Quillian Mercer, pastor of North Salem Baptist Church in Port Wentworth, manages Boston Butts on May 4. RACHAEL MERCER/Special
By Rachael J. Mercer
PORT WENTWORTH — On March 17 Pastor Quillian Mercer, known affectionately as “Brother Q,” started his day by firing up the smoker typically reserved for homecoming and other church workday meals. By day’s end, Boston Butts and chicken had been distributed at no cost to families who, at the onset of this global pandemic, already found themselves in need of a free meal.
This is just one of the outreach ministries that North Salem Baptist Church, located on Highway 30 near the Effingham-Chatham County line, has undertaken during its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over 1,100 pounds of smoked meat later, the people and church at North Salem are making a difference in the community one meal at a time.
“I knew that not a lot of people had already begun to feel the financial hardships that were going to get worse,” said Mercer. “Smoking meats to give away gave me a way to minister at a time when I could no longer go visit with families or look forward to having members come to our church during the week for worship.”
North Salem has hosted all its weekly services – those on Sunday morning and Wednesday evening – through Facebook Live since Wednesday, March 18 and does not have a concrete plan in place for returning to in-person gatherings.
Since the first week of the “Tuesday smoking,” members of the church have graciously donated raw frozen meats or cash that would continue this weekly ministry. The recipients of the free smoked meats, which have ranged from chicken to turkey, pork to fish to beef and more, never have to do anything other than say they have a need. No membership in the church is required; no payment is accepted.
Delivering smoked meats to first responders
Many in the community have received the smoked meats prepared by Mercer. That includes a family who lost their home in a fire during quarantine, families who have parents facing layoffs and furloughs, and those whose health places them at higher risk for shopping in public. Three times food has been donated to the Truetlen House at New Ebenezer. Meats have also been given to a Savannah Fire Department station.
Recently during Police Officer Appreciation Week, Mercer started the smoking process just as the sun broke over the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge a few miles east of the church. The goal was to smoke and cook the meat adequately before delivery at suppertime. With help from a few North Salem members, 50 plates of pulled pork, green beans, potato salad, rolls and dessert were provided and delivered to the Port Wentworth Police Department.
The remaining meat from the May 12th meat smoking, which included over 50 pounds of chicken and 90 pounds of pork, was distributed to families of law enforcement officers as a way to thank these essential employees and their families for the sacrifices they make daily.
Mercer intends to continue smoking meats on a weekly basis until the restrictions on movement and seclusion are lifted for all individuals in the state of Georgia, he says. And, as forecasters continue to eye the future while talking about an impending second wave, Mercer states that he plans to continue smoking meats to give away anytime the need exists to serve those in our community.
Anyone who would like to contribute toward the meats, seasonings, or necessary supplies can learn more about how to give at the church’s Facebook site or by calling Mercer at (912) 777-9382 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, if you need meat or know of a family struggling to make their ends meet, please contact him to learn how you can pick up some free meat to give them.