By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
ZENORIA – Twenty-one months after a historic flood destroyed the facilities of Zenoria Baptist Church, a new day has come for the congregation.
Nine feet of water from the Little River submerged the campus, March 11, 2016, and members dedicated a new worship center and education space exactly one year later. Now they have to build again, this time to expand because of growth, primarily from baptisms.
The congregation has baptized four new believers, so far, this year, growing to 41 persons who faithfully take part in Sunday morning service, and they sense more are on the way.
Pastor Joel Johnson told the Baptist Message expanded facilities are needed to expand the congregation’s ministries. Two Sunday school classrooms are being built, and the fellowship hall is being “up-sized,” with plans to build a cooking shed as well.
Johnson said despite the tragedy of the flood, many good things have resulted, especially with regard to the love expressed to this small community of believers, just 10 miles outside of Jena.
When the congregation decided not to “close the doors” after the flood, the Jena Band of Choctaws offered them a temporary meeting place.
Others in the community, including the churches of the LaSalle Baptist Association, pitched in and were joined in the rebuilding project by individuals and groups as far away as California and Michigan – donating labor, money and supplies.
“It’s just been a blessing for the last year-and-a-half to see all of what God can do with things that most of us think are impossible,” Johnson said. “God can take a situation where it seems there’s no way for something to be built and allow for it to be built — if you just have the faith to let God do it.
“I would call it a giant miracle,” he continued. “I think it’s one of God’s miracles that He is able to take people’s hearts and change their point of view from looking at the material possessions to looking what God can do with your material possessions.”
Johnson said his congregation has responded to God’s favor and the support from the community by engaging in ministry, such as hosting 58 hunters for a wild game supper and hosting a fall festival for the families in the area.
“What we’re trying to do is attract people who are on the margin, who are not regular church goers and have a need for salvation, and, a need for fellowship and are open to Christians,” Johnson said. “These additions to our facility will really enhance everything we do as a church and as the family of God in the Zenoria community.”