By Norm Miller, Baptist Message special assignments reporter
SULPHUR, La. (LBM)–Despite the double calamities of a hurricane and the coronavirus, Maplewood First Baptist Church is rebounding.
“We’ve been seeing quite a few visitors – new people we’re trying to get to know,” said Pastor Jeremy Blocker.
Some had moved to the area before Hurricane Laura and are now looking for a church home, Blocker told the Baptist Message. “Some of them in these hard times — when things opened back up — they started searching; we’ve tried to help them find Jesus. Worship’s been awesome, and we’re seeing a lot of answers to prayers.”
Blocker said the congregation’s passion for doing ministry never wavered, but “it’s just kind of crazy trying to decide when do we restart and what and how do we restart it.” Such decisions would be easier if the church still had its 13,000 square-foot building that housed its Hope Christian School. Considered irreparable from water damage, all that remains of it after demolition is a concrete slab.
The church likely will not rebuild where the school once stood but is looking to maximize their existing footprint. “We’re not going to rebuild for 1950. We’ll use this as an opportunity to build for the future.”
The issues of available space are compounded with the school now meeting inside the church’s educational facilities. “The things that a church might focus on one at a time – we’re having to focus on all at once,” he said. Blocker said the congregation is discussing how to conduct ongoing children’s ministry while the educational spaces are in use by the school. They also are dealing with architects and vetting general contractors for construction.
Before the hurricane, the church was engaged in a 5-year vision plan.
“Now, we’re looking back at last February’s notes while dealing with new questions related to the virus,” Blocker said. “It’s not a bad thing, it’s just a lot at one time. So, we’re squeezing about five years’ worth of decisions into about 10 months.”
Among the good things to occur, he said, is “We will be better stewards of the space we have; and we’ve gotten a deeper appreciation for sharing.”
Blocker gave serious props to Church Mutual Insurance Company: “The adjuster was here the day after the storm.” Within days the company installed a 500- kilowatt generator with the determination to get the church back to worship. “They’ve been great, absolutely incredible for us. They’ve been awesome from day one.”
“Our immediate need is our people’s desire for fellowship,” Blocker said, noting an upcoming get-together for the church. “Getting back to ‘normal-ish’ includes so many decisions right now. We just need to spend more time together.”