DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – As we head into Easter weekend, a message of hope and encouragement from a COVID-19 survivor.​

“God is present with us,” says Rev. Dr. Robert Pace, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Fort Worth, “and we will never be abandoned.”​

Just about a month ago, Rev. Pace was Tarrant County’s first positive diagnosis.​ He is now feeling well and officially COVID-19 free, but, admits he is still recovering.​

“I walk my dog every day and she and I come in breathing hard, and we don’t walk nearly as far as I did before,” says Rev. Pace, “we don’t walk as fast and we don’t walk as hard and I am still affected. I don’t have the virus; but, my lungs are still affected. And my doctor tells me it’s going to be awhile, probably months before I see the end result of this.”​

And yet, he is one of the lucky ones, and he knows it: telling CBS 11 News that he has had many moments of ‘oh my! I beat this thing!’

“Every single day! I am so grateful, I know how close I came.”​

Rev. Pace likely contracted the virus while traveling to a church conference in February. His wife, Rev. Dr. Jill Walters, tested negative for the virus but self-quarantined as a precaution. Rev. Pace says he returned from the trip thinking that perhaps he had contracted the seasonal flu– but, soon learned that there is no comparison.​

“When people try to say ‘this is like the flu, but a little worse’…. this is like the flu and then you think you’re going to die, because I really thought I was close to dying.”​

His faith remains strong, especially now.​

“When people are hurting, when people are sad even in the midst of this, nothing will separate us from the love of God. And we are seeing that,” says Rev. Pace. “We are seeing that in all the people that are doing things to help each other in the midst of this crisis.”​

He admits that he is “mourning” the loss of church fellowship as he prepares to deliver an Easter message over video this weekend. And yet he knows his journey will undoubtedly influence his message. He has these words for the community now: be encouraged.​

“We need to be encouraged… we need to have hope,” says Rev. Pace. “We need to inspire and give that hope to all, because this plague, this virus, does not have the final word: the final word is from God … that word is love.”​

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