide shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), only hospital staff were afforded full protective gear in some areas. For medical personnel working in the community, we just had to make do with whatever the NHS could spare. Throughout it all, I did not feel any tinge of anxiety or fear; it was like God had wrapped me up in a cocoon of peace. My family members and church brethren were more concerned about me contracting the virus than I was. This peace was not down to my mental fortitude. It came from God.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:6–7)
On Tuesday, June 9, all the members of my GP surgery were offered the antibody test for COVID-19 as part of the government’s new plan to test health-care workers. We jumped at the chance and got tested.
The results came back the next day, and my antibody test was positive! This meant that, at one point, I had contracted the virus, overcame the infection, and was no longer infectious. Thank God for His protection and His grace.
I had not exhibited any cardinal symptoms or signs of COVID-19 infection: fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, loss of taste and smell, or gastrointestinal disturbances. All I could recall was one weekend when I had been off-duty, in early May: I had felt fatigued, to the extent of almost dozing off while attending the Sabbath day online service. I had to stand up and walk to wake myself up. Monday was a public holiday, so I had an extra day off before going straight back to work the following day.
By June 20, there had been 39,776 deaths in the UK from COVID-19, the bulk of which was from London. I am reminded of the aforementioned psalm:
Surely, He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler
And from the perilous pestilence. …
You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
Nor of the arrow that flies by the day,
Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness. …
A thousand may fall at your side,
And ten thousand at your right hand;
But it shall not come near you. (Ps 91:3–7)
It is truly by the wonderful protection of our Almighty God and merciful Father, and the unfathomable love of our Lord Jesus Christ, that I was able to emerge from this deadly viral infection unharmed. All praise and glory to our God in heaven!
My colleague, who had ended up in ITU on a CPAP machine, related to me how the constant struggle to breathe, even with assisted ventilation, was so soul destroying that she had lost the will to live and, at one point, just wanted everything to end. God was truly merciful to spare me from such an ordeal.
As I contemplate my brush with COVID-19 and why God had saved me, I arrive at the following conclusions:
First, all epidemics are signs pointing to the fast-approaching second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (Mt 24:3, 7, 43–44), and it is imperative to ready ourselves before it is too late.
Second, if God had taken me away this time, most certainly, I would not have made the grade to gain entry into heaven. My spiritual cultivation will need to move up a few more gears to scrape even a pass. As Paul remarks, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor 9:27).
Finally, I have done a meager amount for our Lord, in stark contrast to what He has done for me. The hymn Must I Go, and Empty-Handed? serves as a wake-up call for me. The first verse and chorus asks:
“Must I go and empty-handed,”
Thus my dear Redeemer meet,
Not one day of service give Him,
Lay no trophy at His feet?
“Must I go, and empty-handed?”
Must I meet my Savior so?
Not one soul with which to greet Him:
Must I empty handed go?
The final verse sums up what I should do from now on:
O ye saints, arouse, be earnest,
Up and work while yet ‘tis day;
Ere the night of death o’ertake thee,
Strive for souls while still you may.
May God help us so that we can all emerge from this pandemic—having been reminded, having repented and been renewed—to live our lives according to His will, and ready to meet Him when He comes again.
PEACE BEYOND ALL UNDERSTANDING
Micah Ly—Paris, France
Hallelujah. May the peace of God be with us all.
Around mid-March 2020, I found myself developing COVID-19 symptoms, primarily extreme fatigue. I do not know how I caught the virus, although I presume I contracted it at work since I am a medical doctor. When I learned that my COVID-19 test was positive, I was quite at peace. Somehow, I knew that God would help me get through this trial.
I was ill for at least one month. During this period, I experienced many COVID-19 symptoms—fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of taste, hypersensitivity of the hair roots, and loss of weight (around three to four kilograms)—but they were not severe. I had no fever, nor did I suffer from coughing or breathing difficulties. God is merciful; I did not even have to take a single paracetamol (also known as acetaminophen) to reduce the pain or fever. I simply stayed at home and waited to recover, without having to be hospitalized.
