By Joe Isenhower Jr.
Risen Savior Evangelical Lutheran Church’s new building under construction in Manteno, Ill., lay flattened after a line of strong storms with high winds, rain and hail raced east through the area some 50 miles south of Chicago on June 12.
About one fourth of the construction was complete, with most of its timber frame in place, when tornadic winds hit the structure about 6 p.m.
The only other major storm damage reported in the Manteno area was to a nearby horse barn, where one horse was killed.
No one was injured at the church-building site — including eight Laborers For Christ workers who had been with the project since they started construction there in April. They rode out the storm, safe in their RVs on the new church property.
Tim Brettiin, Laborers For Christ project manager for the congregation, told Reporter that the Laborers team experienced no damage other than “a few dents and scratches” to vehicles in the parking lot from flying debris, as well as loss of tools and other lighter equipment. He added that he and his wife, Peg, were in their RV just 50 feet from the ravaged church site — “the closest we’ve ever been to weather that destructive.”
Out of gratitude to God, the Laborers nailed together a 4-by-3-foot cross of wood from the damage and positioned it upright into a pile of storm rubble.
That cross “symbolizes very well, of course, that Christ is still present among us,” Risen Savior’s pastor, the Rev. Kevin Werner, told Reporter the day afterward.
Werner said he sees two “dominant themes” following the storm. “We’re thankful that none of the Laborers were injured. And we’re trusting God that He will continue to provide. Even though this is a delay – and something unforeseen – God still blesses us through it.”
The new construction project is covered by insurance.
When completed, it will provide the 150-member LCMS congregation a 5,500 square-foot facility with a multipurpose sanctuary, a large narthex for fellowship, three rooms for Sunday school or meetings and a covered walkway to the parking lot.
The congregation — currently worshiping in space provided by the First Presbyterian Church in Manteno —purchased the new building site some 18 years ago. In 2011, Risen Savior sold its own interim facility, providing the impetus for building.
With the new church planted on the edge of a new subdivision, “we’ll have a lot more visibility and want to try and step up reaching out in our community,” Werner said.
In addition to participating in Lutheran Church Extension Fund’s (LCEF) Laborers For Christ, Risen Savior used LCEF loan support to buy their first worship facility, and for the land purchase and construction of their new building.
Brettin said the previous goal of having the new church construction completed by Thanksgiving of this year will probably have to be extended “by no more than a few months.”
Several families also lost their homes in storms that swept through parts of Oklahoma and Missouri May 31. Read an earlier Reporter Online story about those storms here.
Updated July 2, 2013 / Sept. 12, 2013
As Laborers For Christ we’ve heard so many times from the various congregations, ‘we never have weather like this’. It seems our Risen Lord always takes such good care of we Laborers as well as the congregations we work with. Thanks be to His Glorious Name we’ve come through once again. We were supposed to be on the Columbus, NE project but our Lord needed us at our own home church this time around and we had to cancel out on that project due to major RV problems. As we say down here in Cajun Country, ‘Geaux Risen Savior Lutheran Church’ for you will bring more lost sheep into His Kingdom.
We too have heard more than a few times as we have worked on Laborers for Christ projects “we don’t usually have weather like this. When we were in North Judson, IN in 2007, where Tim and Peg are from, we had a tornado miss the site by only about 2 miles. That was close enough. We would have likely been on the job in Manteno if I was sure my body was up to the task. God Bless the laborers and the volunteers who came in and cleaned the church site up so quickly. And may He bless the work as they start over.