ELKVIEW, W.Va. — One of West Virginia’s oldest churches and Christian schools plans to open the doors of its rebuilt sanctuary in September after flood water nearly destroyed the facility a year ago.
The June 2016 flood left more than four feet of water inside the auditorium of the Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church in the Kanawha County town of Elkview. The school had about eight feet of water inside the gymnasium.
“I just thought two things: First of all, how will we ever get this mess cleaned up? And secondly, how will we ever get it rebuilt?” said church pastor Lee Swor.
The building, which stood on the Elkview property for 41 years, was destroyed. The church itself has been around since the 1870s. The only thing salvageable, though, was the structure.
Pews, bibles, electronics, vehicles, the heating system, school chairs, desks and much more were washed away.
“Knowing it’s never going to be the same again was pretty overwhelming,” said assistant pastor Reggan Jett.
But Swor said they never gave up hope. The congregation, he said, was determined to get back on its feet.
“There was an attitude of faith rather than despair,” he said.
Donations have poured in to the church since the disaster. The project ended up costing the church about $1 million.
“We had been given $730,000 by people from all over the country for which we are very thankful — churches and individuals,” Swor said.
Since the flood, church services have been held across from the auditorium inside the gymnasium. Swor said he remembers the first service after the flood as something he’ll never forget.
“The people were stunned including me. It was a precious time where people were determined that we’re going to make it through this. We’re going to trust God,” he said.
The biggest challenge, Jett said, has been trying to find light at the end of the tunnel.
“When is it all going to come to an end?” he said as he looked around the incomplete auditorium last week.
Throughout the last year, the church auditorium has been remodeled with new floors and new walls. Carpeting is next on the agenda. Jett said the church needed a make over anyway and that the flood was “a blessing in disguise.”
“Things brought up to date, brought up to speed, things that we were meaning to tackle in the past — just looking for that time to do it and, well, the time came,” he said with a laugh.
Chairs will replace the flooded pews, Swor said.
“We’ve got chairs ordered instead of pews just in case it were to ever flood again,” Swor said. “We’ll have the same seating capacity. We’ll have 800 chairs, but everybody is going to be closer to the front.”
The church was not the only facility in Elkview that was flooded. Much of the town has a story of their own. Schools, businesses and homes were also destroyed.
Swor said the devastation is still bring felt throughout the community.
“A lot of our congregation got flooded. We had 60 families that either lost their home or their home was damaged,” he said. “It’s just amazing how the people have hung in there and look forward to the day we can get back in.”