When Superstorm Sandy struck the Northeast last month, it wiped out entire neighborhoods and knocked power out for weeks for hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses. Yet, even as the storm was ripping buildings and power grids apart, something remarkable was also happening. Before the storm had even fully passed, the disaster was working to bring people - even complete strangers - together.
David Mercado pastors Iglesia El Tabernaculo, an Hispanic Assembly of God church of the Spanish Eastern District in Brooklyn, New York. As the destructive portion of Sandy had passed, he made his way from his home to check on the condition of the church. As he drove, he began passing flooded and destroyed cars and buildings along with people numbed by the sheer scale of the calamity.
|After the flood waters subsided, little was left undamaged inside of Iglesia El Tabernaculo in Brooklyn.
When Mercado arrived at the church, things at first appeared to be okay. But it didn't take long for Mercado to realize that although the front of the church remained intact, the winds and floodwaters had greatly damaged three walls and destroyed the interior of the church. The church was a total loss. Though, Mercado would later note, the wall not destroyed was the exterior wall with the cross on it. "The Cross still stands," Mercado said, stating that the power of God is more powerful than any storm.
As reports of AG church damages began making their way back to the AG national offices in Springfield, Ethnic Relations Director Scott Temple caught wind of the destroyed Hispanic church in Brooklyn. Temple, who travels frequently to the East Coast to work with ethnic fellowships and language districts, decided to give his friend, AG Pastor Jan Berkmans, a call.
Although Berkmans' name may lead one to believe he's of Northern European or Scandinavian decent, in fact he's a Russian-speaking African immigrant pastoring Hope of Israel - a Slavic District AG church that ministers to Jewish people.
"When I called Jan, he informed me that his church was spared flood damage as they meet on a second floor of a building," Temple says. "When I asked him about Pastor Mercado and his church, he said he had never heard of either, even though the churches are only about a mile apart. But that isn't surprising as they are from two different language districts."
Temple went on to explain the situation to Berkmans and asked if he would be willing to allow Mercado to use his church to meet, if needed.
"Without a moment of hesitation, Jan said, 'Of course!'" recalls Temple.
Temple provided Berkmans with Mercado's church and home address in order to make contact.
"Thinking back now, about the long and desperate lines of people waiting to get a few gallons of gas," Temple says, reflecting, "I realize now what kind of sacrifice I had asked Jan to make."
Berkmans found Mercado at his home and they drove together to the decimated church, took some pictures and prayed. Berkmans then told a grateful Mercado that his church would be welcome to worship at Hope of Israel.
|(L to r) Jan Berkmans, Scott Temple and David Mercado celebrating their new friendship and God's power to bring good from bad.|
"Jan and his congregation will now meet on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday morning, and David's church will be meeting Friday and Sunday afternoon," Temple shares. "Jan gave David a set of keys to the church and told him, 'mi casa es tu casa (my house is your house)'"
On November 18, Mercado was introduced to the members of Hope of Israel. As Berkmans interpreted for his congregation, Mercado greeted the members, sharing his thankfulness and confidence in God. "I am thankful, above all, to God because our God, like your pastor [Berkmans] says, will turn any negative that happens into something good, something wonderful," Mercado said. "We have no temple [of our own], but we still have Jesus and we still have the joy of the Lord!"
Mercado later shared that in his first service held at Hope of Israel, two people chose to accept Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. "This may be only the beginning of miracles, as God signals His pleasure at seeing a church extend hospitality and welcome to a church with a different language and ethnicity," Temple observed.
"The power and the message of the Cross simply defy the boundaries of man and the power of nature," Mercado says. "God has taken this disaster and created a bond between our churches that no person could ever create and already we're seeing the fruit born from obedience and love."
"We are going to rebuild soon," adds a confident Mercado. "We are going to get help from people and we are going to rebuild in the name of the Lord!"
To give to Sandy Disaster Relief, click this link. Checks may also be sent to: General Council of the Assemblies of God, 1445 N. Boonville Ave., Springfield, MO 65802 and write "Sandy Disaster Relief" in the memo line.