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Recovered from COVID-19, Dan Nold Offers Another Dose of Hope

by on April 05, 2020 12:05 AM

These are fearful times for all of us. Even the strongest must admit to times of worry, perhaps even moments of panic. Indeed, we are simultaneously besieged by a worldwide plague and a plunging economy. As Thomas Paine wrote in his Common Sense pamphlet, “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

And so I looked for a voice of hope last week, someone I could interview in search of hope-giving wisdom. I chose Pastor Dan Nold because he has led Calvary Church for 26 years and because he is respected as a person of unusual wisdom and communication skills. It wasn’t until after I had sent a text to request an interview that I learned Nold had contracted COVID-19. And of course, that made him even more qualified to offer insights about this mysterious new disease.

Last week’s question-and-answer piece attracted more readers than any of the 81 other columns I have produced for these last five years. And the numbers aren’t even close. I guess I wasn’t the only one yearning for some Bible-based hope last week.

This week brought more bad news for our nation’s health and wealth, so I decided more encouragement from Pastor Nold was in order. I reached out to Nold and was delighted to learn that during the preceding few days he had met the criteria to be declared as healed from COVID-19.  

No wonder, then, that the South Dakota native was able to share another dose of hope to quiet our fears and boost our spirits. As you’ll see, our Thursday morning conversation ranged from his process of recovery to his anticipation of the Easter holiday to his hopes for a stronger community in the post-COVID era.

How would you describe your physical condition right now?

Nold: The biggest thing for me is just being symptom-free. No more fever. Having a fever for almost two weeks was a little bit rough. But I’m gaining strength back little by little and that's the last thing to come.

I heard you say that if someone doesn’t have to be hospitalized, he or she has a mild case of COVID-19, but this was the worst “mild” you’ve ever experienced...

Nold:  I've been a fairly healthy guy over the course of my life, so I can’t ever remember being down for the count so long. Man, I was dragging. And there in the middle of it, there were two or three days when I couldn’t force myself out of bed and everything was hurting. With all the stories that you hear about COVID-19—one minute everything's OK and the next minute you're in the hospital—that thought was always in the back of my mind. So it was long. It was difficult.

Did you do anything that was significant in promoting your own physical recovery?

Nold: I tried to do everything the doctor said, but there wasn't a whole lot to do. I tried to be healthy, take vitamin D and get as much sleep as I could. I was taking a lot of Advil for the pain and the fever. And then I decided to stay off the Advil and go to the Tylenol. Things got a little bit worse after that, but then they started getting a little bit better. So I have no idea what really worked.

And your breathing never did get too bad, right?

Nold: I had a little bit of tightness and if I took a deep breath, there'd be a little bit of pain and it would make me cough. But it never got to that point where some people describe, like having duct tape around your chest and you can't get your breath. I was short of breath a few times, but I'm pretty sure that's because I'm out of shape, not because of COVID.

What are the Centers for Disease Control criteria for being officially recovered from COVID-19?

Nold: Well, the doctors and staff at Geisinger and Mount Nittany told me that I needed to be at least 14 days from the onset of symptoms and at least three days with no symptoms. So I’m working on day five of being symptom-free now. Maybe day six, I don’t remember.

So when you crossed that threshold did you and your wife celebrate?

Nold:  I think Lynn and I were both too tired to celebrate. Before I got to three days of being fever-free, I had two days when there was no fever during the daytime. But then at night my fever would spike. So on that first full day, then the second full day, then the third full day, I kept thinking, “OK, I could spike a fever again tonight.” So when I hit the three days, it was pretty late at night and we were tired and we just went to bed. But the next day I went out for the first time. I went to my office and picked up some stuff. And somebody had graciously brought us a whole bunch of Hog Father’s barbecue and so I took a little bit of that over to my son and daughter-in-law. I didn't even get out of the car. But I was clean and I drove the three miles over and back. I guess if there was a celebration, that was it. Wow!


To Dan Nold’s delight, Calvary Church is the annual host for “Night to Shine,” a prom for individuals with special needs. (Photo provided by Calvary Church)


By the way, you mentioned some times when your fever spiked. How high did it normally get and what was the highest it ever got? 

