By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
SPRINGFIELD – Nicole Wall and her family have experienced their fair share of tragedy, including damage to their home caused by the 2005 Hurricane Katrina.
But they also have been blessed beyond measure, evidenced most recently when their son, Noah, was baptized seven months after 36 inches of rain damaged their home church, Woodland Baptist Church in Springfield.
The family returned to the area after the record August 2016 flood so they could be a part of the revitalization of the community.
“We are thankful God has allowed us to be a part of the rebuilding process,” Wall said. “For us, because we had already been through a flood back in 2005, we were more burdened for them and wanted to help. It’s been neat being back with family and seeing the community come back up.”
The March 5th baptism of Noah – who publicly professed Christ as Lord last year – signified his rebirth, but also represented something of a renewal for the congregation, where Nicole and her husband were members of the youth group, and, where they were married.
Combined with a string of other baptisms, it is a sign the evangelistic nature of the church is being restored.
Woodland Baptist Church baptized 40 people from September 2015 until the flood hit in August 2016, and averaged 150 in Sunday morning worship services.
But, for six months after the flood the church was in rebuilding mode, trying to recover from the effects of the historic rain event.
Finally, in February, the church turned a corner, with the first of four baptisms since the storm providing a sign of better days ahead.
The congregation also is approaching its pre-flood worship attendance average, now drawing 130 for Sunday services.
Moreover, with help from volunteer groups who have come from in-state, as well as Alabama, Mississippi and Oklahoma, Woodland Baptist is making progress on rebuilding its infrastructure, which when done should help them regain their former strength in numbers – and more.
BACK IN BUSINESS
All of the Sunday school rooms are fully operational, and the fellowship hall and youth building are 85 percent complete, too. Meanwhile, staff offices should be finished in the next couple of months. The congregation has met in the gymnasium since the storm, missing just one Sunday, and members hope by the end of the year to finish remodeling the interior of the worship interior, Joshua Powell told the Baptist Message.
“We are starting to get back up in the right direction,” he said. “God is good. I think in the long run the campus will be nicer than it was before the flood and the Body of Christ stronger.”
Already, Woodland Baptist is looking to get back to reaching the community. Its first big event – an Easter egg hunt – drew 80 people on April 2.
Next month, the congregation will blitz the neighborhood with gifts and prayers, and from June 9-11, the church is hosting an Experiencing God weekend, which will be used to allow people to share testimonies and principles learned from the study in context of God’s favor shown to them in spite of the flood.
Additionally, Vacation Bible School is well on its way in terms of planning and organizing, and, a youth mission trip in on track for the summer.
“A lot of our people are ready to get back to that mode of ministry and outreach,” Powell said. “Woodland has always had that reputation. It’s a sigh of relief and a return to normalcy.”
Reminiscing about the months following the historic flood, Powell said God’s faithfulness has been a lesson learned.
“Even in the midst of situations you can’t imagine, He won’t abandon us,” Powell said. “Before the flood, we were having all these baptisms but then when the flood came, it took the wind out of our sails.
“So many were hit hard in our church,” he continued. “We could either get upset and give up, or we could realize God has a reason for this and He has good things ahead for us. It’s just a matter of being faithful like He is and following and listening.”