Members of the Flint, Michigan church community are mourning the loss of three of its spiritual leaders to COVID-19 coronavirus. Bishop Robert Earl Smith Sr. and Pastor Kevelin B. Jones of Bountiful Love Ministries Church of God in Christ (COGIC) and Elder Freddie Brown of Jackson Memorial Temple COGIC all died after becoming infected with the virus, ABC 12 reported.
“This thing grabbed him and wouldn’t let go,” Jones’ wife of 48 years Iola Jones told NBC 25. “I never wanted to know the earth without him, but I’m going to make it because I have all these kids.”
Jones, 72, and Brown were cousins and were in the hospital battling the disease at the same time. However, like many who have perished from COVID-19, their families didn’t get to say a proper goodbye.
“I don’t think I have fully accepted it because I haven’t seen my father,” said Jones’ oldest daughter, Sharee Hubbard. “I haven’t seen him since the Sunday he was sitting in the back with his mask on,” son Kevelin B. Jones Jr. added.
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Medical professionals have not specified whether or not the cases are related.
Pastor Chris Martin of Cathedral of Faith Ministries told ABC 12. Jones and Brown had pre-existing health conditions. He recalled the faith leaders fondly.
“Pastor Kevelin Jones and Bishop Robert Smith were both fathers to me. I had the chance to serve at Bountiful Love Church of God in Christ under pastor Kevelin Jones for years,” Martin said.
He added that Smith was bold and unashamed to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“He would often go to Genesee Valley with bull horns and preach repentance or the Bible or go door to door and preach,” Martin said.
Jones, Smith and Brown’s deaths are among those of several faith leaders across the country. In wake of global COVID-19 pandemic, some churches and pastors have come under fire for still having in-person services. One Tampa pastor was even arrested for refusing to obey a stay-at-home order.
Despite their grief, the men’s families and friends still have hope.
“God is in control and He has the ability to deliver us, heal us, and strengthen us, and that’s what people need to believe right now,” Martin said.
“We have hope in God. We gone see him (Pastor Jones) again,” Iola Jones said.