GAYLORD – It was Aaron Pegg’s sixth or seventh missionary trip with the international ministry, World Orphans. He thought he knew what to expect. And everything indeed seemed to be going well. That is, until he arrived back in the United States and became sick.

Back around 2009, Aaron had a friend working for World Orphans. He had been encouraging Aaron to come along and take pictures in order to show others how the ministry was touching lives. So, Aaron, who is a professional photographer, started going along.

Recently, Aaron’s local church started a partnership with World Orphans whereby members could go on mission trips through them.

“I believe all believers are part of a global church and we get to choose what building we attend. The Gaylord E-Free Church is the building I go to,” explains Aaron.

His local church partnered with another one in Ethiopia called Repi Church. Aaron says like many churches in other countries, the Repi Church is low on material resources, but strong in their relationship with God, faith, joy, peace and culture.

“These people live in a tough environment, but are pretty wealthy in the stuff that matters.”

After their mission was completed, the people from the E-Free church loaded on to a plane to head home. At that point, there were no confirmed cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) in Ethiopia. Their plane ride was about an 18-hour flight, with stops in Frankfurt, Germany and Chicago. It was on their flight from Germany back to the U.S., Aaron believes he contracted the virus. There were confirmed cases in Germany at the time. Aboard their flight back were several international travelers.

Five days after returning home, Aaron developed a fever. People were just beginning to hear about COVID-19. So, Aaron called his doctor. The doctor told him to go to the emergency room and be tested. The emergency room doctor told Aaron to go home and stay way from other members of his family. He was to stay hydrated, get plenty of rest and take Tylenol when needed. The test came back positive four days later.

Aaron says the virus itself was not worse than the typical flu. The main difference was COVID-19 didn’t make him feeling nauseated.

“Worse than the symptoms was the pressure of realizing that I had brought this virus to my community. And I didn’t want to do that. The weight I carry is more from the pressure of realizing, in a lot of people’s minds, I am to blame for for the virus being a possibility in this area.”

Although he was given no prescriptions, Aaron said the best medicine for him was sticking to what he had already been doing, feeding his soul. This included praying, listening to praise and worship music and listening to the Bible on audio.

“I was already doing this, but I needed it now more than ever. I don’t think lot of America thinks we need to read the Bible on a daily basis. But we do.

“I grew up in a Christian environment. As a five year-old, I remember sitting in an armchair in my living room and asking Jesus into my heart. Thinking of Him, believing He is my Savior and wanting to know more. The rest was learning to walk in relationship with our Father in Heaven, which I saw my parents doing already.”

Aaron says he has been blessed by people within the church, the global Church as well as the local. They comforted him and encouraged him throughout his illness.

“Our pastor spoke Sunday about how our faith is greater than fear. That is also what I am trying to share. It is easy to say our faith is strong, but now we get to really walk in that.”

On Thursday, March 19, Aaron was declared virus free and was finally able to hug his family for the first time in weeks.

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Kurt J. Kolka grew up in the small community of Grayling, Mich., near the forested AuSable River. After majoring in English at college, he began a career in writing and newspapers spanning more than two decades. In his spare time he creates a Christian comic strip, The Cardinal, which has a 28-year history of publication. He has also authored a book, “Bullying is No Laughing Matter” (Front Edge Publications, Ann Arbor, Mich., 2014) and is working on his first novel. Kurt and his wife Diane have been married for more than 25 years and have one daughter, Rebekah, and an overprotective dog, Alli. Of life, Kurt says, “Life is never dull with God at the steering wheel, but, man, does He have a lead foot!” More about Kurt and his musings may be found at www.betweenthepines.org.
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