Botkinburg church rebuilding after tornado

By Tammy Keith Published December 8, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
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Ester Bass, left, pastor of Botkinburg Foursquare Church, works with church member Ron Watts to finish the kitchen in the facility. The former church was destroyed in an April 10 tornado. Church services will be held in the Fellowship Hall today for the first time in the new building, 7054 U.S. 65 N., weather permitting, Bass said. Sunday School is at 10 a.m., and church is at 11. For more information, call Bass at (501) 253-3532.

BOTKINBURG — Pastor Ester Bass promised his congregation after an April 10 tornado that Botkinburg Foursquare Church would be rebuilt.

Today, church services will be held in the new Fellowship Hall of the building that is under construction.

“We are just coming right along,” Bass said. “We have practically everything except the sanctuary done.”

Bass, who has been the church’s pastor for 14 years, took a break from working on the kitchen cabinets — using his talents from an earlier career as a cabinetmaker — to talk about the progress.

“It’s just amazing; it’s just amazing,” he said. “I think back eight months ago when I looked at it all in a crinkled mess and thought, ‘What are we going to do?’ And to look at it now ….”

The 10-year-old, two-story metal church building on U.S. 65 in Van Buren County was mangled by the tornado. The storm hit at about 5:30 p.m. that day, 1 1/2 hours before Wednesday services were scheduled.

Services were held four days later under a tent in the parking lot next to the demolished building.

Church members had spent a year building the church at a cost of $130,000, Bass said, and it took only seconds for it to be destroyed.

The church now being built by Ozark Construction will cost $712,000, he said.

“This is a little bit larger,” he said, at 10,500 square feet. “The fellowship area is twice as big.”

It will seat 350 to 400, compared to 250 at the former church, and he said cushioned pews have been ordered.

“We’re hoping to have everything done by Christmas,” he said.

The church has held services at a Seventh-day Adventist Church down the highway and at Dennard Community Church.

Bass proudly showed off the baptistery, something the previous church didn’t have.

He said a 4- by 4-foot leaded glass piece depicting John the Baptist baptizing Jesus will hang above the baptistery.

The building does not have a safe room or tornado shelter.

“We wanted to build one under the Fellowship Hall, but we didn’t have the height,” Bass said. “It would have been tremendously expensive.”

Bass walked down the hall and pointed out the nursery and Sunday School classrooms.

Youth pastor Rocky Thomas said he’s excited about the new building.

“I love it; I’m getting ready to start decorating my youth room,” he said Wednesday.

The home of Thomas, his wife, Mandy, and their two children — Blaze, 9, and Bryce, 4, — which is south of the church, was also damaged in the tornado.

He said they plan to rebuild on property just up from their damaged home.

“It’s taken awhile, but it’s all good, and we’re excited,” he said.

The tornado, with winds estimated at 135 mph, damaged 69 residences in Van Buren County. Six were destroyed, County Judge Roger Hooper said in an earlier interview.

Bass looked out the window of one of the new Sunday School rooms at the devastation still evident by the broken trees — many with pieces of sheet metal wrapped around them — and strewn debris.

“We’re going to have to get down there and clean that up when we get this built. Right now, that’s secondary,” he said.

Rebuilding the church has relied on the support of many people, Bass said.

“Our community gave something like $30,000 to help us. Churches in the county have just pulled together; they’ve tremendously helped us,” he said.

“I’ve determined that you don’t really think about something till you go through it,” Bass said. “On April 10 every year, or the closest [Sunday] to it, we’re going to receive our offering to help some other church who’s been through this. We’ll find a church who’s been through a tornado, or a burnout, and help them.”

For now, he looks forward to standing before his congregation, making good on his promise.

Senior writer Tammy Keith can be reached at (501) 327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

Niche Publications Senior Writer Tammy Keith can be reached at 501-327-0370 or tkeith@arkansasonline.com.

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