In 1988, Gerald “Jerry” Mercer and his wife, Shirley, walked into the Salvation Army church in Conception Bay South, N.L. Mercer heard the beautiful sounds of the brass band and felt as though he’d come home. Mercer was raised as a Salvationist, but he hadn’t heard those lovely melodies in nearly 40 years.

“A Good Fit”
Mercer was born in Mundy Pond, N.L. His parents were founding members of the Salvation Army corps there, which united with Duckworth Street Corps and is known today as St. John’s West Corps. “When I was six years old, we had church services in our home,” Mercer says. “Then we met in a school until we got our own church building in 1939.”

Mercer enjoyed church as a child, but when he was 17 years old, he wandered away from God. “There was no special reason why I left the church,” he recalls. “It was just one of the things you do when you’re a teenager. All the kids I knew stopped going to church at that age.”

When Mercer was 19, he spotted a beautiful girl in a convenience store. Her name was Shirley, and Mercer asked her for a date. Just four months later, Mercer proposed to Shirley and the couple was married in 1952. They have five sons and one daughter, 15 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Over the next 30 years, the Mercers were busy raising their family. Mercer is a jack of all trades and worked many different jobs, although his favourite was landscaping, and he is also a skilled woodworker.

For a time, they worshipped at Shirley’s church, but when they relocated to a different place, they stopped attending. Then, in 1988, the couple settled in Conception Bay South, N.L. “We didn’t like the crowds, so we decided to move out of the city,” Mercer says.

The Mercers found a church in their new community, but it didn’t seem like a good fit. “As we were driving to our other church, we would drive by The Salvation Army,” Mercer says. “One day, we just decided to give it a try.”

“Meant to Be”
And one try was all it took. “The first time we attended church there, we knew that was where we needed to be,” Mercer says. “Everyone was so kind. I realized I needed God in my life. I needed his forgiveness for my sins. I wanted to return to the faith I was raised with, and Shirley and I knew that this church would be a good place to reconnect with God.”

Over time, Mercer’s faith in God grew and soon he realized he wanted to solidify his commitment and serve God in an important way. In 1990, Mercer was enrolled as a senior soldier. A few years later, he was commissioned as the colour sergeant, a position he proudly held for 13 years. Mercer also served as the property sergeant. “When you’re the property sergeant, you are responsible for anything that needs to be done around the building,” he explains. “And if you can’t do it yourself, you find someone who can.” Mercer loved that post as it allowed him to work outside with his hands.

Today, Mercer still plays an active role in his corps. “For the past 20 years, I have greeted people at the door and welcomed them to our services,” he says. Mercer continues to help out at church wherever he is needed, while Shirley is a member of the home league and community care ministries.

In 1988, God drew Mercer back to himself and back to The Salvation Army. “All it took was one time” he says, “and I knew I’d come home.”

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