April 26th, 2010 at 4:23 pm
ALVIN – Though the process of renovation was long and trying, South Park Baptist Church has emerged from the destruction caused by Hurricane Ike 18 months later to stand restored and more dedicated than ever before to reaching its community for Christ.
Though the church experienced extensive damage to its facilities, the members stood strong, joining together, continuing to share the hope of Christ in the midst of disaster and forming a plan to restore the church campus.
“The church has been drawn closer together” said Mike Webb, a church deacon and chairman of the transitional building committee. “This has just been a time for us to learn to adapt, to learn to reach the lost of our city and to work with other churches in the city.”
The church’s sanctuary, children’s building and two education buildings were severely damaged, only leaving the fellowship hall usable after the hurricane. All together, the campus encountered close to $1 million worth of damages.
“The inside of the buildings became very large terrariums,” said James McGlothlin, interim pastor at South Park Baptist Church. “What the storm didn’t knock over, it ruined through dumping buckets of rain.”
The First Methodist Church in Alvin allowed the church to hold worship services in its building the Sunday after the storm struck so that the members could continue to worship together. In the following weeks, South Park Baptist Church members split into two worship services and met in the fellowship hall, the only building not harmed by the storm.
Texas Baptists Church Strategist Richard Mangum offered the church funds to help with the immediate rebuilding efforts needed after the storm, but graciously the church declined, stating that there are churches with greater needs than theirs.
“It just shows the sensitivity of the church to other churches,” Mangum said. “Bruce [Peterson, former pastor,] said we are a strong church and we will be OK, so take those funds and use it for a church that needs it more than us. And I did.”
To help with the restoration, the church established a transition team to choose contractors and to work with the insurance company to begin making repairs to the building. Though the majority of the storm damages were covered by the church’s insurance policies, the church had to use additional budgetary funds to pay for the removal of the asbestos found in the children’s building and update the baptistry.
During the renovation process, the church’s pastor of 18 years, Bruce Peterson, retired. Though members said Peterson led the church well, they said the months following filled with an interim pastor and building renovation has pushed the church to seek the Lord in a new way to discover what future direction they are supposed to follow.
“I don’t think that things happen by coincidence,” Webb said. “Now that [the renovation] is over and even in that time, we think God was helping us see a different path and preparing us for something,” Webb said. “I think the church was really good about coming together and supporting one another.”
The church held their first service back in the sanctuary on Christmas Eve 2009, but the remainder of the buildings were not completely restored until February 2010. To celebrate the completion of the renovation, the church held a rededication service Feb. 14, recognizing the journey the Lord had carried the church through and looking forward to the ministry God has for the church in the coming months and years.
The service was “just a time to refocus saying we want you (members) to place your heart back into the church during 2010,” Webb said. It was “a rededication of the facilities but also a dedication of the people back to the church.”
Randel Everett, Texas Baptists executive director, sent a letter acknowledging the church’s dedication and stating that the Texas Baptist family was praying for the church as they step into a new age of service for the church.
“I think basically it was my sense from the pastor to the members that they were very resilient and grateful that they had not received more damage,” Mangum said. “They knew that God was going to see them through and help them get to the other side of this and have something better on the other side.”
Webb agrees, stating that the church sees that God sustained them for a reason, recognizing that He isn’t done using the church to influence the community and even the world for His kingdom. “There is something bigger out there that we think God is preparing us for,” Webb said. “I think He is just preparing us for the next step. I don’t’ know that he has revealed that next step to anyone. We are still in the building stages of learning what that is.”
As the church settles back into the facilities and continues to search for a new pastor, the members continue to search for ways to share the hope of Christ with all people groups in the city. “We are getting information from the city of Alvin, what unreached groups are here,” McGlothlin said. “They are in process of seeing that their location is good for the future growth of Alvin. They see they need to reach the people who come here. We are ever discovering in Texas that the Lord has brought the world to our doorstep. Though foreign missions is important, we are seeing that you can do missions without even leaving our block.”
Above all, the church recognizes that the last 18 months has been a story of God’s provision in all types of circumstances. As they continue to look for a pastor, they are excited to see how God will continue to use the church to reach the community with the gospel.
“It is the testimony of the faithfulness of God in trying circumstances,” McGlothlin said.