By Dillon Thomas

GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) — A church in western Greeley sustained significant damage, Sunday night, after churchgoers say a lightning strike hit the steeple. Firefighters spent hours fighting the fire that sparked in the attic of the church, as Sunday night service attendees watched from the parking lot.

(credit Larry Bases)

The pastor at Faith Tabernacle, located off of 71st and U.S. Highway 34, was finishing his service when he heard a loud crack of thunder. Pastor Danny Perdew told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas the smell of smoke filled the worship hall soon after the lightning strike.

For Perdew, watching the fire grow was even more difficult, as he helped design and construct the building years before.

“Our church built this building. We built it ourselves,” Perdew said. “We put everything in it.”

Perdew said he was wrapping up her sermon when the lightning storm rolled through Greeley. CBS4 meteorologists say there were hundreds of strikes within a two-hour period near the church.

He said church members noticed the steeple was ruined by the suspected lightning strike, and the bricks on the building were damaged.

“I was reading the text and lighting was striking all around. You could hear rumbling and thunder,” Perdew said.  “Someone said, ‘Brother Perdew, the steeple is 1,000 pieces.’”

Three fire departments responded to the call, including Greeley, Windsor and Loveland Fire.

(credit Larry Bases)

Shortly after, the congregation started to smell smoke in the worship center. Perdew, and other men in the church, made sure everyone exited the building calmly.

An estimated 180 people were inside at the time the fire started.

“It’s just a shell, like somebody else said this is our church out here that you see… this is the church. God is in control and is going to give us a bigger and better church,” said church member Julia Melenderze.

A spokesperson for the Greeley Fire Department said it took dozens of firefighters to completely contain the attic fire.

“(There was) smoke and water everywhere,” Perdew said.

Perdew thanked the fire departments for their timely response. He said he built the church with his own hands, and the help of those who attend the church.

Perdew said, while it was tough to see the damage caused by the fire, the church will make sure something good comes of the fire.

He said the church, ultimately, is made of God’s people, not of the bricks and wood of the building.

Members of the church told Thomas they would not let the fire stop them from serving God, and the community in Northern Colorado.

“For something like this to happen, we’re bound together. We’ll see this through and God’s going to make a way. I don’t know what it is, but he’s going to make a way… I just believe that,” said church member Shelley Baldwin.

Perdew said the church hoped to move their services in to the gymnasium, which is attached to the side of the building that burned, “I think we are going to get by, we are going to make it somehow.”

Dillon Thomas

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