Doyle Sager was nowhere near Jefferson City, Missouri, when a tornado etched a wide, destructive path across the municipality Wednesday night.
But Sager, the lead pastor at First Baptist Church there, felt its emotional impact.
“My heart’s back in that city, and I gotta get home,” he said Thursday morning after cutting short a family visit to Tennessee.
By all accounts, Sager is returning to a community devastated by a twister that injured 20 people and damaged structures in “many areas” of Jefferson City, the Jefferson City News Tribune reported. That damage includes parts of a downtown that is home to state government facilities – and First Baptist.
The storms were part of a larger system that caused at least three deaths and widespread damage in other parts of the state.
“Among the areas hardest hit were Jefferson City, Carl Junction and Eldon,” the newspaper reported.
First Baptist was only a few blocks from the tornado’s path but sustained no damage, Sager said. His home wasn’t touched and so far no members of the church have reported damage through the church’s available social media outlets.
Even so, Sager and his staff have been busy finding ways to be of service to those impacted by the storm.
“We have opened our church to provide coffee and water,” he said. “A lot of people are without power.”
Discussions are underway on providing meals to first responders and displaced persons, he added.
“We are waiting to see what the community needs.”
Sager said he and other members of a downtown ecumenical pastor’s organization have scheduled a community prayer service Sunday afternoon.
That will likely be especially true for some of the economically challenged parts of the city that were hit hard, he said.
“The city was doing redevelopment in those areas, and it’s tragic that’s where (the tornado) hit.”
Since many in those neighborhoods are renters and are without renters’ insurance, the recovery is “going to be really rough for some folks.”
Sager added he was grateful that his wife, Janet, was in Kansas City helping care for twin grandchildren when the violent weather struck Jefferson City.