Multimedia Journalist

House of Refuge hopes to rebuild on Heritage Highway after tornado’s destruction

News Tribune/Danisha Hogue
House of Refuge church on Heritage Highway was destroyed by a tornado Wednesday night. The church plans to meet at 11 a.m. Sunday at McClung Park in Jefferson City.

Pastor Andre Grinston sang Friday morning on the site of the House of Refuge church; it was streamed on Facebook Live.

The church was destroyed by a tornado that hit Jefferson City and the surrounding areas Wednesday night.

“The church is leveled really almost down to the foundation,” Geinston said online. “Everything is gone, the walls are gone.”

Several trees and power lines are down on the 7-acre property. Founder and bishop Alfonse Webb and his wife, Jennifer, built the church in Jefferson City 25 years ago. It moved to 5505 Heritage Highway 12 years ago.

The street is currently closed. As companies and property owners cleared debris Friday, Grinston secured a location for House of Refuge’s Sunday service.

Members and guests will worship at 11 a.m. today at McClung Park in Jefferson City. The indoor pavilion is east of Chestnut Street.

“We wanted to make sure that we were able to get in contact with them (members) and keep our regular routine of worship,” Grinston said.

Worshiping at the site of the church’s destruction provided closure for him, he added.

On Wednesday night, his wife, Kimberly, taught a Bible study lesson from Nehemiah 6:1-10. It would be the last service at the church before the EF-3 tornado swept through the area about three hours later.

“That night, the lesson that was taught was about Nehemiah rebuilding the wall,” Grinston said. “I think that is so in depth with what’s going on right now.”

The church plans to rebuild on Heritage Highway, which could be six to nine months from now.

“We wanted to make sure that after we finished, we remembered as we’ve always been taught, which is that our faith must be strong,” Grinston said. “We are the church; it was just the building.”

The church is assessing damages and resources for the rebuild. Donations may be sent via Cash App at $1houseofrefuge.

“We want the community to know we are praying for all of the families that are devastated by the tragedy,” Grinston said.

Other churches and homes were severely damaged as the tornado struck Cole County neighborhoods near U.S. 54. On Propst Road, broken glass, clothing and shingles were strewn about fields.

Elmer Bax lost and found 25 cattle between Wednesday night and Friday afternoon.

Eleven were found about a mile away from the 55-acre property and are all safe at a friend’s home. The family plans to rebuild fencing.

Bax, 81, had never experienced a tornado. His sons, Bruce and Doug, said it was hard to go through their destroyed childhood home looking for family photos and other items.

They remain grateful no one was harmed, including their two dogs, Babe and Murtle.

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