It was the month of June in the year of 1931 that Sister Zora Miller, a missionary from Deerfield Beach, Florida, came to Salerno because she had a burden for souls. Sister Miller had never heard about Salerno until it came to her through a vision from God. “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Being obedient to the Holy Spirit, Sister Miller and her husband, Brother George Miller a faithful deacon of the Church of God, Deerfield Beach, Florida, set out in search of Salerno. When they arrived at Salerno, crossing the railroad, she saw a vacant house and said to her husband, “That will be the Church of God; I saw it in my vision.”
The very first person that they met was Sister Margaret Poitier McKinney. What a surprise! She was not a stranger because Sister McKinney’s mother, Ruth Poitier and her brothers Hartman and H.G. Poitier along with her many other relatives lived in Deerfield Beach. Brother and Sister McKinney opened their doors to this missionary. Their home became a headquarters for Evangelist Miller and assistants.
Missionary Miller began her crusade for souls by having street meetings and house to house visitations. Before the week was over, she sent back to get two young girls, Winifred Thompson and Catherine McDonald. These dedicated ladies helped with the ministry. Later, Deacon Jeremiah Cox and Bishop H.G. Poitier joined her ministry followed by saints from Deerfield, Delray, and Jensen Beach. The fight for souls was on.
Souls began to come to Christ. Sister Anna Mackey was the first person to accept the Lord as her personal Savior. Satan became very angry and he sought to use every means available to hinder God’s work. “If God is for us who can be against us,” was the attitude of the saints. Some citizens of Salerno were against the organization of a church. Sheriff McGee and the mayor came to see the Evangelist and threatened to put her in jail if the noise did not cease. The Evangelist told them that this was God’s work and she could not stop. She would just have to be jailed. Brother Isaac Mackey said that he would go to jail with her. When the Evangelist began to talk with the Sheriff his mouth opened automatically and she could look “part way” down his throat. When he was finally able to close his mouth, he left. The people of God won another round.
The church was set in order by Bishop H.G. Poitier. The first baptism was held on Jupiter Island. Evangelist W.S. Bow preached the baptism message, entitled, “Who Will Go to Bring the King Back Home?”
The church went to the District Convention in Miami. Reverend F.A. Spence was sent to pastor the church.
God’s people decided to build a building in which to worship. Of course, the devil was ready to attack as always. Some Port Salerno citizens started circulating a petition to prohibit the constructing of a church building. Sister McKinney heard of their plans and told Brother Jesse Anderson. Brother Anderson being led by the Holy Spirit of God knew that the best thing to do was to secure a building permit before the petition could be filed. Sister McKinney gave Brother Anderson one dollar ($1.00) to purchase the permit. He went to Mrs. Witfield, the City Clerk and purchased the permit for twenty-five cents. It was customary for the board to meet before issuing a building permit but Brother Anderson was given the permit that very day. The board finally met, the citizens’ petition was there, but the permit had already been granted. The petitioners could only say, “That Jesse Anderson!”
Brother Anderson served as a business manager for the group. He was somewhat younger than the rest, extremely active and kept things moving. Satan lost another round; however, he used another tactic that is the building would have to be started by a certain period of time.
These were the years of Depression; there was no work and no money. People were on welfare; however, God stepped in and labor and materials were donated freely. All the brothers and sisters in the church worked hard and well together to complete the twenty by thirty feet building. The building was dedicated by Bishop George Wallace. Bishop Elijah Johnson delivered the dedicatory sermon.
Verbal account contributed by the late Bishop Jesse H. Anderson, Sr. and the late Mother Anna E. Mackey
Recorded and written by Mrs. Marian M. Carpenter (updated and rewritten for the website by Chandler M. Josie)
Fourteen (14) ministers presided pastorally before our current pastor. Bishop F.A. Spence, Bishop Wallace, Bishop Solomon Mackey, Reverend Harold Wells, Reverend Alfred Minus, Reverend George Adderly, Reverend J. H. Woodside, Reverend Malachi Dean, Bishop James Campbell, Reverend Knowles, Reverend Rueben M. Hanna, Reverend Leroy Saunders, and Reverend Milton Russell, Reverend Samuel T. Grant.
Three pastors were sent out from this church before they were called from labor to rest; Reverend Melvin McKinney, Bishop Jesse Anderson Sr. and Reverend H. P. Thompson.
The state of Florida Church of God, Cocoa Office, has two ministers as pastors that have their background with the Port Salerno Church of God; Bishop John Thorne (Wabasso Church of God), and Bishop Timothy McGahee (Sebring Church of God).