Sunday, February 10, 2013

Come and See What God Has Done

Just over three months ago, Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy made landfall and brought devastation & destruction to many parts of New Jersey, New York, & Connecticut.  As our church is located very near to the water in Brooklyn, NY, we were among those who suffered more severe destruction to our physical building.  Since that time, things have not been the same at Bethel.

And yet, in the midst of this trial, we have seen God do amazing things.  He has provided for the physical needs of many in our congregation.  He has given us open doors to share James 2 faith in action with our neighbors in the community.  He has provided for the renovation of our building.

Today we hosted a “Grand Reopening” and invited our community to come and see what God has done.  We have been handing out postcards for several weeks.  We have invited specific people in the neighborhood whom we were able to help in the wake of the storm.  We had many visitors in attendance to see what God has done – not only in our physical structure, but in our spiritual lives as well.  We wanted to show them how God can turn devastation into blessing.

Pastor opened his sermon by sharing his personal testimony of the first time he stepped into the church after the storm.  As he viewed the destruction, he asked God to give him wisdom as to what he should do.  The first thing that God showed him was 1 Thess. 5:18 – “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”  There, in the midst of sopping church building Pastor thanked God for the storm.  And many times since then, as a church, we have thanked God for what He has done and is doing as a result of Hurricane Sandy.  Today, the service culminated in another blessing as one of our visitors trusted Christ as his Savior.

In the beginning, I admit, it was hard to go to church.  The cold and dampness in the first couple of weeks meant that I stayed home with the kids.  Then it almost seemed pointless to go to church…between shuffling two toddlers, stickers, crayons, books, and “quiet” toys I hardly heard a word of the message.  Once reconstruction began, we all came home covered in white dust.  We started wearing play clothes to church.  But as I was thinking about the storm and the last three months, the good outweighs the difficult.  It has been truly amazing to see what God has done.

Here are some of the things that I can think of for which we have thanked God during the cleanup of Sandy.  I’m sure I’ve forgotten something.  But I’m sure you will see how much we have to thank God for, even during hard times.

  • Much of the work has been donated by churches across the country.  Men have traveled many miles to come and help us clean up the old and replace it with new.  They have donated hours, skill, and materials to help our church get back to normal.  I can think of groups that came from Maranatha Baptist Bible College, Pennsylvania, Florida, Kentucky (?), and Illinois.  I’m sure there were more.
  • In the beginning the cleanup work was done by sunlight and then by generator.  Those generators were brought by the work crews.  One crew left us a generator and several construction lights to continue the work on our building.
  • We were 2 or 3 weeks without power. When they came to inspect our building, the boxes had not been submerged in water, and so we did not have to do major repairs in order to get our power turned back on.
  • One of the groups brought a bunch of building materials with them, which were hard to obtain in the City at that time.
  • I’ll never forget one of our members giving praise at the Thanksgiving service.  They had lost their home and many of their belongings.  She said, “I’m thankful that my home is in Christ.”
  • Many years ago our church voted to give a large gift to one of our missionaries who was trying to finish a building project.  It was money that we really needed ourselves, but Pastor told the congregation that God would repay.  We also gave a large sum to another NYC church planter several years ago.  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, our church has been repaid nearly six times what we gave away years ago. 
  • Another church bought new hymnals for us.
  • Money has been given for a new piano.
  • We have new carpet and a new heating system to make our classrooms warmer.
  • We will be able to replace our church van.
  • We will be able to purchase our own portable baptismal.
  • A contractor has donated a lot of time to renovate our church.  It looks more like a church inside, and a little less like a storefront now.  He also had contacts to help us get the carpet and new furnace installed.
  • In the beginning, I was frustrated that I couldn’t help more.  But I had two little kids and I am pregnant with twins.  Ben also wanted to be able to help more, but he was so busy with work.  Now that he is self-employed, he has been able to do a lot of the work at the church over the last month.  Though he’s been gone Monday to Saturday helping to get things ready for today, it has been nice to be able to use his skill and help at church.
  • The destruction of our building provided the opportunity for us to change the layout of our classrooms and auditorium, providing more seating for us to fill with new believers. 
  • We have a new nursery for our little ones, with everything completely new. 

Here are a couple of “before” and “storm” pictures that I dug up.  Following them are pictures of the renovated building.  I wanted you to be able to come and see what God has done along with us!

Sunday School Promotion Sunday
The front of our old auditorium, and the flooring.

Thank God for Israel Day
A view of our “old” church when you walked in the front door – two seating sections.  The new front of the auditorium is on the wall to the left in this picture.

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This wall is now the front of our auditorium.  This picture was taken on our first Sunday meeting together after the storm, by the light of a generator.

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Just one of many loads of trash which would be taken from our building.

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Here are some pictures of the remodeled building.  Things are almost completely done, but we have a few odds & ends to finish up.

BBF Grand Reopening
This is what you see now when you walk in the front door.  What an improvement!

BBF Grand Reopening
We are now able to fit 125 chairs in the auditorium!

BBF Grand Reopening
A sampling of some of the letters which accompanied gifts to our church over the last few months.  Some were churches we know…others heard of us “through the grapevine” and took up offerings to help, though they have never met us in person.

BBF Grand Reopening
The platform was the handiwork of James & Rotti, two talented contractors who commuted in from Connecticut to work on our church.  They finished {along with Ben} at 3 a.m. this morning.  Rotti was back in the service with us at 10 a.m. to celebrate our Grand Reopening. 

BBF Grand Reopening
This area used to be the pulpit, and a storage area.  Now it holds extra seating.  Behind this partition our baptistry will sit.

BBF Grand Reopening
A storage room for our tracts & literature.

Nursery Makeover at Bethel
Part of our brand new nursery

I think that Elaine expressed the excitement of all the children to finally have Sunday School again!  We had full classes which held even more children after I snapped these pictures!

BBF Grand Reopening
The 2’s & 3’s

BBF Grand Reopening
The Primary Class.  This class was jam-packed at the end!

BBF Grand Reopening
The 4’s & 5’s Class.  All boys, except for Karen…who arrived as I was taking a picture.

BBF Grand Reopening
The Junior Class.  This room was a storage room.  It was unfinished.  Ben and some others cleaned it out, added studs & drywall, installed a drop ceiling, and finished it into a nice classroom for our Juniors.

BBF Grand Reopening
Some more Juniors…I couldn’t fit them all in the picture!

BBF Grand Reopening
Ben & I teach Children’s Church.  We were excited to have a full class for our first week back!  Usually we only use part of one row!

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:28

Please join us in praising God for what He has done!

2 comments:

  1. What a blessing to see how God helped your church! Sometimes--many times--what looks like a bad thing is something God uses to show us His power. So cool! Thank you for sharing!

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  2. It looks amazing! And praise the Lord for the soul saved! Even if all that beautiful building were to be destroyed again today, that one soul being saved makes all of this testimony of your church worth it. Hope that church goes smoother for you now that you have the building back together again and the classrooms set up. Thanks for sharing!

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