Burned out congregation set to move into new home - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Burned out congregation set to move into new home

May 30, 2004

Leslie- February 12, 2003 is a night members of the St. John's Baptist Church congregation will never forget.

"It was very devastating to get the call saying that the church was going up in smoke, and our hearts were there in that church," says Bettye Deriso.

Along with their hearts, more than 100 years of history were ravaged by the fire.

"That old church, the building burned, but the church never burned because we are the church, and we've been very much alive every since the night it happened," says Pastor Calvin James.

James says he and his congregation now understand that the faulty wiring that caused the blaze was just part of God's plan for the new St. John's.

"All things work for the good of those that love God, so truly we can see what blessings God has bestowed on us," he says.

"I'm just overwhelmed to be able to walk into a new building like this," adds Deriso.

They're hoping others will be overwhelmed too. The new building is nearly three times the size of the old location, giving the 150 member congregation room to grow.

"We'll be able to reach more people, and we are in an area where more people can come out and visit with us. We're in walking distance from several communities around," Deriso explains.

Members say their new home is just visible proof that God really does work in mysterious ways.

The new seven-thousand square foot church is located in Leslie. Reverend James says the church was able to use insurance to help rebuild. St. John's will hold it's first regular service in the new building next Sunday.

Posted at 6:10 PM by elaine.armstrong@walb.com

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