I would like to share some reflections concerning my experience with COVID-19.
First, during my convalescence, I learned to trust in God totally, as there is no cure available for COVID-19. This illness forced me to stay at home, and, in hindsight, it gave me more time to pray, read the Bible, and reflect on my relationship with God. This period offered precious extra time, which we often lack in our busy lives.
I am also thankful that God protected my family—I could have infected my wife and my children as I was in contact with them daily. Of course, as soon as I learned of my illness, I quarantined myself in the basement of the house. Thank God, my family was not infected. God’s mercy is indeed great!
Second, during this time at home, I was filled with peace—a peace that Paul describes as surpassing all understanding (Phil 4:7). We know that everything is in the hands of God. Whatever happens, God knows the best for us. We do not need to fear or worry; God is our refuge (Ps 46:1).
No evil shall befall you,
Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling. (Ps 91:10)
God always seeks to preserve His children from evil. He did this in the past (Ex 8:18–19; 9:4; Zech 2:9, 12), and He is still doing it today (Mt 23:37; Phil 4:6–7).
Since the start of this pandemic in France, COVID-related deaths have continued to increase, reaching 30,494 reported deaths on September 1, 2020. There has been a significant loss amongst the medical staff in this fight. But once again, God watches over His children. The love of God is always the same because He is faithful. Our only worry is whether we want to be under His protection, and what we should do to remain under this protection. Times of trial and isolation are excellent opportunities for self-examination and reflection on our relationship with God.
After this ordeal, I am convinced that our God is living, omnipotent, and merciful. This understanding has further strengthened my faith: that if we walk on God’s path day by day, we can truly experience God’s faithfulness and the peace that He promises.
Third, I realized that the power of intercession is beyond measure. The ancient saints experienced it; I also experienced it. During my illness, many brothers and sisters prayed for me and asked after my condition. Such gestures of love touched me deeply. I would like to thank all of them for their concern and prayers, which aided my quick recovery. May God remember their love.
Let us not forget to pray for one another, especially as our Lord Jesus is always there to intercede on our behalf (Heb 7:25).
May all glory, peace, and power be unto our heavenly Father! Amen!
GOD’S PRESERVATION DURING THE PANDEMIC
Roxanne Chan—London, UK
Hallelujah, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I testify. When the pandemic hit the UK, I was shocked. Not only did I witness the fallout on the news, but I also saw it firsthand as a nurse looking after COVID-19 patients in the hospital. It seemed surreal, as if we were all in an apocalyptic film. As Jesus told us in Matthew 24, one of the signs of the end time is pestilence. Indeed, no matter how it originated, COVID-19 is a sign from God that the end time is at hand.
We had our last Sabbath at church before the national lockdown on March 21, 2020, and amongst the members, we said we would not know when we would see each other next. Though I had echoed this phrase, I did not realize the full extent of what it meant until we departed from church that evening. There was a stark contrast between observing Sabbath at home and observing at church. There are many distractions at home, and it is not the same as being with other members and worshiping together in one accord in the church hall. I regret not cherishing those moments more, and taking for granted the blessing of being able to gather with one another.
ON THE FRONT LINE
During the first few weeks of the pandemic reaching London, the hospital was very chaotic. Research on this new virus was scarce, so we were updated daily on these matters according to the latest information available to the government. We had extra training on what personal protective equipment (PPE) to wear in different situations. At first, official guidelines stated that we did not need to wear PPE when looking after patients who do not have the five main symptoms (dry cough, fever, shortness of breath, sore throat, and fatigue). So, every day, we would look after patients in the same way as we always had, including being in close proximity to them when giving personal care.
As time progressed, more and more of my colleagues fell sick. There was an uneasiness in the air at work, and we were all afraid that we would contract the virus or carry it home to our loved ones. Things became real when one of the nurses at my hospital passed away after contracting COVID-19. During one shift, we observed a one-minute silence to remember those colleagues who had succumbed to the virus. The atmosphere was heavy, as a colleague shed tears.
