Paola church holds first service following tornado damage

PAOLA, Kan. -- The Trinity Lutheran Church congregation in Paola, Kansas is counting their blessings after an EF-0 tornado ripped through a portion of their building.

The powerful storm knocked down headstones and tore off the roof. But despite the damage, the pastor, Kevin Vogts is looking to the future and encouraging the members to do the same.

"I had a sermon planned, but was like, I really need to talk about this situation, because it was really something major that happened. One hundred and fifty years the church had never been struck by a tornado, this was the first time," Vogts said.

During his sermon, the pastor reassuring the many members that they are blessed.

A church with a long, history shared by generations of families.

I went to grade school here, until high school. My family attended church, religiously. It`s always been home," said longtime member, Clint Haley.

Fresh off a recent remodeling and major renovation project, Vogts said they must start again.

While the sanctuary was left untouched, other areas, including the youth room, and a restroom, are blocked off because of structure damage and substantial water damage.

Dozens of headstones, weighing tons, were also snapped in half.

"If the tornado came through just a few feet to one side; it would have gone down the middle of our sanctuary and would have destroyed the whole thing. We are grateful it was not a lot worse," Vogts said.

Church administrators are working fast. They hope to have all the renovations complete within six months.

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