Baptisms a sign of better times ahead for Louisiana church

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SPRINGFIELD, La. (BP) - Nicole Wall and her family have experienced their fair share of tragedy, including damage to their home caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

But they also have been blessed, evidenced most recently when their son Noah was baptized seven months after 36 inches of rain inundated the region, damaging their home church, Woodland Baptist Church in Springfield, La., 40 miles east of Baton Rouge.

The family returned to the area after the record August 2016 flood to join in 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 5 baptism of Noah -- who publicly professed Christ as Lord last year -- added to the evangelistic renewal of the congregation, where Nicole and her husband were members of the youth group and where they were married.

Beyond rebuilding

Woodland Baptist Church baptized 40 people from September 2015 until the flood hit in August 2016 and averaged 150 in Sunday morning worship services.

For six months after the flood, however, the church was in rebuilding mode, recovering from the effects of the historic rainfall.

Finally, in February, Woodland 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, the church is making progress on rebuilding its infrastructure, which when done should help them regain their former strength in numbers -- and more.

All of the Sunday school rooms are fully operational while the fellowship hall and youth building are 85 percent complete. 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 center.

"We are starting to get back up in the right direction," said Josh Powell, Woodland's pastor since 2013. "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."

In getting back to reaching the community, Woodland Baptist hosted an Easter egg hunt that drew 80 people on April 2.

The congregation plans to venture into the neighborhood with gifts and prayers and host an Experiencing God weekend from June 9-11 during which people can share testimonies and principles learned from the discipleship study as well as 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 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 said. "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."

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