By ROGER ALFORD
The Christian Index
HEPHZIBAH, Ga. – A Georgia community is trying to come to grips with the loss of a father, mother and daughter who died from COVID-19 within 48 hours of one another.
“It’s difficult enough to lose someone you love, but to lose three at one time is really tough,” said Michael Wren, pastor of Hephzibah Baptist Church in Hephzibah, Ga.
Bob Carswell, 84, died Wednesday. His wife, Donna, 83, and daughter, Sharon, 59, died on Friday.
Even amid the COVID pandemic, losing so many members of a single family within such a short time is unusual.
“I think we haven’t really fully processed it yet,” Wren said. “It’s hard to measure the emotional weight of it. Everyone loved them so much and will miss them terribly.”
Wren said it was unclear where the Carswells contracted the virus. Because of the fragility of their health, they had been self-quarantining during the pandemic, including staying away from church.
Wren led a joint funeral service for the Carswells on Saturday.
“It’s hard to even process,” he said. “The family members are going through such a difficult time. They have so much support, so much love, but it’s difficult to really feel like you understand what they’re going through. None of us really understand what they’re going through, because none of us has gone through anything like that before.”
Wren said he is reminding the Caswell family and the Hephzibah church family of the central truth of the Bible, that as believers, they have the hope of being reunited with loved ones in Heaven.
“They were all believers; they all knew the Lord, and we know with confidence that they’re with Him,” Wren said. “That is a great comfort to us.”
Tim Dowdy, who heads the pastor wellness ministry at the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, urged the 1.4 million-member Georgia Baptist family to be praying for the Carswells and for Wren as he ministers to them.
Dowdy said people everywhere should be careful not to overlook the need to care for their pastors, because COVID is taking an emotional toll on them as the virus spread and as the death toll climbed to more than 700,000, including nearly 26,000 in Georgia.
“They’re dealing with personal grief for loved ones and church members who have passed away, comforting those left behind,” he said. “They’re dealing with uncertain and ever-changing circumstances, polarization of opinions concerning handling COVID-related issues within the church, and simply trying to shepherd people with grace and compassion when social distancing became the norm. Those are just a few of the mounting pressures added to pastors’ lives.”
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