FAYETTE COUNTY, Ind. – A church community in Bentonville is picking up pieces of history, literally, after a tornado ripped through their place of worship on Saturday.
Minister Don Miller says he’s running on prayer and hope. The Bentonville Christian Church has stood strong since the 1800s, but when Miller found out that his church was now barely standing after Saturday’s tornado, he was devastated.
“We’re not a lot of people, but we’re good people,” said Miller. “It’s been a home for the past seven and a half years.”
The sadness is now fueling determination. People from all over are coming to do whatever they can to help clean up, from picking up debris in nearby farming fields, to collecting cash. Miller explained to us how a young girl helped out the day after the storms.
“She got a bucket and it said donations and people just kept driving by and she had this little donation sign and she picked up $180 from people who were just driving by,” said Miller.
People from surrounding churches also stopped by to serve lunch to those who are working around the clock to clean up debris. Chad Ripberger, the Chief of the Bentonville Volunteer Fire Department, says it’s amazing how everyone has stepped up.
“Excavators have provided their services to tear it down, we’ve had electricians here yesterday offer to wire if they rebuild, to do that for nothing,” said Ripberger.
For now, Miller says he’s focused on preserving the history of his town. So far, the fire department was able to salvage pews, the pulpit, bookshelves and some books.
“The cemetery was an absolute disaster,” said Ripberger. “We wanted to get a lot of things out from inside the church, a lot of sentimental things that have been there since the 1800s.”
What’s next for the Bentonville Christian Church is still undecided, but it’s safe to say this community will not lose hope.
“I’ve never had a tornado through a church before, so I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, but we know God will be there with us,” said Miller.
Miller says his church continued on with a sermon on Sunday that had been planned for months, but the message hit home following Saturday’s destruction. That sermon gave him and his fellow church members the reassurance they need to move forward.
“Overcome everything with prayer,” said Miller. “So, that was our emphasis yesterday. It has always been our emphasis and it will continue to be.”
Thankfully, no injuries were reported in Fayette County. The National Weather Service did confirm the tornado was an EF-0. The NWS says wind speeds reached 80 miles per hour and the path width was 20 yards.