Nold: It never got really high. And even at its highest, I was on Advil or Tylenol, so I don't know what it would have been without that. But I think the highest it got was like 101.5 degrees. So I guess when I say “spike” I just mean that it went above normal.

Well, typically, when your fever would go up, how long would it stay at that plateau? 

Nold: I don't know. The Tylenol would bring it back down into that 99 or 98.9 degree range. The most difficult times for me were at night when I’d go through the chills and shaking and then profusely sweating. That kind of routine, back and forth. Maybe not every night, but multiple nights.

Would Lynn typically be awake so she could talk with you and pray with you?

Nold: There were a lot of times in the middle of night she was awake just listening to me breathe, just making sure nothing was going wrong. Monday night (March 23), a little bit more than a week into it, that was probably my most difficult night. And that night, I asked her to come and pray with me before I went to sleep. And I don't feel it's coincidental that it was then I started moving into a better place with the virus. That night was my apex of not feeling well.

Now, back to the medical side of things, is there any chance you could ever contract the disease again, maybe at a less severe level? 

Nold: I don't think they know that for sure.  At one point this week, I was listening to Dr. Anthony Fauci, and I grabbed onto his words when he said, “We just don't know yet.” But then he added something like, “I’ll bet that if you have been infected and recovered, it's going to be really difficult for you to get re-infected.” So I'm pretty hopeful for that, both from the standpoint of not wanting to get sick again but also wanting to be able to serve and not be concerned about what's going to happen to me. Maybe at the Food Bank or whatever.

Dan Nold and Harold McKenzie, pastor of Unity Church of Jesus Christ, share the teaching in a series on racial unity. (Photo provided by Calvary Church)

I believe that Lynn is still completely healthy even though she’s been at home with you throughout your illness. Do you consider that a miracle?

Nold: Yes, she's still symptom-free. People throw that word “miracle” around an awful lot, and I’m not sure I'd put a miracle label on it. But I am so thankful for God's gracious hand upon us in the good and the hard. So far, that’s been of the good things.

I'm a little lost in the chronology of these events. If she would have begun to show symptoms, what would the likeliest time have been for that?

Nold: I think the average that I've seen is five days post-infection for when you would get symptoms. Mine was about seven days. The medical personnel who have been contacting us have been saying that I could be infectious up to three days past my symptoms. And she needs to be quarantined for two weeks past that to protect others.

How would you describe her personal experience during your illness? Her ups and downs and her spiritual insights? 

Nold: She had a different journey through it, and it seemed like God was working on her with respect to surrendering control. Her favorite place is out on the front porch looking out over the valley, and that’s where she goes to pray. Well, during part of the time when I was sick the church was holding a 24/7 week of prayer to ask God for blessings on our community. And Lynn had the 12 to 1 a.m. shift. So every night while I was drifting off to sleep, she'd be out on the front porch, wrapped up in a blanket and just praying. She would say that every time her anxiety about my condition would start to rise up, she had this sense of God breathing in peace.

I’m guessing that your grandchildren brought some levity into your lives during this struggle. Did you talk to them over the phone or through video calls?

Nold: Our grandkids are like 4- and 2-years-old, somewhere in that neighborhood. I'm terrible with ages. My granddaughter, Rory, who's 4, had her birthday last week. And so, that was one of those little losses that we grieve for not being able to be there for her birthday party. She was a little sad because there weren’t many people at her party. But she was a trouper, and her parents did such a great job of celebrating at her party. And we were on FaceTime when they opened presents. My grandson Haakon, he’s at a place where, for whatever reason, if he gets on FaceTime with us he wants Papa. He loves for me to play this stupid little game over and over again. He’ll just run in and fall on his face, and I yell, “Boom!” And he laughs like it’s the funniest thing in the world. So they bring us a lot of joy. Our whole family brought us a lot of joy throughout this thing.

What's your favorite portion of Scripture for helping people find inner peace during this difficult time? 

Nold: My favorite, by far, is Philippians chapter four where the Apostle Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And there is something about that passage that I think is so important. I think it's so natural for us to pray when we're worried. Even people who don't believe in God will throw up a prayer to the heavens in hopes of somebody being there when there's a problem. But the secret sauce in Paul’s teaching here is his mention of thanksgiving. You know, pray with thanksgiving, pray with gratitude. And so I used to tell people, “You're praying already, but take that instruction and realize that gratitude is the secret sauce. Just make a list. Five things, 10 things, 100 things for which you're grateful. Then keep bringing those two things together, the gratitude and the prayer. That's the combination that brings peace.”

