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He's presided over 21 funerals for COVID victims. Hear his story.

Jerry Bishop is senior pastor at LifeQuest Urban Outreach Center in Grand Rapids.

 Jerry Bishop is senior pastor at LifeQuest Urban Outreach Center in Grand Rapids. His ministry serves people in the heart of Grand Rapids, and he has a particular focus helping young Black men.

The virus has taken an immense toll on the community Jerry Bishop serves. Bishop says he’s presided over funerals for 21 people who’ve died of COVID. Click the link above to listen to his story.

I have to tell you, man, it's been a very dark, dark, dark, dark year.

Initially, it was an emotional drain and financial drain on families. But almost instantaneously, within the … second week of March, I buried my first COVID patient.

And then, people get locked in their houses, can’t get out - and trust me I’m a firm supporter of social distancing - but people then started going into depression. By May, there was a realm of depression, more deaths.

And then more anger from me and, you know, towards people not taking it serious. And so it's been a tremendous counter-balance since March in trying not to be angry, not consumed with so much death. But it's a reality.

The single most traumatizing thing of my career over the last 10 years – and I've been in some very dire situations – but a family, they FaceTimed me in so I could pray with their loved one, who two weeks prior to contracting the virus, was 185 pounds, four percent body fat, no meds, Caucasian. No precursors, didn't drink, didn't smoke. And as I'm praying for him to live, he's shouting how much he wants to die because of the pain in his lungs.

Some people have minor symptoms, praise God for that. Others, their lungs are just destroyed, there's heart issues, there's lingering coughs, they have to go to rehabilitation. And so you start to look at that. There's a lot of collateral damage to this that's not casket-related. 

I mean, I am a very positive guy. But the reality of this is, this is absolutely going to get worse.

I don't know why the Lord is doing this, but I'm going to cling on Romans 8:28, that all things work together. Somehow, some way, in God's timing, we're going to be better.

But in the interim, I just have to encourage people, hey, live better. Live better.

You know, live a little bit more humbly – that even though you might not agree with the mask, please wear a mask, please social distance. Stop the gatherings. At the same time, go back to being kind to your neighbor. Don't incite things. Just look out, try to love somebody.

Dustin Dwyer reports enterprise and long-form stories from Michigan Public’s West Michigan bureau. He was a fellow in the class of 2018 at the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. He’s been with Michigan Public since 2004, when he started as an intern in the newsroom.
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