Church community in South Dakota builds back stronger year after tornado

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Published: May. 30, 2023 at 5:59 PM CDT
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VALLEY SPRINGS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Beaver Valley Lutheran Church sustained significant damage in a tornado that hit Minnehaha County this time last year.

The pastor of Beaver Valley Lutheran says the community has grown through some tough moments like last year’s tornado, and the lessons learned won’t be forgotten soon.

“It was about a year ago that we got hit with a tornado, and the roof that’s not here wasn’t here that morning when we came out,” said Pastor Greg Johnson. “Finally the light came up, and we saw the damage.”

Pastor Greg says it has been a busy 12 months clearing debris, communicating with insurance, and getting a contractor to rebuild the walls of the congregation.

The sanctuary remained relatively unscathed, but the offices, adjacent rooms, and fellowship hall were going to require some mandatory facelifts.

Pastor Greg and the church council have looked at the situation glass half full and have given plenty of thought to how to best serve the church for generations to come.

“The way it ended up, we had to use the existing structure we had to kind of make do with the confines of the existing building structure,” he said. “What’s come out of it has been fantastic, and we’ve got some new improvements we think the congregation is going to love, and we’re excited to be back in our building.”

Some of those improvements include improved access to and from the sanctuary, revamped classrooms, family facilities, and common areas. If things stay on schedule, there is a good chance for a grand opening at the end of the year. The biggest takeaway from Pastor Greg and his congregation is having something they can still build upon.

“We were just thankful to rebuild what we had. It was such a functional facility built in three different stages. There’s the 100-year-old sanctuary behind us, 1968 where we’re standing, and 1997 our fellowship hall — it was all working for us well.”

There have been a lot of positives out of the storm. Before the tornado, the congregation had previously built a place of worship outside, and as long as the weather holds up, they will be outside this Wednesday in the pavilion. Pastor Greg says you can bring your dog as well, and they will do this through fall as long as the weather permits.