Pastor welcomed home

Pastor Robert Christmas of First Bible Way Church is greeted by church members Brenda Thurston (at left) and Joyce Mayo (at right) as his wife Alice looks on.

Members of First Bible Way Church welcomed home Pastor Robert Christmas, who battled COVID for the last four months, with a drive-by parade on Sunday at his Louisa County home.

Christmas’ journey began on the morning of Jan. 24 when he woke up and told his wife to call for an ambulance. He had never felt so sick.

“The medic said, ‘I hope we get you to the hospital in time, your oxygen levels are too low,’” Christmas said.

The first two months at University of Virginia Hospital were not easy. “I didn’t know what was happening, but someone was with me: Jesus,” the pastor said.

After two days in the hospital, Christmas was put on a ventilator by mouth. A few weeks later, the ventilator was connected to his trachea, said Geraldine Ellis, a church member who helped coordinate the drive-by parade.

At the end of February, Christmas started dialysis, and he was taken off the ventilator in March. In April, Christmas moved to UVA Long Term Care, and later to the Encompass Health Rehabilitation Facility in Charlottesville.

“I never thought I’d be the victim. I wore my mask and exercised everyday,” Christmas said. The church had followed proper COVID guidelines by dividing the pews and keeping members six feet apart.

While in the hospital, there was a time when Christmas gave up.

“I thought to myself, ‘I’m not coming out of this,’” he said. “I told my wife to make the arrangements for my funeral.” His wife, Alice, stayed hopeful, telling him, “Yes you are.”

Now, Christmas is home and couldn’t be more thankful.

“It was nobody but God who brought me out – I thank God for seeing my family and church family,” he said.

Christmas was so excited to leave the rehabilitation center that he forgot to say goodbye to the doctors. He told his wife, “I ain’t going home in a wheelchair.”

As he watched the drive-by parade, Christmas looked forward to preaching as soon as he can, and sleeping in his own bed.

During his absence, Christmas and Alice gave the church updates every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening during prayer services through Zoom, Ellis said.

Christmas wants others to stay on their guard against the virus.

“Keep your mask on; the disease is still out there [and] no one is exempt,” he said. “Get to know our Lord, Jesus Christ; I’m still here today because He’s not done with me. I’m looking to do more work for the King.”

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