By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
METAIRIE – Fewer than 24 hours passed between Odalys Wright saying, “I do,” to marry her husband, Zachary, and her announcing, “I do” to become a child of God, April 8, at Restoration Church in Metairie.
Wright made the decision to get married and follow through with baptism upon the urging of Pastor Dean Ross not long after she began attending Restoration Church. Celebrating her love in Christ the day after displaying her commitment to her husband seemed like perfect timing, Wright said about the two God-honoring commemorations.
“Zachary and I have been through some hard times together, but through them the Lord has brought us closer together and more in tune with Him,” Wright said. “When I talked to our pastor about getting baptized, he suggested that going through with my baptism the day after our wedding would be a great thing.
“Once Dean brought me in and out of the water, my friends and family cheered,” she continued. “They celebrated God’s impact in my life.
“God’s fingerprints are all over that whole weekend, and what led up to it,” she shared.
A survivor of Hurricane Katrina that made landfall in New Orleans 13 years ago, Wright spent several years working multiple jobs at once, during a time of multiple moves from city to city. When the opportunity arose to return to the New Orleans area in 2007, Wright experienced a fresh start in her hometown.
Then, in the fall of 2017 following Zachary’s repentance to return to the Lord, Wright made the decision to put her faith in Christ.
“I wound up seeing what the Lord did for him, and I said I needed to do this, too,” Wright said. “I felt like the Lord puts people in your life to bring you closer to Him.”
Shortly afterward, Wright moved from being a casual attender of Restoration Church to a faithful participant in worship services and small group Bible studies, and her prayer life became more consistent.
Meanwhile, her relationship with Zachary also went to a deeper spiritual level.
“It’s been quite a journey that has brought me peace and joy unlike any other time in my life,” she told the Baptist Message.
Ross said Wright’s memorable weekend is representative of how God has moved among the whole congregation.
“I had spoken to them many times about marriage and was pleased to hear a few weeks ago they wanted to get married and after further discussion she decided to make her newfound faith public through baptism,” Ross recalled. “Conveniently that happened in the same weekend. God is good.”
Wright is one of 29 people baptized since Restoration Church launched as a replant of Lakeside Baptist Church in December 2013. Ross said on a typical Sunday, one in every three people sitting in their worship center has been baptized at the church.
MISSION TO SHARE
Restoration Church has built itself around a mission of the studying the Bible, praying and sharing the Gospel in the community.
One way the members accomplish this is through capitalizing on events in the New Orleans area, drawing around 150 people at its largest events.
At its “Kickoff Sunday,” celebrated on the first weekend of the NFL regular season, the church hosts a worship service and afterwards airs the Saints game on a big screen.
During Mardi Gras season, the church holds a “Restoration Fest” which attracts parade goers to enjoy snow balls, hot dogs, music and other block party festivities, just prior to the Krewe of Napoleon parade.
“We have really utilized celebration events,” Ross said. “New Orleans throws a lot of parties, so we have committed ourselves to redeeming that party mentality and use it as a way to party in a good way for Jesus.”
MISSION TO DISCIPLE
Ross admits revitalization is not tailored for all pastors. When he was called to replant Lakeside Baptist Church, the congregation had dwindled to just a handful of worshippers. Ross’ three children were the only kids in the entire church the first Sunday they became Restoration Church. By early May, they had more than 15 come on a Sunday morning.
“Our idea was let’s build a church that reaches and engages families in Metairie,” Ross said. “If you want to turn a tide of generations, you have to have families dedicated to raising up new generations for Christ.
“We have dedicated ourselves to reaching generations,” he continued. “We are beginning to stabilize as a church to reach families. We are on the cusp of taking it to the next level as we reach and disciple families. God has blessed us in our ministries of reaching children and their parents.”
Families not only worship together on Sunday mornings, but join others in participating in small group Bible studies. Meeting places include the church, coffee shops, homes and other locations. Outside of small groups, members engage in one-on-one discipleship.
“During the week we have Restoration groups meet where we eat, work and play,” he said. “We get people together each week to read their Bibles, pray and share their faith together.
“Our two sweet spots are celebration events and families,” he continued. “We know our niche. The Great Commission is the Great Commission. The great commandment is the great commandment. We live in light of what Christ has commanded us to do.”