Challenges create opportunities to connect, cooperate
By Myra Holmes
Two USMB congregations in Sioux Falls, SD, have been brought closer through unusual circumstances: a flood and a theft. The building of Christ Community Church (CCC) was flooded Aug. 27, and music equipment was stolen from Lincoln Hills Bible Church (LHBC) during the night Aug. 31.
Christ Community flooded
According to CCC pastor Troy Weiland, an unusual storm dumped some eight to 10 inches of rain on parts of Sioux Falls in a matter of hours Thursday evening, Aug. 27. The torrential downpour came suddenly and overwhelmed the city’s drainage system. The CCC facility is in a low-lying area in one of the harder-hit parts of town, and the entire building was flooded with three to five inches of water. The roof also sustained some damage.
By the next morning, volunteers rallied to tear out ruined carpet, insulation and sheetrock. Trim and ceiling tiles–anything that was wet–had to be removed. Commercial dehumidifiers and dozens of fans were brought in to help dry the building. About 15 to 16 people volunteered on Friday and up to 22 helped on Saturday. That immediate and strong response prevented further damage from mold and likely saved weeks of recovery time, Weiland says.
The congregation expects to be displaced until mid-October. The first Sunday following the flood, CCC worshiped with LHBC at the invitation of LHBC pastor Tony Randall. “We were so blessed by Lincoln Hills,” Weiland says.
In lieu of regular worship on Labor Day weekend, both congregations participated in LifeLight, a large Christian music festival held Sept. 4-6 in Worthing, SD. For worship services until CCC can return to their building, CCC plans to meet on Sunday evenings at the LHBC facility.
Randall of LHBC says the two congregations have been able to connect in fresh ways since the flood. “It’s an example of God bringing good things out of a bad situation,” he says.
CCC is slated to host the Central District Conference (CDC) annual convention Nov. 5-7; plans for that event are unchanged.
“Pressing in” to rebuild
CCC rents their facility, and neither the congregation nor the landlord has flood insurance. Weiland expects the cost of repairs will be shared in some fashion, with the church contributing significant “man- and woman-power” to the effort.
Weiland says the congregation will have financial needs as they rebuild, even if the larger expenses are taken care of. For example, wiring for sound equipment will have to be replaced, and particle-board cabinetry may not be salvageable. He notes the church isn’t expecting costly, high-end replacements for such miscellaneous items, but they would like their church home to look nice again.
The congregation hopes to fully restore the building–perhaps adding a fresh look with new paint, since all the walls need to be repainted anyway. “We’re just pressing in,” Weiland says.
The restoration will also include reminders of the church’s spiritual foundation: When CCC moved into the space, attendees wrote Scripture verses on the flooring before the carpet was laid. Weiland says they plan to do so again before the new carpet goes in.
CCC is accepting donations to help cover costs on the CCC website.
Volunteer help in rebuilding is welcome. Information on workdays will be available on the CCC website: www.christcommunitysf.com. CCC has also been in conversation with Mennonite Disaster Service (MDS), the disaster relief agency supported by Mennonites, and MDS will be helping to spread the word and organize volunteers locally.
Prayer is most important support
The most important way the larger USMB family can support CCC during this time, Weiland says, is through prayer. He notes that Sept. 13 was to be a big fall kick-off, with hopes of a getting a strong start to a new season and even attracting new families to the church, so the timing of the flood is especially disappointing.
Weiland asks for prayer that, despite such disruption, the congregation would “stay on task” and would be able to rally and encourage each other.
“In a lot of ways God is using this for his glory–to bring us together as one and to unify us in our vision and our purpose,” he says.
He adds that he’s been reminded of the value of a larger USMB church family as he’s fielded many phone calls and offers of support.
“Ultimately, we’re one church,” he says.
Thieves hit LHBC
When CCC joined LHBC for worship, local news media covered the service. Although the positive story highlighted the cooperation between the two congregations, LHBC’s Randall sees a connection between the publicity and what followed. The next night, thieves broke into the LHBC building. “We’re pretty sure it attracted the wrong attention,” he says.
The equipment missing from Lincoln Hills includes a drum kit, a keyboard, an electric guitar and two flat-screen TVs, according to a local news story. In addition, the church safe was stolen, but Randall points out that it contained only one check for $50, which was easily stopped.
LHBC is in conversation with their insurance company, and the church is hopeful that insurance will cover the loss. In the meantime, CCC has offered use of their equipment while they meet in the LHBC building.
Congregants are understandably frustrated by the theft, but Randall says, “It’s just stuff. Stuff can be replaced.” In the end, he says, the robbery is not a true hindrance to the mission of the church.
And, he notes, the losses at CCC are far greater than those at LHBC.
“Pray for our two churches,” he says. “Pray that God continues to do good and that our people would see it.”
Watch local news coverage of the flooding and joint worship service here: http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/sioux-falls-church-rebounding-after-flood-/?id=184382.
Read a local news story about the theft here: http://www.keloland.com/newsdetail.cfm/music-equipment-stolen-from-sioux-falls-church-/?id=184472.