SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — From tornadoes to multiple rounds of flooding, there’s been no shortage of challenges in KELOLAND this year.
But during those times of devastation, stories of perseverance emerge.
One of those stories can be found at Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, which is known locally as Stone Church.
The congregation at Stone Church is a small one.
“We average about 12-14 people in a week,” Rev. Theresa Jacobson said.
That’s why a call from the church president on Thursday, September 12th took Pastor Theresa Jacobson by surprise.
“And he says, ‘Well half the town of Menno is down here,”’ Jacobson said.
But they weren’t dressed in their Sunday best.
The community showed up to work.
Lifelong church member Barb Ulmer is one of the people who arrived at the church that day to begin the fight against a rising James River.
“We knew we had to get busy and get down here because we didn’t know how high it was really going to come,” Church Member Barb Ulmer said.
People from Menno and surrounding communities showed up to build a dike around part of the area landmark.
“I don’t think the few of us that are just members would’ve been able to work fast enough to get the dike put up and to the extent that it was because the water came up quite quickly,” Ulmer said.
“People were working together. There was no bossing around or anything at all. It was truly people coming together, putting their gifts together,” Jacobson said.
The work wasn’t just underway outside. People were also busy in the church basement clearing it out, even removing the appliances.
“We didn’t know what to expect, and if we ended up getting water in the basement it could’ve been 5,6,7 feet of water down there and that would’ve damaged or destroyed everything,” Ulmer said.
It’s the sight of the empty church basement that fills Pastor Jacobson with memories.
“I’ve been here long enough that I’ve developed my own memories in this place. The first thing that came to mind was, my five year old daughter, this is the place where she took her first steps. And so I just walked around like it was in a dream, a bad dream,” Jacobson said.
The fight against the floodwater continued at the Stone Church over the course of a couple days.
“Water is surrounding all around where this dike had been built. And it’s just threatening that if that dike were to go it would devour this tiny little church,” Jacobson said.
Photos show just how close the water crept up to place of worship.
“When I saw that image, I had this image of God’s hand, placing his hand there and saying, ‘I’ve got this. I’ve given you the people; I’ve given you the resources. You’ve done what you can do; now leave the rest up to me. And I will take care of you,” Jacobson said.
And so the church was spared from what could’ve been.
“I have said it is nothing short of a miracle and I believe that in my heart of hearts. It truly is nothing short of a miracle,” Jacobson said.
And miracles have a way of happening when your faith is strong as stone.
While community members were able to keep the river at bay, there will need to be some repair and cleanup work done at the church and on the lawn.