Six months after the derecho: River of Life Church still without a sanctuary

Architectural drawings are in the works for a new sanctuary, but insurance numbers are still not complete from the storms damage.
Published: Feb. 10, 2021 at 5:34 AM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - Wednesday marks six months since the August 10 derecho left its mark forever on eastern Iowa. Homes, farms, trees, and power grids sustained billions of dollars in damage.

From the storm, River of Life Church on Blairs Ferry Road in Cedar Rapids lost their sanctuary that stood for more than 25 years.

Pastor Marcus Bratsch said he was hiding in the coffee shop when the storm was hitting, and he could hear the building coming apart.

Now, six months after the storm, architectural drawings are in the works for their new sanctuary the wind tore in half last August.

Pastor Marcus hopes the insurance information can be completed soon, but at this point, the numbers are still not complete.

He said the derecho has forced many ups and downs, but they’re excited about the future and what opportunities the new sanctuary space can bring to the congregation.

But he said saying goodbye to a space that’s been monumental for so many since 1994 isn’t easy.

“Well it’s certainly hard because there are a lot of memories over there. My wife and I got married over there. A lot of folks got married over there, dedicated children, or spent years of their lives coming to worship there. So it’s a big loss. It’s a space, but we believe the church is Gods people so much more than it is a space,” said Pastor Marcus Bratsch.

For now, services are still being held in the church’s fellowship hall, the part of the building that wasn’t damaged from the derecho, with social distancing and recommended mask wearing.

In the new design plans, he said the church is planning to move the coffee shop and childcare check-in closer to the new sanctuary.

He said the church has been going through a lot of what everyone else affected by the storm has been going through, between finding a contractor and getting work done on the roof before winter.

Pastor Marcus said the hardest part is not having final answers. He added that they’ve been working with a general contractor and architect while they wait to get final numbers from insurance, but for now, they’re taking it one day at a time.

“We’ve just had to be patient, and for me personally, I’ve just had to take it one day or one week at a time. I mean God has been good to us, so we’ve still been able to come and have church either in a tent or we’ve got this space. And we are so thankful to be on our property, and we haven’t had to move to another property, so that’s been really awesome,” said Pastor Marcus.

Overall, he’s thankful they still have a place to congregate inside. Right before the derecho hit and early into the pandemic, River of Life was having service outside in a tent to help with mitigation efforts.

Soon after the storm, they moved services inside the fellowship hall, which is where they’ve been held since.

Pastor Marcus said once the final numbers from insurance are in, they can start moving forward.

He said they hope by the end of June, construction on the new sanctuary can start.

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