BRANDON, Fla. — Months after a fire destroyed the Fellowship Hall of New Testament Church in Brandon, the reconstruction process has begun.


Flames engulfed the building last April, just a few days before Easter.

The past few months have been emotional for church members, many of whom have been attending for decades.

"I was married in that building," said Javier Nava. "Back then, we were all young and we were all getting married, a whole couple after couple and month after month."

Barbara Devine was a teenager when she helped build the facility with her own hands. She said she paid for some of the bricks with soda money.

"If you can buy a Coke, you can buy a brick and build a church," she quipped.

Nava, who is now an elder at the church, said it's taken a while to start the rebuild because they've had to meet county requirements and learn about new codes and safety measures.

"We had to pray every time we had a meeting with the county," he said. "You know, every time something else came up, asbestos check, this check, that check."

The main sanctuary was not damaged by the fire, so services have continued. But some activities that took place in the Fellowship Hall have been moved or temporarily canceled.

Nava and Devine said they're trying to focus on brighter days ahead for the congregation.

"Because what God's got planned is greater than what our past was," Devine said.

The church hopes to start construction on a new building soon and they'd like to have it finished by the end of the year.

Church leaders said they also plan to have a fundraiser in the future to help with building expenses that might not be covered by insurance.