PORTLAND, Mich. (WOOD) — It has been more than three months since an EF-1 tornado left behind a path of devastation in Portland. Now, one of four churches damaged in the storm has been fixed up and the congregation is preparing to worship in their building once again.
In addition to the four churches, the June 22 tornado damaged dozens of businesses and homes in the eastern Ionia County city, though no one was seriously hurt.
At Epic Community Church, there was roof damage that led to water damage and forced worshipers out of their main building. They haven’t been there in months, but that hasn’t stopped the church community from worshiping. For the past three months or so, members of the congregation have gathered each Sunday inside a large tent at the Bogue Flats Recreation Area.
“It’s been wonderful, worshiping outside. Having church here at the park, it’s just been incredible,” parishioner Penny Brace told 24 Hour News 8.
Their temporary home has been like any other church. There was a makeshift coffee stand, a day care center and even kids’ worship. But most importantly of all, there was the people and their unwavering faith.
“Meeting outside has just been this constant reminder that the church is more than a building. That there’s still a mission that we’re trying to accomplish. There’s still this relationship with God that we’re trying to cultivate,” Pastor Duane Bower said.
The past few months have no doubt been difficult. Some church families have even been forced out of their homes.
But even after the tornado hit, there has been an overwhelming thankfulness that no one was hurt and that the members of the congregation still have each other.
“I think any time that we go through suffering or trial — where are we going to put our trust and where are we going to turn? And for us it was God. And so I think in that way it’s strengthened our faith quite a bit,” Bower said.
Next Sunday, the people of Epic Community Church will finally return home to worship in their main building. While churchgoers are excited to get out of the cold, the bond they share may be stronger than ever after spending a few months praising in a park.
“It’s just a wonderful family. It’s family,” Brace said.
Epic Community Church suffered the least amount of damage of the four churches that were hit by the tornado. Some of the others churches will have to be completely rebuilt. Until then, the other three — First Baptist, First Congregational, and United Methodist — have also found other temporary places to hold worship services.