By Marnita Coleman,
Special to the AFRO
Ranked in the top 10 best places to live for families, the City of Gaithersburg, Md. is known for great neighborhoods and good people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds that play, work and worship together in schools, businesses and churches throughout the town.
One church, Mercy Seat Chapel, has witnessed how the unique population of Gaithersburg residents work together firsthand.
“We have this great diversity of nationalities coming into the church,” said Mercy Seat Chapel Pastor Olakunle Olarinde of his Gaithersburg’s congregation. “We have Kenyans, Liberians, Syrians, Nigerians, Panamanians, Americans, and almost 13 nations. The uniqueness of that diversity is the love that binds that diversity together.”
Mercy Seat Chapel is one of thousands of parishes in North America emanating from the Redeemed Christian Church of God, or RCCG, a Nigerian megachurch founded in Lagos. RCCG as it is commonly known has 9,000,000 members and 50,000 parishes in 197 countries and territories.
About 25 years ago, Olarinde and his wife migrated from Nigeria to the United States looking for a better life for themselves and the generations that followed. As Christians, they felt God leading them to the United States not knowing the big picture. Olarinde holds one master’s degree in sociology and another in industrial and labor relations. His wife has a bachelor’s degree in economics. Though they were both well educated when they arrived in America, they took work as a security guard and a nursing assistant.
Olarinde said they took the entry-level jobs “to get ahead,” while they worked towards fulfilling their true future destiny.
“It’s important for us Christians to know that there are times in our lives that we must entertain that principle: do whatever it takes in a Godly manner before God raises us up.”
Arriving in Mount Pleasant, Mich., they stayed with a friend for a month. Then the two traveled onto Rhode Island before landing in Maryland. Riding down Interstate 295 from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, God confirmed that Maryland was the place He wanted them. Once settled, they joined the local church and started serving. His wife was in the music ministry and served as a minister. From there they received the call to go to Gaithersburg.
“I didn’t want to be a pastor. I just wanted to serve God’s people because I knew that one of the greatest things that Christ Himself did was to leave everything in heaven and serve.” said Olarinde, “but God orchestrated it. The current pastor was transitioning out, so the church was not functioning, it was just there by name. There were only two to three families there, and we started with them.”
Soon, Olarinde was named pastor of the parish.
During the pandemic, God directed Pastor Olarinde and Mercy Seat Chapel congregants to use the time as a fresh start. It was a time of retooling, fixing, focusing more on God and the things that are beneficial to His Kingdom– to know what was important and what was no longer important in their lives.
Mercy Seat Chapel already had a vibrant virtual ministry, and increased its Bible studies and prayer meetings online, which caught the attention of viewers from Europe and other regions.
The congregants believe in giving to the least in the community and have diverse ways in which they do it. They serve the elderly in Montgomery County, Md., providing food and music to lift their spirits. Through their Thanksgiving turkey drive 300 to 500 turkeys were given out in the community. At Christmas, they distribute money and toys to families in local neighborhoods. They give to orphanages in Africa and have been a financial support to the Ukrainian people during their conflict with Russia.
Through collaboration with the Montgomery County government, people in need are referred to Mercy Seat Chapel for assistance with paying their electricity bill, water bill or receiving food.
“They direct those in need to us on a constant basis, and the church takes care of the need,” Olarinde said.
Olarinde wants everyone to know that, “we are one in Christ,” adding that “regardless of nationality or culture, there’s quality friendship, and lasting relationships that emerge from coming together every Sunday.”
“I have seen people coming to our church lonely and within one, or two years, they have formed bonds with people that have different languages, and different cultures,” said Olarinde. “That’s the love that we all must show to one another. Whether you are Black, White, or Hispanic, wherever you are there’s a new culture that binds us together, and that is what we try to do: celebrate our diversity through the culture of love in Christ. It binds us together, and brings love in our midst.”
To find out more about Mercy Seat Chapel, visit MercySeatChapel.org.
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