Lakeshore Baptist Church gathered for worship yesterday. Most of our congregation still have not been able to return to the area since all their houses lay demolished. We have no electricity, water, or shelter. None the less, about thirty-five did make it to the church property. God blessed us with hope and encouragement as we sang, prayed, cried, and heard the Word of God preached.
I said we would meet on the church slab, but to be accurate the building did not have a slab. It sat on concrete blocks and a few years ago we pumped concrete underneath to solve an erosion problem. We met on that rough piece of cement with the rubble of our buildings all around us. We found the pulpit across the road in the woods. We drug it out and set it up on blocks and plywood left from the building for a makeshift platform. We rummaged through the debris and found a dozen or so metal folding chairs and a couple of broken pews. We set the pews on concrete blocks and cleaned them off as much as we could. My brother built a cross from the broken beams that used to support the church building and set it up behind the pulpit. The cross of Christ will continue to support us as we rebuild and move forward as a community of faith to the glory of God.
We sang Amazing Grace and I preached from Habakkuk 3:17-19 and John 14:1-6. Habakkuk walked in our shoes as he saw no fruit on the trees, no oil in the press, no flocks or heard in the stalls, but still trusted that God reigns in the heavens. We do not root our strength in the muddy soft ground of cars, and buildings, and land, but in the solid firmness of God’s hand of providence.
As we looked around our church property we saw nothing where it used to be. I pointed to where the piano used to be. It now lays shattered across the road. I pointed to where the steeple used to stand. Katrina tossed it into the woods on the back corner of our property. From where I stood preaching, the baptistery used to be right behind me, but it now sits all the way across the road. The pine paneling that used to embrace us in that room from every wall now sticks out from under the ruins of neighboring buildings, lays buried under mud, and splintered across the entire area. The storm deposited two trucks on the church property. We still have not discovered whose they are or where they came from. Our congregation’s houses either floated from where they belonged, or had their contents all sucked out into fields, ditches, and marsh. Beds, couches, tubs, washing machines, refrigerators, children’s toys all litter the landscape like monster confetti. Clothes once tucked neatly into dresser drawers now hang flapping from tree tops. All their things aren’t where they used to be, but God is still where He has always been – on his throne, ruling, reigning, and governing all things for His glory. He will establish our feet on the solid ground of His provision and we believe He will use this catastrophe to amplify the truth of His word and call many to anchor their hope in Him.