'We will rebuild'

Not much is left of the town of Lima, IL.

BY TRAVIS DUNN | LIMA, IL | May 17, 2003

"We're going to have to knock down everything."

—Rev. Richard Martin

Not much is left of the town of Lima. The tornado that struck here the evening of May 10 left this town of 150 people a shambles.

At least 22 homes were destroyed, and about half the buildings incurred "severe damage," said the Rev. Richard Martin , whose church, the Federated Church of Lima, was also wiped out by the storm.

"We'll probably lose everything," Martin said. "We're going to have to knock down everything."

Martin said his congregation had spent the last three years building a new fellowship hall and had finished construction six weeks ago. The building was wrecked in a matter of seconds.

More than 20 people were inside the hall when the tornado came through. Several of them ran from the hall to the nearby church basement, but were unable to get the door open.

"They stood there and just prayed out loud to God," Martin said, noting that no one was injured.

Five families in his congregation were among those who lost their homes.

"And I mean leveled their homes," he said. "It looks like a war zone around here."

Martin said his church was fortunate in two ways. First, they were able to salvage an electronic piano -"a beautiful piece of equipment that didn't get a scratch on it." Second, they were insured.

Plenty of people have shown up to help clean up the mess ? about 50 helped on Sunday. But in this rural, farming community, many of parishioners had fields to attend to during the week.

"So they were kind of torn over what to do," he said, "so I told them, 'Get out in the field.'"

Electricity wasn't restored until Wednesday, and the entire town is on a boil-water advisory for at least three weeks.

"The water tower got emptied out, and they've been having a real hard time with the water," Martin said.

Arrangements have been made with the nearby Greenfield Elementary School to hold services in that building for the next year. The congregation, however, has every intention of rebuilding.

"We will rebuild," Martin said, "and God just may provide a nicer structure for us in the end."

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