“I’m spreading the gospel across the globe after the Covid battle”

At the height of his illness, Mark McClurg was convinced he would not survive coronavirus. But God had other plans for the Elim pastor

Breathless and suffering chest pains, Mark McClurg knew something was seriously wrong.

On the advice of a nurse in his church, the 40-year-old pastor of Ards Elim Church, in County Down, was soon on his way to A&E, little knowing this was the start of a battle with Covid-19 that would see God use him in a powerful way.  

Initially, no one suspected coronavirus. 

They said, ‘we’ve got some good news for you – you don’t have Covid-19, you just have pneumonia,’” says Mark.  

But during his second night in hospital, he deteriorated. 

“They gave me 70 percent oxygen, but I still couldn’t breathe, so they increased it to 80 percent, then 90 percent. By 10pm they had me on 100 percent. I was saying, ‘I ... can’t ... breathe ...' You feel like your lungs are full and you’re drowning. It feels like someone has dropped two bags of broken glass into them.”

Mark feared the worse. “I phoned my wife Claire and said, ‘I think this is it, I think I’m going to die.’”  

 Now critical, Mark was transferred to ICU and hooked up to a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to help him breathe. A test confirmed he had Covid-19. 

Lying alone in bed, Mark felt God speak to him.

“I prayed, ‘Lord, will you help me, will you heal me?’ I heard the Lord saying, ‘Son, you are more than a conqueror.’ The powerful thing was I didn’t realise what being more than a conqueror meant. That there was more than one battle to fight, and the hardest battle hadn’t happened yet.”

Mark continued to deteriorate, fighting to breathe, feverish, and losing his sense of taste and smell.  

“You can’t do anything. You’re just lying there in agony. Then the consultant said, ‘Mark, you’re not getting any better. If you don’t improve we’ll have to put a tube in.’

"I prayed, ‘Lord, I need your help, please heal me.’ I was lying with my eyes closed listening to worship music with my right hand down the side of my body.

“I felt my hand being grabbed. A nurse was at the bottom of the bed and I asked if she had held my hand, but she said she hadn’t moved from her seat.

“Then the Holy Spirit reminded me of when Jesus held the little girl’s hand, and I realised that even if I had to go on a ventilator he was holding mine and I was going to rise from it, so I had peace.”

By this stage, news of Mark’s condition was spreading rapidly, and church members were staying up through the night to pray for him.

“I didn’t need to go on the ventilator after that and my infection levels started dropping dramatically. I woke up starting to feel a bit better.”

From here, Mark’s recovery continued. He was transferred back onto the main ward, and from there was allowed to return home to Claire and his three young children, after an additional, unexpected period of self-isolation.

Since then, Mark has been recovering from Covid-19; a journey his consultant has warned will last for a year, with him having suffered respiratory failure. But he is thrilled that God is using his experience to bless others via an opportunity that was birthed while he prayed in hospital.  

“I was thinking, ‘I need to pray a big prayer because I’ve come through this. God has healed me and I need to do something.’

“The Holy Spirit put the story of Joseph on my heart; how he was raised out of nothing to become a voice of hope in famine. I thought, ‘I’m going to pray that – that God would use me that way too.’

“But the Holy Spirit corrected me and said it wasn’t just a time of famine, it was a time of fear. So I prayed, ‘Lord, would you let me be a voice of hope to the nation in this time of fear.”

Mark felt the urge to make a video telling his story. Reluctant to film himself sick in hospital, he nevertheless posted two videos on Twitter. They went viral, attracting nearly 1.8 million and 900,000 views.

“While I was in hospital, God also put it on my heart to do a Facebook Live based on 2 Chronicles 7:14, and people from all around the world started watching it.”

With the worldwide response, Mark’s prayer that he would be a voice of hope is being answered.

“A nurse from Australia texted to say ‘thank you’. She was so discouraged but said my 7:14 posts had brought her hope.

“I’ve had people who’ve been dealing with Covid-19 on palliative care wards asking me what they can do. I’ve told them they are the light at the end of that dark tunnel and to just share Jesus.”

Recently, Mark has also had the opportunity to write a faith-based column for the Belfast Telegraph and filmed a Zoom call with an occupational therapist that will be used to help NHS practitioners in the future.

“I was just a local pastor, but now I’m sharing the message of the gospel of hope and it’s powerful. When we come together and pray, the kingdom of heaven can come. That’s what I’ve seen happen.”

Listen to Mark McClurg share his story in this MPower podcast episode

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