JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – When he’s not acting as the missions pastor for Redeemer Church in Ponte Vedra Beach, Mark Baxter can be found leading the Jacksonville base of Youth With a Mission, along with his wife, Janet. For the last month, the typically active couple has been stuck at home -- only able to see their family through a front window -- thanks to COVID-19.
“There’s a light at the end of the tunnel,” Mark Baxter said on a video call with News4Jax last week. “We’re thinking next week, it’s going to get real bright for us.”
The Baxters believe their journey with coronavirus started with Mark’s trip to Brazil, which began March 10. Mark is a missionary and told News4Jax his meeting in Brazil included over 100 people. During the trip, he said, no one appeared to show signs of feeling ill.
With news of the virus spreading in the United States, Mark cut his trip short and flew back home five days early. The symptoms didn’t wait long.
"Sure enough, the next day, the 21st, I started feeling sick," Mark Baxter said. "Got some fever and some coughing."
Within just a few days, Janet came down with symptoms, too.
“I woke up with fever and nauseated,” Janet Baxter said. “I guess that was a little concerning to me because the nausea and the vomiting, it just went on continuous.”
The couple said after they got sick, they heard several others who attended the conference in Brazil had also come down with symptoms. The couple turned to Mayo Clinic.
Over the last few weeks, Janet has tested positive for COVID-19 four times. Mark’s third test came back negative, giving them a glimmer of hope that their coronavirus journey might be ending, but days later, he tested positive yet again.
The Baxters said the hardest part of their month-long ordeal is the constant isolation from loved ones.
“We’ve got a bunch of grandkids here in Jacksonville, and our kids, too,” Mark Baxter said. “I haven’t seen them since March the 10th, when I left for Brazil.”
With window visits -- and lots of FaceTime -- the couple is making it through. Together, they credit their faith for their strength. They encourage others fighting the virus to hold on and not lose hope.
“God is going to see us through this,” Janet Baxter said. “That’s just what I encourage people, wherever you’re at just to realize that God can see you through this.”
Healthwise, Mark and Janet are doing well. They’re just waiting to get some good news with their next tests, which should be this week.
Due to Mark’s many travels, he’s not sure he will be allowed to donate plasma to help others with COVID-19, but Janet should be able to. Helping others after their recovery is something they will prioritize.