DONELSON, Tenn. (WKRN) — After being nearly destroyed by the deadly Middle Tennessee tornado outbreak in March 2020 — followed by the coronavirus pandemic — it’s been a long road to recovery for a Donelson church.

About 32 months ago, the sanctuary was completely ruined at St. John’s Lutheran Church, but much of the original church structure was still standing.

Now, the new walls are up, the paint is dry, and the church is ready to welcome both new and old members of its congregation on Sunday, Oct. 30.

Through it all, Pastor Rick Roberts never lost hope. He said he knew this day would come and he’s overjoyed to be back.

“It’s either going to be a four-minute sermon or a 40-minute sermon where I’m just going to start crying and just be, ‘Hallelujah! We are back! thank you God!'” said Roberts. “It’s going to be such excitement going on, so we’ll just see what happens. God’s spirit will move us, but God will continue to move us to reach out into our community to help ourselves and to help those in need.”

Although the building is new, the church community’s goal moving forward is to stay true to who they’ve always been.

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“Now that we have a place to do ministry again, we can do even more. We’re going to ask anyone who comes this coming Sunday at 9 a.m. to bring a food item to put in our food pantry to take to Second Harvest Food Bank, to take to Two Rivers Middle School,” Roberts said. “We just want to have a place where we can actually put things together and have a base operation to do even more, and maybe our next building might be a community center instead of a new worship space.”

Even without a building, Roberts said the members of the congregation have still been meeting and their commitment to give back to the community has never changed.

That’s why people are strongly encouraged to bring a food item to Sunday’s service to stock the new pantry at St. John’s Lutheran Church.