A Year in Review: Unity in Christ

A Year in Review: Unity in Christ
A Year in Review: Unity in Christ

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In COVID Epicenter, A Multicultural Church Celebrates Unity in Christ

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Pamela Barahona-Carroll

This story first ran in Issue 84, Summer 2020, of Calvary Chapel Magazine.

Near the epicenter of New York’s COVID-19 outbreak, multicultural church Calvary Chapel of Grace and Truth (CCOGT) gathered at a drive-in service to celebrate the justice and peace that Christ offers to all through salvation. Perched in the back of a pickup truck, Pastor Johnny Zacchio stretched out his arms in welcome to the enthusiastic crowd of nearly 200 people gathered in Yonkers.

“Today I want to share about a man who was falsely accused and wrongfully arrested; He was brutally beaten and eventually murdered at the hands of the very authorities who were supposed to uphold the law and justice,” Pastor Johnny began soberly. “The man I speak of is Jesus Christ, who died a gruesome death on the cross for something He didn’t do. This was the greatest injustice in all of humanity. Because Jesus Christ alone is the only person who walked this earth who is absolutely innocent, sinless, and righteous. Yet He willingly laid down His life for the sake of you and me, because of His great love for us.” A chorus of honking horns, high beams, and hallelujahs responded.

Couple with masks sitting in lawn chairs

Members of Calvary Chapel of Grace and Truth in Yonkers, NY, return to in-person church at a drive-in service.

“In this fallen world with fallen people and an imperfect judicial system, we may never get true justice. But we can take heart that with our just God, one day every wrong will be made right, and we will have true justice at last. There is a time and a place for peaceful protests where people can make their voices heard. But not at the expense of the Gospel.” Cheers and honks sounded as Johnny continued, “Jesus alone is the Prince of Peace, the only one who offers true and abiding peace. On the cross, He paid the price we owed to bring justice to a lost and dying world—to right every wrong, and to make forgiveness, reconciliation, and love possible and attainable, not only between God and man but also towards one another.”

Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. 2 Corinthians 5:16a

Citing the above verse, Johnny expounded, “As followers of Jesus Christ, when we see one another, we don’t see the flesh [but] the spirit-man. We look at each other not according to our race or age or social or economic status. When I look out at our congregation, I am overjoyed, privileged, honored, and humbled to be the undershepherd of a multicultural, multiethnic body of believers.” Pastor Johnny paused, chuckling, to let the thunderous, joyous applause of car horns and shouted Amens subside from the gathering of African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Caucasians, and other ethnicities.

Pastor Johnny preaching

Pastor Johnny Zacchio preaches to his outdoor audience in Yonkers. Many in their cars responded with honks and flashing headlights. “Jesus alone is the Prince of Peace, the only one who offers true and abiding peace,” he reminded his multiethnic, multiracial fellowship.

Pastor Johnny concluded, “Let’s seek unity; let’s seek peace. We as Christ followers know justice, and because of that we know peace.” He invited anyone who wanted to receive Christ to come forward. “He will not turn you away. It doesn’t matter what your sin looks like or what you’re involved in, if you’re willing to ask Him to forgive you, He is willing to forgive you.”

Yasmin, a first-time visitor, bolted from a car and walked purposefully to the front. Pastor Johnny led her in a prayer of repentance and salvation. As the group took communion, Assistant Pastor Bob Allbee encouraged Yasmin and gave her a new believer’s workbook. Yasmin related that she had gone to church as a girl but never opened her heart to Christ. Bob encouraged her: “Those seeds got sown, and now they were watered, and you came to Him by your own choice today.” She began to cry, nodding and smiling. His eyes also misting, Bob exclaimed, “The angels in heaven are cheering right now. This is a glorious day for you.” He and Pastor Johnny encouraged her to read the Bible and grow closer to God.

Visiting those in their cars, Pastor Johnny approached Laurie and her mother. He had seen her on occasion before the pandemic. “It’s so great to see you, Laurie. I encourage you to come back to church and keep coming,” he suggested. Sensing the Spirit leading, he added, “It doesn’t matter where we’ve been; it’s just about what the Lord is doing in your heart right now.”

Drone shot of parking lot

The Yonkers, NY, fellowship was near the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cars remained socially distanced.

Laurie began to weep and said, “I wanted to go up [to receive Christ] but I was scared. I need to receive Jesus as my Savior. Will you pray for me?” Pastor Johnny led her in a prayer to accept Jesus.

CCOGT met online for nearly three months, but Pastor Johnny sensed God leading him to gather the flock together again. “Being near the epicenter, people are so captivated by fear, so afraid to leave their houses,” he said. “I told my leaders I didn’t know if only a few people would show up. It was just amazing—God gave us 7 weeks of perfect weather to meet in the parking lot. We need each other as the body of Christ.” The church has been back inside the building since mid-July, and each week more are coming back along with many new faces.



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All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.