By Ryan Richardson
Globe Staff Writer
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Pastor Bruce Allen, 22 months after the May 22, 2011, tornado destroyed Faith Baptist Church, looked out on his congregation members and welcomed them to the opening of their new church.
He said that when he stood to sing “God’s Been Good” with the rest of those attending a Saturday open house service, he was taken back to the place in the basement of the former church where he had taken shelter when the EF-5 tornado hit Joplin.
Allen, along with Brian Wagahoff and his family, took shelter at the church during the tornado. After the tornado had passed, the small group joined together to sing the verses before emerging from the basement. That memory has driven Allen to help lead his congregation in the rebuilding.
“When we sang in that basement, it moved me and it spoke volumes to us all,” Allen said. “When we came upstairs, the world had changed, but we were still here. We felt that we had been blessed to have each other, to know that God protected us. We have come full circle to having a new building to reach out in to the community because God has been good.”
Allen’s 35-member congregation swelled to nearly 100 Saturday afternoon as several visitors from regional churches helped celebrate the opening of the new church at 2424 E. 20th St. Wagahoff said that after meeting at Bethel Baptist Church in Joplin for the past two years, he and others were excited to be back to what he called home.
“We were thankful that we had somewhere to meet,” Wagahoff said. “But we knew we would be back home sooner than later. It wasn’t a matter of if we would rebuild, it was a matter of when.”
The rebuilding kicked off in the months after the tornado, culminating with a groundbreaking last May. Wagahoff said churches from all over the state stepped up to help with the rebuilding.
“We received donations from almost 100 different churches across the country who just wanted to help us out,” he said. “Between the donations we received and the insurance on the old building, we got out of this debt-free while making some upgrades that we had planned on before the tornado took the old church.”
On Sunday, the church celebrated with a formal building dedication.
“When we dedicate this building to God, we have a responsibility to be dedicated to our services,” Allen said. “That is what we have to challenge ourselves, to go out and serve everyone we can.”