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Peace Lutheran Church
By: Jennifer Walker-Journey

Even in the face of destruction, Peace prevailed in Joplin, Missouri.

The story of Peace Lutheran Church begins in 1965, when the mission-based congregation built a church home on in the middle of Joplin. For the next 45 years, the church saw many successes, including an expansion in 2001. However, one decade later, tragedy struck.

On May 22, 2011, an EF5 tornado tore through Joplin, destroying about a third of the city. At least 158 people died, and more than 900 were injured. Thousands of houses, apartment buildings, businesses and school buildings suffered severe damage. “Sitting at the heart of the destruction zone, Peace was destroyed,” the church website reads. 

But rising out of the mile-wide destruction was hope. The city launched a revitalization program, and businesses and institutions, including Peace, began to focus on rebuilding. However, the city’s plans called for a railroad viaduct to be built near the former church site, so leadership sought out a new location for their future church home and chose a parcel of land on the outskirts of the small town. They called on JCDM Church Builders, also based in Joplin, to design and build their new church home.

“The old church building was very traditional, but they were looking for something fresh,” says Rusty Smith, with JCDM. “They wanted the new building to be more modern but with traditional features, like a steeple.”

The new church building was designed to house a large gathering space to serve as a welcome center for members and guests leading into a roomy 300-seat sanctuary with a stage and comfortable padded individual seating. The space also included a multipurpose fellowship area, pastor’s office, administrator’s office, workroom, large classroom that can be divided in two, and four classrooms.

Smith says they chose to use a pre-engineered metal building and add a Simple Saver System insulation that would help cut about $1,000 off the church’s utility bills. The Simple Saver System is a high-performance insulation and finishing system designed for roof and walls in low rise commercial buildings, and is ideal for pre-engineered metal buildings.

To make the church appear less industrial, however, Smith used a synthetic stucco, called Dryvit, for the façade. Inside, the gathering space floors were made with stained and sealed concrete, which offered durability and minimal maintenance. The sanctuary floor was covered in carpet to help with noise reduction. Earth tones set the color scheme both inside and out.

The modern sanctuary was balanced with a striking traditional element – a mosaic cross over the pulpit made with glass from the Peace building that was destroyed in the tornado.

And while it is nearly impossible to construct a building that can withstand an EF5 tornado, especially on a limited budget, the church given a free concrete storm shelter by the city that adds a bit of peace of mind to the members of Peace.

Once the plans were agreed upon and construction began, it took just eight months to build the new church. The first worship took place on the day of Pentecost, May 19, 2013, the second anniversary weekend of the tornado.

“The people of Peace are now discovering what it means to be the people of God in a new location,” the church’s website states. “We are excited to learn how we can bring the gospel to the people in our new community.”

JCDM Church Builders, based in Joplin, Missouri, is a design and management service firm dedicated to offering the most cost-effective method of developing and constructing your new facility, www.JCDM.com.

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