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Not the Flu: Sandi Patty Reflects on her Fight Against COVID-19

 In All Church of God, Central, CHOG, The Way

By David Vogel

“We just needed people to know this is serious,” stressed Sandi Patty. “This isn’t something that was made up. And it’s not just the flu.”

For decades, Sandi Patty’s iconic voice has inspired and encouraged people around the world. Her music has earned the singer five Grammy and twenty-three Dove awards along the way. But when she and her husband Don Peslis, both members of Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City, were diagnosed with the coronavirus, she found her voice had new purpose.

Patty was among the earliest public figures (with Tom Hanks only days earlier) to come forward with the diagnosis. This reveal itself carried a lot of responsibility. “When you don’t know someone, or you haven’t gone through it, it’s very hard to not wonder, ‘Seriously? Is this all just made up?’” Patty said. “I wanted to give a face to somebody.”

Within forty-eight hours, Patty recalled how she went from the best she’s felt to feeling miserable. “I have never, honestly, been sicker in my whole life,” she said. “This thing is real.” Intense body aches and shortness of breath were her two worst symptoms. She felt like these attacks were not going away. “It felt like someone had taken their elbow and was pushing it into my chest.”

Patty felt called, at that moment, to be a voice of authenticity to what people around the world were feeling. “I have some fabulous friends, and they have been on social media every day with words of encouragement. This outpouring was fantastic,” she remarked. Patty, however, was not feeling emotionally better in the middle of a physical attack.

Sandi and Don

Patty uploaded a video in mid-March to her social media accounts sharing the news. She was direct to her many followers: “Well, I’m gonna get right to it. I have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus.” She then continued posting unfiltered, honest videos throughout her illness.

“Every day, we kept thinking, you know what, tomorrow we’re going to feel better,” she reflected. “But, for a long time, we just didn’t. I wanted to give people permission to say if you’re feeling trapped and you’re not OK right now, that’s all right.” In the moment, Sandi and Don certainly did not feel okay, but knew the joy would return down the line.

Patty likened the situation to that of Noah’s wife, who may have, in exasperation, said to God, “Like, you said forty days, that we’d be on the boat!’ They were actually in the ark twelve and a half months. Talk about quarantine!” she emphasized. The story does not end there, however. Patty rejoices that three words carry all the hope in the midst of uncertainty: “God remembered Noah” (Gen 8:1 NIV).

Both Sandi and Don have now recovered, but her advocacy is not over. They continue sheltering in place, being intentional about their actions, and asking others to do the same. “I’m afraid people will say, ‘Oh, it’s over,’ and will start getting a little bit lax on the social distancing and paying attention,” she said. “We can’t. We just simply cannot get relaxed on anything related to this virus.”

The reason, for Sandi and Don, does not come from self-preservation, but from love. “One of the best definitions of love I’ve ever come across is this: love means fighting for the highest good in another,” Patty said. “What are the ways that I can fight for the highest good of people? I can do it by staying home, six feet apart, wearing a mask, and only going out for the things I have to do. That is fighting for the highest good.”

It is a time for practicing unselfishness, Patty reflected. For she and Don, that included the difficult choice not to visit a brand-new grandson in Indiana. “With faith, you have to practice wisdom,” she believes. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and of a sound mind. That is wisdom.”

Patty said she knows none of this pandemic surprised God. Yet, a believer must put wisdom into practice. She is reminded of God’s parting the waters of the Jordan River for the Israelites, as recorded in Joshua. God’s people had to put their faith into action as they approached the overflowing banks. “God, through Joshua, asked the priests to do something first before all the people could cross safely” she said. “They had to stop all their priestly rituals and step into the water.’ As the church, the priesthood of believers, we have to do our part of acting in this particular flood stage story.”

David Vogel is the communication director at the Central Community Church in Wichita, Kansas.

Learn more about the response of Church of God Ministries to the coronavirus (COVID-19), including resources for you and your church, at www.jesusisthesubject.org/theway.

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