Turned away by FEMA, lowcountry churches rebuild with faith

Turned away by FEMA, lowcountry churches rebuild with faith

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A single building along Charleston's Bees Ferry Road is home to three ministries:  Abundant Life Church, Kingdom Vision Christian Center, and faith-based private school, Capers Preparatory Academy.

Three weeks ago, all three suffered massive damage in the midst of an historic flood event statewide.

The building stood under nearly four feet of water, and without flood insurance.

"FEMA won't help us," said property-owner Jan Denham, also a pastor at Abundant Life Church.

Denham said flood insurance on the property exceeded $10,000, and decided to operate without it.

A FEMA spokesperson said non-profits, like churches, instead should contact the Small Business Administration, or SBA.

The administration offers loans, while FEMA offers grants, but to individuals, like homeowners and renters.

Denham said she spoke with an SBA representative, who offered the church a small business loan at a four percent interest rate.

Instead, the owner and pastor turned to help from the community, which she says, has been flooding in.

"We've had doors donated to us.  My brother in law from Hilton Head has gotten tiles."

Denham said for a while, the building and all of its ministries went unnoticed, which stands behind Crosstowne Christian Church, a building she once owned and sold.

"Nobody really knew we were back here, that three ministries were back here," she said.

'We just had a peace that God was going to put it together."

Meanwhile, inside Crosstowne, the walls appear to have its own equator, with dry wall stripped nearly four feet high, a clear indication of where the water once stood.

"We don't have a dollar value of its cost, but its easily over half a million dollars," said Pastor Paul Rienzo of the damage.

Three weeks ago, members kayaked much of the electronics out of the church in hopes of salvaging them.  Rienzo said all the office supplies and furniture was destroyed.

Rienzo said Crosstowne hasn't begun the rebuilding process, but is hopeful flood insurance will cover most of the physical damage.  He says the church is spending a good deal of money moving equipment back and forth to their temporary home at Citadel Mall Cinema.

"I was shocked at how different it looked," said longtime member Staci Mclain.

"It is unbelievable to think there was 3-4 feet of water throughout the entire building."

Crosstowne members also gushed over the community support, hailing fellow churches like Seacoast, Northwood Assembly, and Grace on the Ashley for stepping in to help.

"Grace on the Ashley, my offices are there now," Rienzo said.

The pastor said it could be another four months before the church on Bees Ferry Road is ready for Sunday service.

"We don't consider this a tragedy," he added.

"What happened in other people's lives, that was a tragedy, what happened in Columbia, that was a tragedy, but this is not a sad story."

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