By Message Staff
NEW ORLEANS – Preaching for the first time since a Feb. 7 tornado destroyed his church building, Jeffery Friend said that God promises that when trouble comes, trusting in Christ is essential for being a shining light.
“When trouble comes and since trouble has come, I ask you to do what Job did in chapter 13,” said Friend from the pulpit at Gentilly Baptist Church. “I ask you to trust in the Lord.”
An EF3 tornado – the strongest ever recorded in New Orleans – destroyed Suburban Baptist Church, along with severely damaging homes of many of its members, including Friend and his wife, Stephanie. While Friend is unsure of when his congregation might gather again in its damaged building, he knows the church, damaged during Katrina and managed to come back, can do so again.
For Friend knows what seems impossible to man is more than doable for God – giving hope to the hopeless — which also happens to be the mission statement of Suburban Baptist Church. Until the church is rebuilt, they will continue to meet at Gentilly Baptist Church.
“I’m going to have to give up my salary until we get healthy enough to function financially,” Friend told the Baptist Message Sunday evening.
“When you don’t have a secure place to Worship it is difficult to maintain consistent giving to afford to pay anyone,” he said. “It is going to be hard but it is something I must do. God will see us through this, he always has.”
Stephanie Friend added they have been overwhelmed by the help they’ve received from so many.
“The numbers increase every day,” she said. “We serve the Body of Christ simply because it is what we are called to do. We never expect recognition or reward.
“God is faithful and He has rallied an army of servants who love us to help us recover,” she continued. “We are joyful because we know that no matter what, God is sovereign in all things. Suburban is His church, and her future is in His hands. He has allowed this to happen and He will restore His church to be even greater. I don’t know what greater looks like, but I am excited to see His plan for us revealed.”
Ken Taylor, pastor of Gentilly Baptist Church, said he was more than willing to allow Friend and his congregation the opportunity to worship inside the facility. Friend brought his message during the worship service of Bethel Community Church, which is meeting inside Gentilly Baptist Church.
Taylor was pastor of Elysian Fields Avenue Baptist Church, which was unable to meet for five months after Hurricane Katrina. They eventually merged with Gentilly Baptist Church in February 2007.
“I remember what it was like to be buildingless,” Taylor said. “Doing so helps you realize truly the church is not the building.
“Jeffrey is an encourager and everyone was moved by his strong testimony,” he continued. “God showed up from the beginning baptismal service of 15 from Bethel until the Suburban worship leader closed out the service with ‘How Great Is Our God.’”