Sunday morning the congregation of Salem Baptist Church stood in their new sanctuary singing songs of joy.
Nearly three years earlier, many of those present watched the sanctuary burn to the ground after being struck by lightning for the second time in a matter of weeks.
â€œItâ€™s been a long road, thatâ€™s for sure,â€ said Wayne Reep, a church member. â€œBut we finally made it through.â€
The $2 million sanctuary is large, brightly lit and seats more than 400 people. Insurance paid for $1 million, the church will foot the other half of the bill.
No matter what the cost, church members are grateful to be back home.
â€œI canâ€™t describe how it feels. Thereâ€™s no words you can say,â€ said Larry Hallman, a church member. â€œItâ€™s one of the greatest days in the life of this church.â€
The morning service included singing, baptisms and prayer. There was also talk of the day of the fire.
â€œWhen the fire burned the church, we were all just devastated,â€ Dawn Cornelius, a church member, said before singing a southern gospel song for the congregation. â€œWe tried to figure it out â€“ why did God let it burn?â€
Such questions were answered with faith.
â€œAll things work to the good for those who love the Lord,â€ Cornelius said.
by Sarah Grano