Faith Through Covid
If you ask Jean Renel Murat about his COVID–19 experience, he will tell you it was both bad and good.
First, the bad.
Murat, who helped start the Haitian ministry at the East Orange, N.J., Salvation Army, believes he contracted the virus in March from another employee at Stop & Shop. Murat suddenly started experiencing a fever, headache, sore throat, and pain in the back of his neck. He was in agony much of the time.
“When I realized I was infected, I put myself in quarantine,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone else to get infected and I didn’t want to be in contact with anybody. I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything.”
Murat did go to the hospital a few days into his ordeal, but doctors sent him home. He got by on vitamins, Tylenol, and home remedies.
“We Haitians believe in home remedies,” he said with a laugh.
Despite Jean’s best efforts, his wife Wiselaine also contracted COVID–19. Things got so bad that the officers at the East Orange Corps, Captain Nephtalie Joseph and Lieutenant Tharonza Elmonus, took the couple’s two children for a few weeks.
‘Keep us alive’
Murat lost weight and was in such anguish that he had trouble sleeping as he sat at home.
“I spent 10 days without sleep, not even for a second,” he said. “I felt like every night was a battle. I was suffering. It was hard during that time. I know about hardship. I felt like I was close to death.”
In his suffering, Murat said he meditated on the trials of the biblical Job and the woman who bled for 12 years but knew she would be healed by touching Jesus’ garment (Matthew 9:20).
“In his suffering, Job still trusted in God,” Murat said. “In my suffering, I trusted in God. I talked to God and I said, ‘I’m not ready to die from the virus. I don’t want any member of my family to die from the virus. I want you to keep us alive for a testimony.’ I felt like my head was about to explode, but I kept my faith in God.
“Since Job believed in God, I felt I too had to believe in Him. If He did it for the one in the past, He will do it for me. That’s what I prayed. He heard my prayer and I started to get better. From there, I realized that God answers prayer.”
Just as Jean started to turn the corner in early May, his wife started showing signs of the virus. She didn’t have many of the same symptoms her husband did. Her main problem was breathing.
“When I laid down, I felt like I was going to run out of breath,” she said. “Some people had a fever, but I never did. I sometimes had a little bit of a headache. My whole body was aching.”
Wiselaine went to the doctor and was given a breathing pump. Like her husband, she largely depended on home remedies to improve her breathing and fight off the virus.
“We heard so many people were dying, but God has given us a second chance. God can do anything. Just believe on Him and He will do everything. We say, ‘thank you’ to God,” she said.
Jean said it was hard to watch his wife suffer, but he reminded her of some of the lessons from Job as they pulled through together.
“It was so hard for her,” Jean recalls. “She said she wanted to die instead of living. I asked her, ‘Did God ask you for any advice when He created you? Keep the faith in God and continue to pray. We’re still going to pray. We’re still going to take medication.’ After a while, things started to get better. We both suffered a lot.”
Looking back, Wiselaine said her COVID–19 suffering strengthened her faith.
“Now I trust in God more and I take it seriously because from where I am now to where I was before, it’s a good testimony,” she said.
While Wiselaine was concerned about her own health as she bravely carried on each day, her thoughts also turned to the wellbeing of her daughters, Laesha, 12, and Sabrinah, 8.
“I was thinking, ‘What am I going to do with the kids?’ They were still in school,” Wiselaine said.
A load lifted
Jean prayed about the situation with the children and trusted God.
“It was so complicated,” he said. “Both of us were suffering. The kids couldn’t do anything for themselves, but God answered another prayer.”
Soon, corps officers Joseph and Elmonus, who are also Haitian, offered to take the couple’s children to live with them for two weeks.
“We had to do it because they were sick,” Joseph explains. “Who was going to take care of them? I know they have family around here, but still we are family too.”
Joseph said the couple missed the children but maintained social distance until everything was clear.
“They would call every day,” said Joseph, who added that the Murats would sometimes come to the corps parking lot to see the children from a distance.
Sabrinah said she was “really upset” being separated from her parents. Laesha called it “weird” since the family is close, but the officers played games, organized dress–up dinners, and exercised with the girls.
“We had a lot of fun with them,” Joseph said.
Their church home
Wiselaine said she is eternally grateful to the officers, who have since been reassigned to a Salvation Army church in Columbus, Ohio.
“We thank God for placing people in our path,” she said. “Not everybody wanted to take them. They might have thought the kids were infected as well. We didn’t think about the infection, we just wanted the kids to be safe.
“We don’t have any words to thank them for taking our kids during that time. Even though we want to give them the world, that would not be enough.”
Jean agreed, adding, “You cannot put a price on what they’ve done. It was worth more than gold to us.”
Elmonus said the Murats are very protective of their children so she and Joseph were flattered by the family’s confidence in them.
“So, allowing us to have the kids for a few days meant a lot to us because they don’t trust the kids with anyone,” she said. “We were honored. We love the kids, so it was a wonderful experience.”
Joseph said the Murats, who live in East Orange, are active in the corps. Wiselaine cooks for many of the fellowships. Jean was the first senior soldier enrolled when the Haitian ministry started in 2017. Joseph said Jean is a Sunday school teacher, part–time preacher, and helps lead Sunday worship and prayer meetings.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
—2 Corinthians 1:3–4
A faith reborn
Murat can also be found humbly cleaning the church, which is made up of predominately African American, Hispanic, and Haitian believers, Joseph said.
“We can call on him at any time and he will come and help us do anything,” she said. “We are two female officers and so sometimes we need a handyman. We can call on him and he’s always there.”
Elmonus said the Murats are “very strong in their faith.”
“When they were going through that whole experience, they were calling everyone for prayer, including us officers. That shows that faith means a lot to them,” she said.
In fact, Jean said the “good” part of his COVID–19 experience was that it renewed his faith in God.
“I see God from a different perspective. I understand that He really loves us. In that period, it was only Him. Nobody else. God took my suffering and I glorify God. It was so tiring at times, but in the midst of suffering, we know that whatever we ask God, He will do it.
“With all my heart, I asked God, ‘We don’t want anyone in the family to die from this infection’ and God heard me. I am alive today to share this because God heard me. That makes me love God every day and encourage others to love God as well.”
God still reigns
Murat said he also has a conversation starter when it comes to sharing Christ.
“They will think if God can do it for somebody else, He will do it for me as well,” he said. “I know through our testimony other people will believe in God.
“Maybe they doubt His power, maybe they doubt what He can do, but when I explain and share my testimony, many people will see and know that God exists, that God is powerful, and they will trust in God as well. Many times, people want to believe, but they want other people to testify.
“The sickness confirms that God is powerful. That’s why I said it was a good experience because I have a new testimony. This is what I asked Him to give me—a testimony. That’s exactly what He did.”
Joseph said she sees “God’s hand” all over the Murat’s testimony and believes it will be used powerfully for His glory.
“God is on the move,” Joseph said. “Because with everything that’s going on, it’s easy to doubt His goodness. It’s easy to say, ‘You know what? God has given up on us.’ Then when you hear people like this sharing their testimony, you realize that God is still on the move. He’s still powerful. He’s still on the throne. He’s still in control.”
by Robert Mitchell