By Joi Thomas, Special to the AFRO
Dr. Lisa Weah, pastor of New Bethlehem Baptist Church is overjoyed. On March 30th, her church will move back into their building after being displaced by fire. September 23, 2016, an electrical fire struck the church building causing fire, smoke and water damage. No one was hurt, but the building was severely compromised. It’s been a long three years, however this weekend New Bethlehem will move back into their church home.
Not having a facility to worship in is a very difficult position for a church. Weah emphasized that the congregation stayed positive throughout this process. “We stayed in the Word, and we stayed together. We had already committed to a capital campaign, the ‘Journey to a Dream,’ to enlarge our campus, so clearly God had another plan for manifestation,” Weah said. We assembled at our satellite location on Sundays and gathered for ‘Throne Room’ prayer encounters in our Administration Building each Wednesday, according to Acts 2:42, “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The unity and strength built through those encounters was incredible.”
The community at large came to the aid of the church. “We are grateful to the Loch Raven Academy in Baltimore County, and Gilmor Elementary in Baltimore City, for hosting us during our crisis. However, our greatest support came from my spiritual parents, Bishop and Lady Carla Debnam, and the Morning Star Baptist Church. We spent our longest time of displacement on the MSBC campus” said Dr. Weah.
A major celebration has been planned and the church has named it “Through the Fire Homecoming, Phase One.” It begins Saturday March 30th with a community parade at 10:00 a.m., building ribbon cutting at 11:00 am, building rededication ceremony at 11:30 a.m. and community day from noon – 2:00 pm. Special features of the day include food, games, pony rides, carnival rides and Disney characters. Dr. Weah states “This is our fifth year bringing this event free of charge to our Sandtown- Winchester Community, and this year we are pleased to have M&T Bank as a co-sponsor.” March 31st the church will celebrate its 69th church anniversary. Special invited guests for the weekend include Lt. Governor Boyd K. Rutherford, D.J. Milly Mil, Bishop Walter S. Thomas, Bishop Dwayne C. and Lady Carla J. Debnam, Bishop C. Guy Robinson, Bishop-Elect Shawn L. Bell, Pastor Tyrone M. Thomas, M&T Bank, BGE, and many other state and local agencies and businesses.
As one can imagine, having your church displaced by fire can be a trying time. “This crisis was the most difficult challenge I have ever faced as a pastor, and not one to be faced alone. I could not have led the church in facing the fourfold challenge of recovery, restoration, relocation and rebuilding, apart from a deeply rooted faith,” said Weah. “My faith was constantly strengthened by an angelic army of family, friends, church leaders, colleagues and community supporters, for as Proverbs 17:17 declares, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother (sister) is born for adversity.”
New Bethlehem will keep the celebration going next week during their Spring Ignite Crusade, April 2nd – April 4th at 6:45 p.m. nightly. New Bethlehem Baptist Church is located at 1354 N. Carey Street in Baltimore. They worship every Sunday at 9:30am & 11am and Wednesdays at
6:45pm for Family Empowerment Night. For more information on any of these events call (410) 699-9119.