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After losing roof in windstorm, Kansas church moves VBS to neighboring church

First Southern Baptist Church of Great Bend, Kan., lost much of its roof in a windstorm Sunday night, June 16.

GREAT BEND, Kan. (BP) – First Southern Baptist Church was among those affected by a severe thunderstorm that hit southeast Kansas Sunday night, July 16.

“About a third of the sanctuary roof was removed and deposited all around the area of our property and in the street,” said First Baptist Pastor Timothy Singleton

“Our building is the hardest hit in our community. Everybody was OK. Nobody was in the building. We’re so incredibly grateful for that.”

According to the National Weather Service, winds from the storm reached over 70 mph and hail the size of softballs fell from the sky, resulting in widespread damage and loss of power across Great Bend.

Members of First Southern Baptist Church of Great Bend, Kan., have already begun clean up efforts at the building.

The most immediate impact for the church was on its Vacation Bible School, which was supposed to begin on Monday at the building. Instead, it will now take place at CrossPoint Church, located about 15 minutes across town, beginning Tuesday night, July 18.

Singleton said the church’s established relationship with CrossPoint made the quick change of plans possible.

“As Southern Baptists, everything we do is in community in how we partner and cooperate together,” Singleton said.

“That (CrossPoint) is our nearest extended family. We put on kids camps together, and we minister together … within an hour of the storm coming through, they probably had about eight of their church members here helping us clean up alongside our church members.

“They’re our brothers and sisters in Christ and their invitation was there so quickly, and we already just have so much relationship with them it just made sense.”

Singleton explained their area of the country is no stranger to these types of storms and is often referred to as “tornado alley.”

Despite that, Singleton said storms like this are still very hard on people. He hopes this week’s VBS can make a positive impact amid the tragedy.

“I hope we minister to our community,” Singleton said. “I really believe our community needs this and our kids need this in the midst of just a really difficult few days.

“If Jesus gets lifted high, and kids hear and are comforted and get to respond and we can offer peace … if kids even get to have fun in a tragic week, and get to be together and regain a sense of normal and community and comfort then praise the Lord.”

Denise Penn volunteers as the director of music and worship for First Baptist. She is one of three co-leaders for VBS at First Baptist.

First Baptist VBS will look a bit different due to its new location, including a leaner schedule with more time for Bible study.

“The lessons are prepared and ready, so that’s what our main focus is going to be,” Penn said.

Singleton remarked about the irony of Lifeway’s VBS theme being “Twists and Turns,” because this storm was quite the twist and turn for the church.

“My wife was quick to point out that she just feels like the curriculum even this year is just perfect for going through this,” he said. “Jesus is trustworthy. Jesus is holy. We can trust him. We can go out on the water. We can experience Him, even when things get shaky and aren’t normal. We can put our faith in Him.”

Penn echoed this sentiment, saying it’s not just the kids that need encouragement during this time.

“It’s funny the way VBS does that every year, the message is for more than the kids, it’s for the adults also,” Penn said.  

“Our paths are not certain … we just have to keep following Jesus. In the story of Peter walking on the water (included in one of the week’s lessons) Jesus said not to be afraid. Jesus didn’t stop the storm, He instead said follow me. We’re always in His care regardless of what happens.”  

Moving forward, Singleton said church members will recover as much as they can from the sanctuary, remove the remaining pieces of the damaged roof, wait for power to be restored to the building and mostly likely host Sunday services in a different building on the property.

Among those helping with the efforts are Singleton’s daughter, who was at first filled with fear over the situation.

“She’s shaken, but the more she’s in the church getting to help clean up a little bit and coloring pictures for friends and for hospital workers … it changes her, it helps her,” Singleton said.

“Jesus said when the storms of life hit. It’s not a matter of if storms of life are going to hit. We have people battling cancer, we have people who are trying to rebuild and recover, we have people who financially this is going to be really hard for them.

“The greatest thing we can do for anybody is to build our life on the Rock because it’s the only thing that will not be shaken. That’s what I want for my children, that’s what I want for our community’s children, that’s what I want for the families of our community … I want them to be steady because of Jesus.”