Pastor Howard E. Jones, Jr. exercising on the treadmill.

By Staff Reports

NASHVILLE, TN — Howard Jones, senior pastor of Fairfield Missionary Baptist Church, and an educator with Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, has been working out since early July 2020 to fight COVID-19. He began this journey on July 5, 2020, and on July 4, 2021, he will celebrate a year of continuous workouts.

This year-long journey had three stages. The first was to combat the COVID-19, work-at-home weight. The second was a stringent exercise plan with video trainer Shaun T, and the final stage was focused on developing a healthy lifestyle with nutritious meals and an exercise plan for life.

“I had gained a tremendous amount of weight after my work style changed from going to school on a daily basis to working from home. I had begun to experience blood pressure problems and the heaviness of the added pounds was overwhelming,” said Pastor Jones. “I knew I had to do something.”

Motivated by the drive to lose weight and get his blood pressure down, he developed a regimen of exercising and healthier eating, even fasting during Lent. He made a decision to combat COVID.  The exercise journey began with lifting weights and spending an hour each night on the treadmill. In an effort to share this wellness plan, several friends and supporters joined in and worked out on their treadmills at the same time, or just exercised without the aid of any special equipment. The Shaun T sessions were added for a more intense exercise option. Jones played music to add to the experience; gospel, country, rock and jazz, sometimes getting kicked off by Facebook. Named by supporters as DJPJ (Divine Journey, Pastor Jones) with a bullet, he rocked and he ran.

 “It was my ‘shero’ Lisa Nelson who was my real encourager,” said Jones. “While she was suffering with major health issues, she would get on her treadmill and walk for the cause of good health. 

“Originally, this was planned to be a 40 day exercise experience, but after the first 40 days, my shero suggested that we do 40 more and we continued.” Another supporter, a marathon runner, Lisa Pointer also added to the challenge. “With that kind of support and challenge, for me, it was on, “said Jones.

“Lisa Nelson transitioned during this year, so our exercise sessions were dedicated to her,” said Jones. 

The goal of the exercise was to develop a healthier lifestyle. All the underlying conditions of high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, heart problems, and other medical issues can contribute to a weakened immune system and lowered ability to fight off COVID. “Without the vaccinations, there were many who were highly susceptible to the virus; however, a healthy system helped to provide a fighting chance. We were able to breathe,” said the dynamic pastor.

The workouts took place despite the busy lifestyle of this energetic pastor. When he was out of town, he still found a way to do his workouts. Texas, Georgia, and California were all a part of this COVID war journey. Even after an automobile accident, he exercised. He missed only one day of exercising, due to family illness, during the entire year.

When Pastor Jones began this exercise trek, he was simply trying to lose quarantine weight and develop a healthier lifestyle to fight COVID and its underlying issues. Little did he realize that by July 4, 2021, vaccinations would be in effect and drastically reduce the number of deaths from COVID. There have been more than 600,000 deaths in the U. S.; in Davidson County, there were more than 950 deaths as of June 15, 2021. To-date, the state of Tennessee has vaccinated more than 30 percent of its total population.

One year ago, this anointed man of God may not have known how impactful his plan would be, or that by July 4,2021, more than 150 million U. S. citizens would be vaccinated, prompting the CDC to revise masking guidelines. Furthermore, public places have been allowed to re-open, and churches can now welcome members again. Fairfield never closed, however strict COVID guidelines were followed.

Though COVID may not have been completely cured, who knows what Pastor Jones’ commitment may have contributed to the effort to control it, as well as serving as a model to eat better, exercise, drink more water, and have a positive mental attitude.

“We are doing this to have healthier lifestyles. If it isn’t COVID, it’s something else,” said Jones. “We have to prepare our bodies to be strong, both mentally and physically to fight the challenges to our system.”

Jones ends each workout with these words: “We are from the Head and not the Tail, Above and Not Beneath. Love your Neighbor as you love yourself.”