MERCYhouse had its first public worship service on Sunday September 12th 1999. One of the Umass students that attended that first worship service was Jessica Sachs. Jessica grew up going to New Colony Baptist Church in Billerica, MA. She loved Jesus and came to Umass ready to be on mission with Him. She joined Cru Campus Ministry and plunged into her academics, campus ministry, and social life. She was full of life and impacted many people with her infectious smile and intensity about everything.
When MERCYhouse was started, she was one of the few students that knew we were coming. Because her church is in the same denomination as MERCYhouse, she knew of the hopes and dreams for a future church plant and prayed that God would raise up a church planting team to plant a church in Amherst. When we arrived, she greeted us with much enthusiasm. Even though she was in the middle of a really busy senior year as a busness major, she always found time to help out with every event, every tabling, every worship service. She was one of the founding members of our church. Those of you who have attended MERCYhouse are who currently attend, in some way, owe a debt of gratitude to Jessica for her tireless service during the early days when we were only about 20 people meeting in the basement of the Jones Library.
We remember Jessica today because she was killed in one of the planes that hit the two towers on 911. She had graduated from Umass and was working in Boston for an accounting firm. That day she was on a business trip from Boston to LA and the unthinkable happened. We were devastated. Our church was mostly undergrads at the time and many of them hadn't even attended a funeral before much less gone through the tragic death of a close friend.
As we grieved, we also saw God at work in the midst of this horrible tragedy. We had memorial services here in Amherst and in Billerica. Both services were attended by many who were not Christians, even some of the members of the media. After the Billerica service, we were approached by one of the news correspondants and asked why the service had been so joyful? She had been to several funerals for other victims of the tragedy and noticed a marked difference in the way people were grieving yet maintaining a joy in the salvation that comes from Jesus.
The other thing that happened, was a financial blessing for MERCYhouse. The Sachs family graciously asked that donations given in Jessica's memory be given to MERCYhouse. Over the next year we received checks from all over the United States from people that neither we nor the Sachs knew. The result was a sum of $45,000 that we put away in the bank in hopes of using it for the purchase of property. A few years later, I stood in our facility on North Pleasant looking at the building with a local realtor. I asked him what we'd need to do to take the first step in purchasing the building. His answer? Put down earnest money to the tune of $45,000. We just so happened to have that.
Thank you Jessica. We love you and are grateful for your service to Christ and how it impacted so many. A legacy that continues to impact lives today.