(WBIR- Jefferson City) Close to 300 church members cannot worship at their regular sanctuary after flames tore through the building just an hour after Vacation Bible School had wrapped up for the day.
While there is no visible damage to True Life Church in Jefferson City, heavy flame, smoke, and water damage forced the church to cancel services after a fire sparked Friday night.
"I just pictured a small kitchen fire, no big deal," said Pastor Jimmy Inman. "When I opened up the door, I pretty much had to close it immediately because the room was already full of smoke, it was coming out. You couldn't even breathe standing on the outside of it. The smoke was so thick you really couldn't even see the fire."
Inman said bible school had finished for the day, but a few kids stuck around to ask him about Baptism. Then, minutes later, the fire alarm sounded.
"I told the kids that I was talking to that for them to take the step and go public with their faith and be baptized, you know God really used that to spare us because there wouldn't have been anyone here if that wouldn't have happened."
The kitchen and library were a total loss, and the classrooms and multipurpose room suffered heavy smoke and water damage.
"There was actually a volunteer firefighter who goes to our church, who was only about a minute away and got here extremely quickly and let them know how serious it was," said Inman.
Inman said crews were able to respond quickly to get things under control.
"The chief told us five more minutes we probably would have lost the building."
The sanctuary did not have visible damage, but is unusable due to the smoke.
"All of the electronics are in the process of being removed and cleaned and so we would have no music equipment, no sound equipment, no video," said Inman.
The pastor said they rented the building on Highway 11 for seven years, and just bought and remodeled it four years ago.
"It's sad to see everyone's hard work looking like this right now but I can't imagine how devastating it would feel for it just to be completely gone," said Inman.
Several churches have offered space for services, which are being held temporarily at Arrowhead Church in Morristown.
"The church is not a building. It's God's people who know Christ and we'll move forward together."
Inman expects repairs to take at least four weeks. He did not know the estimated cost of damages.