ALEXANDRIA – Though members of Parkview Baptist Church Alexandria didn’t wander the desert for 40 years, they certainly can empathize with Moses and the children of Israel.
For almost a year, members were like nomads as they wandered from place to place while awaiting the repair of their campus, which was damaged by floodwaters in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav.
On Sunday, July 19, the congregation of Parkview Baptist returned home 10 months and 19 days after floodwaters forced them out of their facilities and held Sunday services in their newly refurbished worship center, which featured new carpet, pews, lights, and sound system. The restoration cost more than $900,000.
The church plans to have a formal rededication of the facilities and day of celebration on Sept. 20.
“As I look out, I see people in their usual spots. In the year we’ve been gone, I see most of you haven’t forgotten where you sat,” Parkview Pastor David Shaw said. “It’s good to see you as we gather in God’s house this morning.”
The restoration of the campus was divided into two phases.
The first phase called for restoring the fellowship hall and education building, which was completed in the latter part of January.
The second phase called for the restoration of the sanctuary and church offices, which is mostly completed with a few loose ends still needing to be tied up.
“We have tried to make everything on this day as perfect as possible. But as you can see the altar table and the pulpit are not here. They’re somewhere, just not here,” Shaw said, “but they will be here shortly.
“As you may have noticed, we also have a little electrical problem [some of the lights didn’t come on] but you can see and you can hear,” Shaw said.
“It’s like going off to college, and when I returned home,” said longtime Parkview member Jeff Clark, “mom had just moved the furniture around.”
On Sept. 1-2, 2008, Gustav, downgraded to a tropical storm, dumped more than 17 inches of rain on Alexandria, which sent nine to 18 inches of water into the different buildings on Parkview Baptist’s campus.
“The amount of water we had in the buildings varied. Some buildings had nine inches of water while others had as much as 18 inches,” Shaw said. “About the only room that did not get flooded was the kitchen, which is the highest part of our campus. There was no way we could use any of our facilities.”
For the next three months, Parkview’s congregation met in the Memorial Room at the Louisiana Baptist Convention, starting with the Sept. 8 service. In November, services were moved to Horseshoe Drive Baptist Church where the members met until the latter part of January.
“We cannot thank the Baptist Building and Horseshoe Drive Baptist Church enough for their opening of their facilities and hearts to us,” Parkview member Anh Stubbs said. “They were such a blessing to us. By allowing us to use their facilities we had a place to worship our Lord. We were not homeless.”
Shaw agreed, “I don’t know what we would have done without them. We got tremendous support from everyone, and we’re very thankful, very appreciative.”
Despite the celebratory mood Sunday, Shaw tempered the celebration in his message. “We should never lose sight that it was the Lord who gave us this place to call home … to gather as a church family to worship,” Shaw said. “He has given us this beautiful facility to better equip us to serve Him.
“It comes with a warning, though. We should not turn this place into something more than what God has meant for this place. We should not worship the facility, but God who has given us all of this,” Shaw said.
“Parkview is much more than the buildings,” Shaw said. “It is a place where God’s people collectively and individually gather to show other people what it means to love God with all your heart and soul.
“I would like to challenge you as we look forward to a bright future – a new fresh beginning – we must remember that God needs to be the central focus of our efforts at all times,” Shaw told the congregation.
With all of its buildings finally restored, Shaw hopes the tremendous growth cycle the church was experiencing before the flood will resume.
“The flood delayed our growth spurt a bit,” Shaw said. “Despite being displaced for so long we have held our membership. It’s amazing so many stuck it out for this long. We lost a couple of families, but we also gained a couple of families.
“For every door that closes, the Lord opens others,” Shaw said. “All I can say is praise God for what he allowed us to do. We should never forget that God is working, and God is leading. We just need to follow.”