On Feb. 7, 2017, an EF-3 tornado ripped apart the worship center and education building of the Suburban Baptist Church in New Orleans.
Suburban Baptist pastor Jeffery Friend was surrounded by new converts who proudly displayed baptism certificates and new Bibles. Friend has baptized nine of his members this year to coincide with a spiritual rebirth the New Orleans congregation has experienced after two years of rebuilding facilities damaged by a tornado.
But in 2019, the congregation has experienced a spiritual rebirth marked by nine baptisms, coinciding with the final repairs to the facilities.
“For the last two years I have been inwardly focused trying to rebuild what was destroyed by the tornado,” pastor Jeffery Friend told the Baptist Message. “God sent a mighty army of volunteers from across the country to rebuild our church and I knew the least we can do was to fill our buildings again for Him.
“People have been inviting others to worship services and the neighborhood has been curious about what was happening as teams came in to rebuild,” he said. “Many folks have known our church’s facilities were destroyed by the tornado. They wanted to see what the progress looked like on the inside. We took advantage of their curiosity and have seen God work in great ways.”
Suburban Baptist Church averaged 200 people in Sunday morning worship before the tornado reduced that number to 30. However, the congregation refused to disband and used the facilities at Gentilly Baptist Church and the New Orleans Baptist Association office, both about 7 miles from Suburban Baptist Church, for services until out-of-state mission teams completed the congregation’s worship center in late July 2017.
The education building was finished in early July 2019.
Pastor Jeffery Friend baptized a young man inside the Suburban Baptist Church worship center.
While Suburban Baptist worship attendance has not reached its pre-tornado level, Friend acknowledged, the congregation has regrown to nearly 120 people.
“This is a restart because nearly everyone left and few have returned,” Friend said. “What God has been doing is not leading most of the former members to come back, but more so got us ready to welcome the new folks into our fellowship.”
The congregation has embraced the importance of reaching their neighborhood with the gospel, Friend noted. The church hosts weekly discipleship groups for men, women and married couples. Some members also visit nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
“Our people are meeting throughout the community and as a teacher, it is always good to see the students doing what they were taught,” he said.
“They are showing me what I was teaching was learned and put into practice,” he said. “That’s how we are growing the Suburban family, one Christ follower at a time.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Brian Blackwell writes for the Baptist Message, baptistmessage.com, news journal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)