By Hailey Konnath, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Originally posted Sunday, July 17, Nonpareil Online, Council Bluffs, Iowa)
It’s difficult to pinpoint all of the different ways a natural disaster affects an individual. Those effects extend to so many areas of life, touching our jobs, our homes and, in turn, our families, friends and neighbors.
With so many things impacted by a natural disaster, it can also extend to another part of our lives: Our faith.
New Life Fellowship Church sits on the corner of North 24th Street and Avenue L. These days, that’s about a half-mile from the waters of the Missouri River. But its congregation is growing, and its leaders say the community is alive and well.
“It’s just given us opportunities to be a blessing to others,” said the Rev. Annette Wagoner, associate pastor for the church. “To encourage them, to lift them up, to pray for them.”
The church, whose members come from all over the metro area, was affected only slightly and temporarily by the closing of the 25th Street exit of Interstate 29, but the effect has since diminished.
New Life Fellowship is a word of faith, interdenominational Christian church that follows the Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Wagoner estimated an average weekly attendance of 150 to 200 people. But the numbers are increasing.
“It hasn’t been a huge increase, just moderate,” said the Rev. David Leggett, the church’s senior pastor.
Tony Raemakers, who is the lead usher, said he notices a constant influx of new faces.
“Every week we have probably at least three or four new families,” he said.
Admittedly, the new faces don’t always return, Raemakers said. But oftentimes they do.
Greg Horihan, who is on the church’s board of directors, said he thinks people turn to churches during a natural disaster because they are looking for something to turn to for hope.
“Our faith is what sustains us in these trying times,” he said.
Leggett said the church is providing mainly spiritual and emotional support to its congregation.
“We’ve got some families who haven’t had to move yet,” he said, “but come in to visit for encouragement and hope that there is a future and their future will have some bright places in it. With God you know that all things are possible.”
Bill Spencer, who is also on the board of directors, said the increase in attendance may be attributed to a movement sweeping the country.
“I think a lot of it has to do with the spiritual awakening coming to the country as a whole,” he said.
Spencer doesn’t worry about the flood. He places his trust in God, he said.
“I firmly believe God is watching out for us,” he said.
Raemakers said his faith has not been affected by the flood, but he sees how it has affected others. As a church, they pray for the floodwaters not to reach them. And from an aerial view, he said, the dry land around their area is almost like an island.
“It kind of demonstrates what prayer can do,” he said.
Leggett and Wagoner said the constant negativity surrounding the flood in the news and around town could foster a sense of hopelessness.
“People do feel tested in their faiths,” he said.
“It shows what you do believe and your response,” she said.
New Life Fellowship simply wants to be somewhere hope is restored and maintained, Leggett said.
“We can’t ignore it,” he said. “But at the same time we’re the place that just wants to offer you encouragement.”
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