An answer to a cry for help

Oct 16, 2020

Anthony Cox

“It’s a humbling thing to cry out for help, but the Lord made us to need Him and need others,” says Anthony Cox, pastor of Mercy Hill Church in central Phoenix. “It’s [also] a great blessing to be able to cry out for help when you’re in need.”

Since last gathering for worship in person in mid-March, Mercy Hill has sought help and received financial grants from Arizona Southern Baptists’ Helping Churches in Crisis Fund on two occasions. The fund, which is the single focus of this year’s Arizona Mission Offering, was created to help churches struggling financially because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Mercy Hill is a multiethnic church that is also diverse socioeconomically. With an anticipated re-opening date of September 6, Cox offers three reasons why Mercy Hill did not hold Sunday morning worship services in person for almost six months:

Love for one another. “We have a lot of vulnerable families with compromised immune systems [and] we serve some of the homeless population in the area, [including] some that don’t have access to proper hygiene,” Cox says.

Wisdom. Mercy Hill looked at what other downtown churches were doing and followed their lead.

Witness. “Being in the heart of the city, where it’s very dense and diverse, has really prohibited us from gathering together because we want to be responsible,” Cox says.

The decision came with a cost, though. Mercy Hill had just begun providing the opportunity for church members to give online in January. A third to a half of all of the offerings are given in cash or checks, Cox says.

Although in-person Sunday morning worship had been canceled, some ministries — including affordable housing owned by the church and a Hope for Addiction ministry –continued, and summer brought high utility bills and broken air conditioning units. The ongoing financial needs coupled with the diminished income from offerings created a deficit.

With the help of the two grants, though, “we’re still sustaining financially,” Cox says. “Our people are encouraged, and discipleship is still taking place. People are getting saved, and there are really cool things that are happening despite the fact that we’re not gathering.”

Before the pandemic, the church had a weekly food distribution through its Mercy Ministries that served 350-500 families every Tuesday morning.

Instead of having a centralized ministry, Cox says, “we deployed our church members to be outposts for Mercy Ministries. We collected food and resources from partners in the area and had church members and other volunteers come gather food, prepare boxes and then take them to their homes. We had to deploy Mercy Ministries to where our people are, and that was in their neighborhoods and workplaces.”

Mercy Ministries, which relies on the labor of volunteers, was able to reopen on site in late August.

As the ministry at Mercy Hill continues, Cox is grateful for the generosity of Arizona Southern Baptists.

“Arizona Southern Baptist churches are a convention of churches, and we’re all in this together,” Cox says. “We’re all in kind of a different boat, but we’re weathering the same storm. We can link arms even through difficult times, and, through sacrificial giving and the generosity of local churches, we can continue on with the mission.”

You can help churches struggling financially because of the pandemic continue with the mission as you give to the Arizona Mission Offering through your church or online at azsbc.org/helping-churches-in-crisis/. The form to apply for a grant is also available on this page.

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