A Joplin church that lost its home in the May 22, 2011 tornado has finally broken ground on a new building, more than 19 months after that historic and tragic storm.
The Peace Lutheran Church had met in its stylish building at 20th Street and Wisconsin Avenue since shortly after its founding in October of 1965.
Changes being planned for 20th Street near their former location made rebuilding on that spot impractical, so the church has decided to move to 3100 N. St. Louis Ave., just north of Zora Street in Joplin.
“It’s been a process,” said Pastor Kathy Redpath after Sunday’s groundbreaking, which was attended by more than 50 members and guests.
“The original hope was to build back where we were, but over the course of time the city’s plans and the timeframe and a whole bunch of other things, we just realized we needed to look elsewhere,” Redpath said. “Last summer we started looking at other property and one by one, properties fell away, they wouldn’t do, they were the wrong location, the wrong price, and eventually we came to this one. Everything was right, the location was good, and the price was doable. We’ve got over 14 acres and that just opens possibilities that were just never there before and that’s exciting.”
The ceremonial groundbreaking service included two men, Don Wiese and Leo Winchester, who were present at the groundbreaking of the Wisconsin Avenue church on Oct. 16, 1965.
It also included one of the church’s newest members, a somewhat reluctant Aleah Smith, 3, who was provided with her own child-sized golden shovel for the event.
Peace Lutheran Church President Marda Schroeder said including charter members is a nod to the church’s history, while including a young member is a look forward to the future.
“We’re still on the same path toward marching in the light of God and sharing the Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” Schroeder said. “And that is the exciting part about this new space, it’s going to allow us to continue to open our doors and invite people in and share that Gospel with them and share our worship space to allow them to go out and share that Gospel with others.”
A number of guests traveled many miles to be with this congregation at this special ceremony, including Pastor Bill Pape, from the Kansas City area, who was interim pastor of the Joplin church when the tornado struck.
Pape was the last person in the building on May 22, 2011 and had been planning to stay in the church to work later in the day, but decided to leave at the last minute and was spared the tornado’s wrath, which leveled the church and the surrounding neighborhood, as well as a six-mile swath of Joplin, about three-quarters of a mile to one mile wide.
Page 2 of 2 - A total of 161 people were killed in the historic storm.
“It was great to come down and be able to be here and see what they’re doing,” Pape said. “I wish the best for them and I think they’ll do well, I think they’ll continue to do well in the future. I think they’ve got a great place here and a good spot and room to grow.”