Dan Nold greets his grandson, Haakon, after a worship service at Calvary. (Photo provided by Calvary Church)

I think individuals and churches are beginning to pray more than ever. What have you observed?

Nold: We've had a tradition for years of doing one or more 24/7 weeks of prayer each year at Calvary. I prepare a prayer guide and we just sign people up on SignUp Genius and cover all the hours of the week with prayer. And you know, often we'll have five to 10 people on a time slot. But it has never been so easy to get people to fill the slots as it was this last time. We had in excess of 250 people praying for a total of a thousand hours. People were hungry to do it.

Do you think the churches in Centre County will set attendance records on the first Sunday after people are free to gather together? 

Nold: I don't know. There's a lot of talk about how we gather and what things will be like when all this lifts. I'm not necessarily sure that God is so concerned about how we gather. I think he's more concerned about how we scatter. I'm concerned that we sense that the mission is not within the four walls of a church building. It’s in my neighborhood. It's loving my neighbors.

What do you believe God is doing throughout this time of great trial? 

Nold: I might have mentioned this in our other interview. There’s still a deep tug in my heart, a deep emotion, every time I look out over the valleys of central PA. I just can’t help seeing this picture of the father's arms open wide and his voice just whispering, “Child, come home.” I’ll say it in my sermon (online) this weekend, I think Jesus is walking every empty street and knocking on the door of every isolated heart, drawing people to the love of Father God. And he’s also shaping his church. You know, I think the church has been distracted and we've listened to so many different voices—voices of consumption and shame and judgment. And the father’s saying, “Open your ears, fill your heart with my voice.” There may never be another opportunity in our lifetime like this to ponder on a worldwide level where our hearts have been. Has our passion been for Jesus or has it been for everything else?

Well, I don't want to overdo your time or energy, but Easter is right around the corner.  What can you tell me about special online services through Calvary?

Nold:  Every year at Calvary we've done something called “The Way of the Cross” on Good Friday. It’s a participatory experience that helps people appreciate the suffering of Jesus on our behalf. And it's always been a highlight for me. So now we’ve been trying to figure out any other ways to help people experience the reality of Jesus’ death and resurrection. And we’re working on a text basis. It's not original with us; we've gotten it from a couple of different radio stations, one in Texas, one in Baltimore.  But it’s a text-based “The Way of the Cross,” something that people would sign up for. From this Sunday, Palm Sunday, through Easter Sunday they will receive texts with most of them coming on Good Friday, Saturday and Easter Sunday. They will get a text to their phone that is a reminder of what was going on in the life of Jesus on this day at this time. And some of the texts might have a clickable link that will have a short video from me or someone else or a worship song or a character study. I'm excited about that. I think it's going to be a good thing for that week and we'll also do the best we can to celebrate Palm Sunday and Easter through our online worship experience. But on the first Sunday when we’re able to gather face to face, we're going to celebrate Easter on that day—in May or June or whenever. Our first Sunday back is going to be resurrection Sunday.

Can you provide the texting information for my readers?  

Nold:  Sure. People can simply text EASTER to 66599.

Do you have any thoughts for folks who feel they have been apart from God and now are thinking about making a change?

Nold:  Yeah, I would say even though church buildings are closed, there's no better time than right now to initiate or re-initiate your journey to God. You don't have to take care of your junk before you come to him. His arms are waiting. He has this love that just won't quit. Now's the time to do business with God. Come back and be vulnerable with him and with others. For those who have never contemplated a relationship with God I think you have a neighbor who knows Jesus or a family member who knows Jesus or a church in your community where there are people who know Jesus. Take the initiative, make a call or send an email. And if you're not ready to do that, then just pray, “God, if you are really there, show me.”

Bill Horlacher is a native of Happy Valley, a 1970 graduate of State College High School and a 1974 graduate of Penn State (journalism). He has spent his last 30 years in service to international students, helping them with personal, cultural and spiritual adjustments to America. After 39 years of living in California, Maryland and Texas, Bill returned to State College in 2013 along with his wife, Kathy.
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