One month later: Chesapeake church destroyed in tornado continues road to recovery

CHESAPEAKE, Va. (WAVY) — A congregation is cleaning up the destruction left behind by a tornado that destroyed their church. The Real Life Christian Church was hit by an EF-2 tornado one month ago.

According to the National Weather Service, the tornado had maximum winds of 120 mile per hour.

“We usually plan for the next six weeks. Now we’re just trying to figure out the next six hours,” says Brett Coates, the church’s executive director.

Coates says the church was built in 2009, and they recently added 4,000 square feet to the building for students and children.

“The shock is gone, but the pain is still there,” said Coates. “It’s strange to lock up your church. The sadness is still here, when you walk in there now everything is soaking weight, there are pigeons that live in the building now. To me, what it was is not what it is.”

Together: It’s a word Coates used often because members of this church are healing together at a temporary church. The 700 church members spent the last month dealing with their insurance company, digging up records and trying to salvage computers with that information.

“In a way it’s a blessing to us, because it’s forced us to say, ‘Okay, how can we be with the people? It’s forced us out of the building,'” said Coates. “I remember looking at the building and it was raining and dark and it was about midnight and I remember thinking, just overcome with sadness, this is day one, but there will be a time in the not so distant future that we will rebuild and it will be better than before.”

Coates is still working with his insurance company and hopes to have a new building n the next year and a half. But one thing will stay: The foundation, which Mother Nature spared. Under each corner, there’s a Bible — something Brett says will remind him of the church that once stood here.

Through the tragedy, the church continues to give back to the community. After the tornado destroyed their church, they gave out gift cards to those who lost their homes and just this weekend, the church overhauled the teacher’s lounge at Centerville elementary right down the street from the church.