48 Hours After the Storm
From Pastor Dan:
Today, the National Weather service confirmed an EF-1 Tornado with 100mph+ winds ripped through part of Midlothian at about 9 PM. The part worst hit was the section of our church we refer to as “The Venue”, where the youth meet, where Celebrate Recovery convenes each Thursday, and where our church dinners take place. A meeting for our children and security teams had just occurred only a few hours earlier. The roof of the Venue lifted off and landed in the alley behind, damaging a few cars parked at the apartment. The tornado snapped power poles. The roof of the children’s areas and the Sanctuary raised up slightly, causing structural damage and broken and shattered windows.
The Healing Center, where our church offices are located, sustained damage to the roof and the back wall. The coffee bar patio stage ripped to shreds and the metal roof flew in all directions. Wooden and metal chairs and plants were a tangled mess. The church sign flew up into the upstairs bedroom where Rhys and Lauren Remar, our youth pastors, live. The tornado damaged the roof of the coffee bar andan air conditioning unit that turned over on its side.
With all of this damage occurring in just a few seconds, it is amazing that it hurt no one, especially Rhys and Lauren who were literally in the middle of the melee. Connie and I were dropping off our granddaughter a few blocks away, missing the tornado by mere seconds. The residents in the apartments next door also reported themselves as unharmed. We are thankful for that!
Several church members met in the parking lot on Sunday night to survey the damage. It was hard to see in the dark, but we knew it was major. While walking around the building, we heard a gas leak. We called the fire department, and they came out in minutes.
After a very short night, I ventured back to the church on Monday morning as the power was being restored to the coffee bar. The crew had been no doubt working through the night, and it is a blessing that power returned so quickly! Within a few minutes, two pastors came by to offer their prayers, encouragement, and even meeting space. I called our building insurance company, Church Mutual, promptly at 8 AM to start a claim. They promised an adjuster would contact us as quickly as possible.
With so much structural damage, we contacted the City of Midlothian Building Inspector to assess the safety of our worship center. Glass was everywhere, but we also noticed the walls bowing in places. By the afternoon, we heard nothing from the City, but the Chief of Police pulled up and asked how things were going. He directed us to the correct department and within a few minutes a team came out to do an inspection. The inspector said that he was unsure of the complete picture, but that it should be okay to go in for short periods of time to recover equipment.
During this time, other gas leaks were detected, so we called Atmos Energy and they sent someone out. The leak was under the huge debris pile behind the building. The City of Midlothian staff quickly coordinated an effort to remove the tons of debris so the leak could be sealed. As soon as this was done, the insurance adjuster called and was on his way from Dallas, where tornadoes had destroyed entire neighborhoods.
The adjuster determined that an engineer will need to assess the structures of both the Healing Center and the Sanctuary. Until then, we cannot use these spaces, and only teams of 2 or 3 can enter to salvage anything, with hard hats. We are recovering what we can. The back of the Venue is completely unsafe and we are not to enter that area for any reason. The beam supporting what’s left of the roof was lifted off the ground and does not appear to be stable.
A team of church members and neighbors cleaned up the coffee bar patio and all the broken glass and tree limbs in the front of the building. Coffee bar staff cleared out the refrigerators and freezer and went to work on re-stocking so that we could be open the next morning. There was a steady stream of well-wishers, people with gloves and trash bags, donuts, water, and quite a few pickups and trailers. More pastors volunteered teams of people to aid in the cleanup. Other venues for worship were offered. I would say the city came out in force to offer assistance! There was a constant parade of onlookers with cellphones to record all the damage.
By the evening, a few more church members gathered to share memories, pray with each other, and mourn the loss. The REAL church was being the church!
Today the process of securing the building started, while we wait for the final assessment. It will probably be a total loss as there was so much damage to the structure of our main building. The coffee bar opened and was filled all day long, with many folks offering support. Tomorrow, the damaged areas of the coffee bar and Healing Center roofs will be covered with tarps. A temporary fence will installed around the perimeter of the main building.
We talked on Sunday about focus. Focus on what can’t be seen: faith, love, eternity, and our Father God. We talked about the community. Our Forever Family is our focus right now! We will rebuild. We are blessed with good insurance and good neighbors. We have a $5000 deductible on each of our 3 buildings, but folks we know and don’t know are donating. God is good. We are His. We are hopeful. WE are the Lighthouse. And we are blessed.
Stay tuned for future developments!