CRESTWOOD, Ky. (KT) – The lead pastor of the Phos Community Church and a longtime faith leader in the Oldham County community, died Saturday morning from coronavirus, according to his family.
Jeff Fuson, who was involved in the Christian ministry for 30 years in Oldham County including being the youth pastor at Crestwood Baptist for 18 years, was hospitalized earlier last month and later moved to the ICU on a ventilator. His church and family members shared updates on social media, the Oldham Era reported.
In a July 11 post, Fuson said he was “in a fight like you would never wanna be in.” He encouraged everyone to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously and take precautionary measures as well.
“Keep praying me through,” he wrote. “Courage, power, strength, stamina, bodily physiological, full system recovery on all fronts clear mindedness and that somehow the fruits of the Holy Spirit would be so abundant in me that the staff here will be influenced to follow Christ with me.”
Evelyn Fuson, Jeff’s daughter, wrote early this morning that her dad died at 5:46 a.m. She said the family is struggling to understand or know why this ultimately happened, but are trusting God to lead them through this and seek the “message in the mess” as her dad often did.
“We have quite a road in front of us, but we know who has gone before us and who will come behind us. Thank you for your prayers and for all your messages and outpouring of love. We have been humbled and amazed. Dad would be so proud to see how many people have been on their knees and in their hearts on his behalf,” she wrote.
Mike Arvin, the worship pastor at Phos, worked alongside Fuson in some capacity for 25 years, he told the newspaper. Since Fuson’s hospitalization, Arvin said Phos switched back to having Sunday services online in an abundance of caution.
The church was having in-person services again for a couple of weeks prior to Fuson being hospitalized. Arvin said they were following all the guidelines for wearing masks and social distancing and Fuson was adamant with people about following the safety measures.
In recent weeks, Phos has started its online services with a message to pray for Fuson and updates from his wife Julie Fuson. The church also set up an online prayer calendar where people could sign up for 30-minute time slots to pray specifically for Jeff Fuson and his family.
The family started an online “testimonial collection tribute” for him, asking people to submit a video offering a favorite memory or words of encouragement for him, or sharing how their life has been impacted by him.
An outpouring of condolences came online from those throughout the county and beyond, even if they had only met Jeff Fuson once.
La Grange City Council member Andrea Essenpreis told The Era said she met Jeff Fuson in June 2016 as she was taking her son to a sports camp hosted at Phos. That year was a difficult one for her as she was building her life from the ground up, she said.
Jeff Fuson said hello to her and she burst into tears, embarrassed by her sudden display of emotions, but the pastor listened to her and her story, she said, and that ultimately started her on a spiritual path and changed the trajectory of her life.
“Jeff showed me the face of God at a very challenging time in my life, and I’ll be forever grateful,” Essenpreis said. “He noticed a sad, lonely woman in his church that day and made time in a very busy schedule to help lead her to the light.”
God is clear even his followers will have trouble in life, that bad things do happen to good people, Arvin said, but God is close to those suffering and many times during the turbulent times people can feel closest to God.
“It’s so much bigger than Phos Community Church, something like this makes you realize how connected you are and the affects you have on people,” Arvin said. “Being so close to Jeff all these years you really realize the effect his ministry had on people.”
Phos Community Church will have its regular service online at 9:30 a.m. Sunday as the church gathers to grieve and to worship.