A Second Chance for Louisiana Church
New Assembly Taking over Site of Alleged Abuse
By Debra Lemoine
December 24, 2006
Ponchatoula, LA. A Ponchatoula church shut down amid criminal allegations that some of its members engaged in ritualistic abuse of children is being reborn as a home for a new congregation.
Christian Life Assembly of God in Hammond is renovating the former Hosanna Church building in Ponchatoula and moving its church there, said the Rev. Gary Wayne Yates of Christian Life.
Seven members of the former Hosanna Church were arrested and charged in the sexual abuse of three children in April and May 2004. All are awaiting trial, and the first trial is scheduled for August.
The General Council of the Assemblies of God petitioned the 21st Judicial District Court in Amite last year to take ownership of the former Hosanna Church, which began as an Assembly member church.
Once the governing body obtained rights to the church, its officials offered the facility to Christian Life in exchange for its Hammond property, Yates said. By unanimous vote of its congregation, Christian Life decided to move to Ponchatoula, Yates said.
To Yates and his 150-member congregation, the move into the facility shows another way that God can turn something bad into good, the pastor said.
"There's going to be a great thing here," Yates said.
Early in the investigation, authorities alleged that the abuse was part of a satanic ritual but later said investigators found no physical evidence of such rituals.
Yates said that his church received the building as it was after detectives combed it for evidence. The church members also have found no evidence of occult rituals.
Yates, too, does not believe occult activities took place at the church. To him, it is simply a building that will once again be used as a church.
Yates said he believes his sentiment is shared by the Ponchatoula and Hammond residents who have called offering support. So far, the air conditioning units and the paint have been donated, he said.
The construction labor and expertise are being provided by Mission America Placement Services, also known as MAPS, a home missions arm of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Yates said. Earlier this month, a half-dozen MAPS volunteers from across the U.S. worked on the sanctuary's newly installed drywall.
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