PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - It was a proud weekend for First Missionary Baptist Church in Pass Christian because they celebrated 143 years of existence. Since 1870 the church has weathered many storms. First it was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt. Then it was severely damaged by Hurricane Camille only to be destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. In May the church reopened after being rebuilt again.
The rebuilding process was a seven year struggle that proved the church has a proven track record of overcoming just about any crisis. But the celebration for the big milestone was not all service and cake.
The church's pastor said they are reminded of how blessed they are after losing their original building to Hurricane Katrina.
"Approximately seven years to rebuild since Katrina. It has been an experience. A learning process and it has brought us closer to God," Pastor Willie Holt said.
"We had a number of different struggles, financial struggles. The new city codes, actually this new building here, we actually have two foundations. Because we poured the first slab and after they came and did an inspection they found that we had to elevate a little more," Church Clerk Leslie Zanders said.
Then there was an extreme dip in membership, but now the church has reopened with more members and a state of the art facility.
"We wanted to be as technologically advanced as we could and to facilitate the needs of our parishioners here. So we have a lot of audio and visual aids here. We have a computer room for our children to do their homework," Deacon Louis Hall said.
The pastor said part of the church's success has been the congregation. They continue to help each other in their times of need.
"We call each other. If someone is doing something or trying to put on a certain project. We are there to help each other," member Belinda Fields said.
In the end parishioners and church leaders said God is the real reason they're able to celebrate more than 100 years of existence.
The church offers after-school tutoring on Wednesdays to area students in kindergarten through 12th grades.