chaun-pinkston-story1.jpgThe Covid-19 pandemic brought the entire world to a halt. Everyday life activities were disturbed, and we all had front row seats to the pain, the discomfort, and the alienation that were consequences of the pandemic. Corporations, hospitals, schools, religious institutions, and families had to establish a new normal. Sadly, many lives were lost, hopes and dreams shattered, and loved ones separated. Seclusion was the viable answer to containing the virus, but for Mercy Community Church, seclusion was not an option. Called to serve God’s beloved community, the unhoused, Mercy Community Church, under the leadership of three amazing pastors, continued in the mission of being the hands and feet of Jesus Christ by demonstrating that God’s love is unrestrained.

Mercy Community Church was my Contextual Education I site, and I like to tell the story as I see it. Before choosing a site, we were asked to read up on each of the Con Ed I sites and then make our selection. However, I decided not to read about the sites before choosing. I asked God to reveal where I should go. I read the list of site names, being careful to pause and listen after saying each one out loud, and when I got to Mercy Community Church, I believed that this was my site!

On my first day, I knew that this was the community I was called to serve, and I was thrilled to be there. The pastors welcomed me with open arms, warm smiles, and loving hearts. The community was diverse and just as welcoming. It was easy to become one with them, and I did.

chaun-pinkston-story2.jpgWhile adhering to Covid guidelines, our church services continued. They were held outside, and masks and gloves were worn while keeping at least six feet apart. Caring for the community looked different, but because love was the driving force, what looked different did not feel different. Providing breakfast and lunch, giving clothing items, and personal services as needed continued. I had the privilege of witnessing how love can reach beyond barriers and cause a community to grow closer when the world around is moving farther apart—only love. Love is unrestrained.

There are many takeaways from my experience at Mercy. However, what will always live in my heart and memory are the personal stories that a few of the community members shared with me. Even now, tears come to my eyes as I think about the beautiful gems these lovely individuals imparted to me. They gave me pieces of their lives that I will treasure. They shared lessons learned from some of the choices they made. We laughed together and even shared joyful tears as our hearts united in hope for the days to come.

I do not consider my time at Mercy as having ended. I am a Mercy Community Church member, and my family and I continue to support this community. This assignment for me was genuinely divine, proving that God's love in us, through us, and for us is unrestrained.