A miracle of prayer: Clarksville welcomes Pastor Val Swinton home


Val Swinton walks to his house as wife Deb welcomes him home. (Tammie Garretson photo)
By: 
Bethany Carson
Eclipse News-Review

Cars lined the streets of Clarksville on Wednesday, April 15, to welcome Pastor Val Swinton, the county’s first confirmed COVID-19 patient, home from the hospital.

The Clarksville Police Department led a parade escorting the well-known and much loved pastor, as residents held up signs, and yards were lined with messages that included “Welcome home; we missed you” and “Way to go, Pastor Val! He beat COVID-19.”

Swinton thanked the community for their support as he gave his first sermon since his recovery via livestream on Facebook on April 19. He also thanked the staff at MercyOne Hospital for ably caring for him, and he credited his recovery to the power of prayer.

“When I was in intensive care, I was in a pretty bad way. I was very close to death. My family sat by the phone, and for four or five days, every time the phone rang, they thought there was a good chance it was the hospital saying I had passed away. I was that close to death. But I survived,” Swinton said. “In fact they released me from the hospital early, about five days early, because I was recovering so fast. And I don’t know how many members of the medical staff said that was a miracle. Well, it was a miracle. It was a miracle of prayer. So many people were praying for me that God opened the floodgates of power based on all that prayer, so I’m just very grateful to all of you who were praying for me. And I want you to know that you had a lot to do with my recovery.”

Prayers were said and well wishes sent across the state, country, and the world for Pastor Swinton as he fought for his life in critical condition in ICU on a ventilator in a medically induced coma. His recovery was something that Clarksville residents felt was worth celebrating.

“When I saw the news that Pastor Val posted on his Facebook page that he was getting to come home, I was so overwhelmed with joy that I broke into tears thanking God for this miracle that he did with Val,” said parishioner Tammie Garretson. “I thought to myself this is the best news ever, and we need to celebrate with a homecoming parade.”

With only a short time frame to schedule the event, Garretson called other members of the Clarksville Church of Christ, and started spreading the word on social media, while trying to keep the parade a surprise for Swinton.

She got in touch with Val’s wife Deb and son Sam to confirm the parade route and coordinate Val’s arrival home. Sam Swinton would call or text Garretson when they left the hospital.

Others in Clarksville including Jeff Kolb also contacted the Swinton family about the possibility of a homecoming parade, and Kolb coordinated with Garretson to get the word out on Facebook and on the flashing sign on Main Street.

The Clarksville Police Department agreed to lead the parade with lights and sirens, and members of the local media were contacted to cover the event.

“It was amazing to see all the people lined up along the streets, holding signs, waving and honking their horns as he drove by! Some people joined in and followed them to his house honking and waving,” Garretson said.

Swinton, she said, is a great asset to the community – a man who is caring, thoughtful, and has strong faith and a heart of gold.

“We wanted to join in the welcome home event because Val and Deb are like family to us! It was just a great way to show Val how loved he is by so many,” said rural Clarksville resident Pam Bolin. “We are so blessed and thankful that he is back with us. He is an answer to our many prayers. We continue to pray for his healing and strength. God has great plans for Val and we hope to support him in what is ahead.”

Swinton thanked the community for welcoming him home.

“That was absolutely a wonderful experience for me. It’s a great way to come home, and I appreciate it very much,” Swinton said.

He said he’s working every day to regain his strength.

“Deb and I went for a walk yesterday. We went for half a block. It felt like five miles, but that’s the way it’s going to be for a while until I get stronger,” Swinton said. “But I’m getting stronger, and I’m getting more and more excited over what’s going to happen. I believe that there are some powerful things waiting for the Church of Christ, and for me, and I’m pretty pumped up about it.”

During his sermon on Sunday, Swinton mentioned that doctors are split on if damage to his heart will heal or not. Some say he’ll suffer permanent effects; others expect him to fully recovery.

“This is a long process, and it takes a long time for me to recover,” Swinton said.

He added that for two years he had prayed that God would help him become a better, more compassionate minister.

“If you read the Bible you discover that God sometimes uses suffering to prepare his people for increased acts of ministry, and I believe that’s what happened here. I believe that God prepared me for what he’s got ready for me by allowing me to get the coronavirus. This would not have been my choice. I would have preferred something else, but the fact that he allowed this to happen tells me that he is preparing me for something I hope very powerful, and I think we’re in for quite a ride. So I’m just very excited for what’s going to happen,” Swinton said. “If you read the Bible, you understand that God really does take suffering seriously, that he uses suffering to prepare his people for powerful acts of ministry.”

Swinton said he has heard that thousands of people around the world were praying for him.

“It’s just amazing, and I believe that was one of the primary reasons that I healed, was that I had literally thousands of people in every corner of the world praying for my recovery,” Swinton said. “So don’t ever underestimate the power of prayer. Never underestimate what prayer can do.”

His congregation at Clarksville Church of Christ agrees.

“This whole thing was extremely scary and emotional for a lot of people. I can’t even imagine what his family was going through,” said Garretson. “It was amazing to see the outpouring of support and prayers that was going around the world for Val. He is a true testament that the power of prayer works, and God truly does perform miracles.”

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