Health-care professionals are seen as people who can save lives but, during this pandemic, it has become clear that only God has control over our lives. He gives life, and He can take it away. There is no quick cure or vaccine for us to use. Although this situation seems hopeless, one message shared during a Sabbath service stayed with me: “…all things work together for good to those who love God” (Rom 8:28a). This pandemic is a warning to make us realize how much we have been neglecting God in our lives. If we had been putting our studies, businesses, careers, or worldly enjoyments first, the lockdown caused all these activities to pause momentarily so that we could return to God.
I am blessed to live with three other church sisters. We often encourage one another, and, during the lockdown, we resolved to observe the Sabbath with a reverent heart at home. But one night at the end of March, just before the rate of COVID-19 infections peaked in London, I suddenly felt unwell. Despite the warm weather, I was shivering in bed under two duvets. I immediately thought of COVID-19 since one of the main symptoms is fever. We did not have a thermometer, so I could not check my temperature, but I was worried about my housemates. COVID-19 is the most contagious when a patient has a fever. When morning came, I was still shivering and, on top of this, I developed a dry cough. That morning, I called my manager and informed her of my symptoms, and she advised me to isolate myself for seven days at home.
TRUSTING IN GOD
Later that day, I shared my symptoms with my housemates and expressed my concerns that they would catch the virus. We had discussed the topic previously since I was putting them at risk while working at the hospital and returning to the flat. Thank God, after the discussion, we concluded that God is almighty and He is in control of all things. Whatever the situation, whatever may happen in the world, the most important thing is to cling on to God. Should all of us contract COVID-19, there is nothing we can do but to pray for God to execute His will. He has power over life and death, so this virus is nothing to Him. We must learn to trust God in all circumstances. Therefore, with faith, we continued to share the same bathroom and have meals together in the dining room.
We kept this matter in prayer, and I asked a few other sisters for their prayers as well. Thank God, after two days of mild symptoms, I felt a lot better. Though there was a lingering dry cough, I had no other symptoms. Hallelujah! I told my housemates, and we gave prayers of thanksgiving because God had protected all of us and healed me so quickly!
GOD’S UNFAILING GRACE
I had to remain in isolation for seven days, whereas my housemates had to isolate for fourteen days in total because they had been in contact with me and could have been incubating the virus. So we had to ask other brothers and sisters who live nearby to buy groceries for us. Thank God for their love and support during this time. It is by the love of God that we were so well supported, and we had never eaten so well before! Later, in July, I tested positive for having antibodies to COVID-19. This confirms that I had the virus, yet God protected and preserved not only my life but also the lives of my housemates.
After the seven days, I returned to work. We were still not wearing any PPE when looking after patients. But many patients would suddenly develop symptoms, and we had to treat them as being COVID-19 positive. The rate of deterioration in patients was harrowing. One patient required assistance in drinking from a cup as he could not physically hold it. It was at that moment he became unresponsive. After trying to save his life, the doctors were shocked to find that he had passed away. There was no apparent cause of death, so they ordered a COVID-19 test to be done on the body. Another patient whom we had looked after for a couple of weeks was acutely unwell. He required a lot of personal care, so we would be very close to him when providing the necessary care. Later, we discovered he was COVID-19 positive. The time we had spent looking after him meant that all the staff had been exposed to the virus. Our hearts sank when we heard this, and every staff member had to be swabbed for COVID-19. Praise God! Once again, God protected me with His mighty hand. Both my swabs came back negative. Despite being in close proximity to the patient while caring for him without wearing PPE for several weeks, I did not contract the virus again.
On reflection, the outbreak of the virus and being in lockdown brought many unknowns. But it was through the unknowns that God gave me a stark reminder that His second coming is indeed drawing nearer. He also humbled me through this experience and taught me to learn to trust and rely on Him. May all glory be unto God. Hallelujah! Amen.
 All COVID-19 statistics in this article sourced from: “WHO Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Dashboard,” World Health Organization, covid19.who.int.
 By Charles C. Luther (1847–1924).