FERGUSON—Ike Motley, assistant pastor of First Baptist Church here, just had a few copies to print out.
“I was in my third-floor office when I started hearing the noise outside,” he said. “At first, I thought it was just the rain and hail. Then, the wind blew out the window and I could look out and see the debris swirling on the parking lot and I knew I needed to move.”
Motley moved out into the hall by the stairwell. “I really wasn’t afraid until I heard the roof come off,” he said. “Then, I started praying. I knew I would be with God, but I thought about my children.”
Motley was experiencing the tornado that hit the city of Ferguson after closing Lambert Field, the St. Louis airport. The tornado touched down on Negwer Materials which shares a parking lot with First Ferguson. The building materials stored in the business became lethal projectiles which caused extensive damage on the west side of the church building.
“I praise God,” Stoney Shaw, senior pastor of First Ferguson, said, “that no one was back there. Our Good Friday service had been over a little more than an hour when the storm hit. Many of our people park back there for services.”
Shaw said the insurance agent was on site early Saturday morning assessing the damage and organizing the clean-up process. The first damage estimate for the church is $1 million plus.
“The educational building was hit the hardest,” Shaw said. “We had at least 25 windows blown out which created severe water damage. The third and fourth floors have so much water damage they are unusable.”
In addition to the windows, the tornado ripped off the new roof on the educational building. The roof on Branson Hall, the church fellowship building, also was damaged.
“The air conditioning units bounced all over that roof,” Shaw said. “They were mounted on the back of the roof and the wind blew them from the back to the front which just shredded that roof.”
Shaw reported that channeling and downspouts were pulled off with many bricks loose. The church vehicles parked on the lot were also damaged. One van was blown across the parking lot and flipped on its side. Motley’s vehicle was blown off its axles.
“It was neat to see so many people helping each other,” Shaw said. “We had more than 100 folks working last night and today. We even had volunteers come by to help us.”
“It was our church in action,” Shaw said. “Someone approached Ron Beckner, associate pastor, on the parking lot this morning and commented that our church was really damaged. But, Ron gave the best answer, ‘No, the building was damaged, that’s the church,’ he said, nodding toward the working members.”
VICKI STAMPS/contributing writer