Mercy Drive Ministries

by: FOR Orlando

Mercy Drive Ministries is non-profit organization based out of Heart of Mercy Community Church that focuses on the practical needs of the Mercy Drive Community — education, life skills, and spiritual guidance. Mercy Drive often lacks the resources needed for people to thrive, so Mercy Drive Ministries created programs that empower the community. Their goal is to give a hand up, not a handout, to the people that live on and around Mercy Drive. Read Kendra’s story below to learn more about Mercy Drive Ministries.

Childcare Director at Mercy Kids Academy, a part of Mercy Drive Ministries 

Mercy Drive Ministries is a community outreach organization that was born out of Heart of Mercy Community Church. To answer the question, “What is Mercy Drive Ministries?” I think it’s really walking alongside people to help them to achieve something, help them get to the place that God has for them because you can’t do anything by yourself. We’re really here to be a resource to the community and to the families that are here. If you look at the research on the demographics of Mercy Drive, the income is very low, education level is low. And it’s not that people don’t want better, but sometimes they don’t even know where to start. 

This community is a very unchurched community. So the main thing that we’ve tried to do over the years is just to be a consistent presence here. It’s taken a long time to build that kind of trust. But even now, people that have never “been to church” here will say, “Oh yeah, that’s our church.” They feel safe and comfortable with us and around here. Pastor Andrews personally walks through the area weekly so people know him and he develops relationships with people in the community. He develops relationships and connections, so if the church can’t meet a need, we can connect them with somebody that he knows or another agency that we know. It’s something that people know us for now. And through our programs, we’ve connected with families that to this day we still keep in contact with or that come to church on Sunday. 

There was a time when the city actually cut the school bussing from Mercy Drive to the local elementary school. The kids had to walk across Colonial and Old Winter Garden Road to get to school, and during that time, we just so happened to have a bus given to us. So we started taking the kids to school in the morning. They would meet us at the church, we would bring them to school, and then bring them back here after school. But a good portion of the kids didn’t have people coming to pick them up, so they just kind of be hanging out at the church, playing in the front, or following the pastor around. So we decided to start an after-school program. 

Initially, it was total chaos. We had like 40 kids from Kindergarten to 5th grade, and we had to get a portable out in the back to hold everybody. So we did that for seven years and then transitioned into early childcare education, which I now oversee. It’s been interesting to see the impact that we’ve had on the kids and families. Some of them go off to college, but a lot of them are still in the community too. 

Mercy Kids Academy Classroom

We’re also partnering with other organizations for job training and life skill training through Jobs Partnership in Orlando. We’re partnering with the Black Nurses Association to hold a class, and we’re looking at partnering with Valencia as well. So providing both education and resources that help people to get to another level in their lives. 

What we do at Mercy Drive Ministries is not about blessing the less fortunate. It’s really about empowering people and walking alongside them because we know what it’s like to be down. We’ve all been down in our own way. And when you approach it from that mindset, the love is there, the compassion is there, and it allows people to still able to walk in their dignity. Then it’s like, “I’m not looking down on you. I genuinely want to be a blessing and help walk with you as you go through this.” We do it because we wish somebody would’ve walked with us through our hardship. 

When I first came and saw what Mercy Drive Ministries was doing, I was in shock. I visited during the after-school program and had never seen anything like that. I had been out of church for many years, but growing up, you went to church on Sunday, and then you go home. And that was it. There was no outreach. The first time I saw what outreach looked like was here. It was one of the things that blew my mind about God and ministry and what church is supposed to be. I believe it was an influential factor in my accepting Christ. I was like, “This is what God is all about?” I’ve been a part of it ever since. I’ve seen how God has moved, and it’s not our impact. We’ve just said yes. 

The Bible says that the harvest is plenty, but the laborers are few. I think that many times people love the idea of nonprofit work and compassionate ministry and that kind of stuff. They love the idea of it. But the reality with ministry is that there’s no off button. The weight of the work falls on a few people, and that’s true for most non-profits, and sometimes that’s hard. There’s no going home at the end of the day and knowing exactly the impact you made. But sometimes you get a glimpse of it. I ran into a girl last weekend working at Popeyes and she was like, “Miss Kendra! I still have the Bible you gave me!” I got in my car and cried. I don’t even remember that, but she remembered, and she still has that Bible. 

You never know the seeds that you plant. When somebody goes their own way through life, the seed that you’ve planted could be the one thing that keeps their mind on God years later. There’s no way to know how all of this going to play out. But our job is just to obey God, right? “One man plants, one waters, God gives the increase.” It doesn’t say how He’s going to give the increase, it doesn’t say when, but you trust that it’s going to happen. But it’s not in your time and not always in your expectation of how it’s going to turn out. 

Mercy Drive is a hard place, but there are a lot of resilient people here. People look at communities like Mercy Drive and they see the news that there’s another shooting and think they understand what it’s like. But there are a lot of good people here, and a lot of very intelligent people here. I just want people to look for the humanity in people. There’s a story behind everything – every face you see has a story. 

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