By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
NEW ORLEANS – Four months after an EF-3 tornado heavily damaged Suburban Baptist Church, the congregation assembled Sunday, June 11, for the first gathering on its campus since the storm.
The message to the community during this block party was strong – the members have not given up and plan to return to full ministry in the neighborhood when their facilities are rebuilt.
REUNITING & RENEWING
Many of the congregants who showed up shared moments of laughter and a few thankful tears about how far God had taken them since the tornado destroyed the worship center and damaged two other buildings, Feb. 7.
Myiah Scott, who joined the church a year after Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on the facilities in August 2005, said at first it was discouraging when she saw news footage of the damage. But, like other members, Scott knew giving up was not an option.
“When a lot of the church seemed to be gone, we felt at first that we had nowhere to go and a piece of us was gone,” she said. “This is the place we go to pray, to praise God with our songs and to have a good time. But God reminded me that our church is more than a building.
“I feel like God wants us to rebuild,” she continued. “This is showing how strong of a bond we members have and that is a great witness to the community. Now, when I pass by the church, it makes me happy in a sense because of what our future is like and the help from others we don’t even know are stepping in to help, like these young people who have come to help us this week.”
MORE THAN DISASTER RELIEF
More than 150 students and senior adults from Hunter Street Baptist Church in Hoover, Ala., coordinated the block party, complete with the usual fare of food, games and music.
The next day and much of the remaining the week, they cleared out debris, put up drywall, painted rooms and completed other jobs to help
repair an education space and prepare a new place to worship (in an existing structure) for the 80 members who regularly attend Sunday morning services.
Until then, the congregation will continue worshiping at the New Orleans Baptist Association offices, nearly 8 miles northwest of its campus.
Pastor Jeffery Friend said with the help of others, they have not missed a worship service as a church family and are thankful for the help of Hunter Street Baptist and about 100 other churches who have volunteered their time and financial resources to help with the rebuilding effort.
“It’s a miracle we didn’t have to go without meeting for a single Sunday,” Friend said. “It amazes me that people showed up onsite to do the work, the exact work I needed to be done. God preplanned and pre-trained individuals to work in the situation that was predestined to happen so I don’t have to worry about if it wasn’t going to happen. I just wondered who.
“We always preach and teach ‘anyway you bless me Lord I’ll be satisfied’ and then when something happens, we panic,” he continued. “I chose not to panic because I realized the Lord told me, ‘Though you have no insurance, you have assurance in me,” and I found peace and comfort in that.”
Helping churches like Suburban Baptist overcome adversity is what has inspired Millie McMeekin to return to the city to do mission work for the 15th time.
“Every time I come, I find someone to help, and it makes me realize how blessed I am,” said McMeekin, a high school junior from Hunter Street Baptist. “They have gotten hit time after time, and yet they come back. They need to know Jesus is love and not give up. Giving up a week to help shows them it’s important to us.”
Zach Dauwer, a senior from Hunter Street Baptist, said coming to help with the rebuild at Suburban Baptist is fulfilling what God has commanded of all Christians.
“I just like to help those in need and serve others like the Lord has called us to do,” he said. “All of us have different talents and skills that we can use for Jesus.”
While various mission teams are scheduled to continue working on the Suburban Baptist rebuild, even more volunteer crews are still needed to help complete the project.
Louisiana Baptists Church Builder Strategist Robert Woods said if enough people come and help, the congregation could move back into their facilities by September.
“Our brothers in Christ need help to get their building back to where they can meet,” Woods said. “The quicker they can get back in the better. Throughout the time teams have worked here it’s been a great outreach to the community and shows their neighbors Christ’s love in action.”
For more information on how you can get involved in the rebuild at Suburban Baptist, contact Woods at email@example.com. To donate equipment or supplies, contact Friend at friendJeffery1@msn.com, but please send financial gifts to 4534 Hauck Drive, New Orleans, LA 70127, or, 2222 Lakeshore Drive, New Orleans, LA 70122.