In March 1993, the Rev. Rossie Frances, pastor of Grace Temple Baptist Mission in Gulfport, had a dream to reach out to the Gulfport community and lead lives to Jesus Christ.|
Out of a double-wide trailer on Roosevelt across from Hudson's Salvage Center in Gulfport, he did just that. His small following quickly began to grow through weekly Bible study classes and church services. Ten months later, Frances said he and his congregation had the privilege of moving into the vacant 4,500-square-foot church now known as Grace Temple Baptist Church on 15th Street.
Hurricane Katrina treated Grace Temple much like it did other inland properties. The wind and several trees took down the porch and half of the roof, damaging the interior and blowing out windows.
"I felt thankful to be alive but a little low at first, and then thankful that we still had walls. A lot of other people lost everything," Frances said. "Members of my congregation phoned me to relay the damage and asked what we were going to do now."
They are temporarily holding services at Gulf Coast Baptist Association at 11201 Old Hwy. 49 in Gulfport when they are not working together with the youth groups from different states to rebuild. They plan to be back in Grace Temple by Aug. 1.
"Why we are here is to reach the youth," he said of the purpose of the church. "You see, the young people need this church. We need good homes in the community and a solid relationship with Jesus Christ."
Looking through a small box of photos that survived Katrina, he pointed to many pictures of the youth and their activities and performances.
"One good thing is I've been here long enough to see children grow into young adults with Christ in their lives. Our youth minister, 'Cece' Shabazz,... is awesome with the youth here. As a young church we are also learning how to become active in mission."
Frances said he sees a bright future and believes God will continue to open doors and give the church the spiritual help they need to reach the youth.
- TSH HANCOCK