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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Minister of damaged Terre Haute church has ties to Brazil

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Submitted photo

The roof of Union Christian Church, Terre Haute, was partially destroyed in recent storm.

The Terre Haute Church that lost its roof to a recent tornado has an interesting connection to Brazil-- and its newspaper.

Minister Mark Grayless has served the congregation of Union Christian Church, 5350 E. Hulman Drive, for 17 years now. But before he decided to pursue a career as a minister, the Brazil native was a budding newspaper man. Grayless worked at the Brazil Times from 1965 to 1976, first as a paper boy and later as an ad salesman and occasional sports reporter: "From the bottom up," he remembered.

Grayless left Brazil to attend Lincoln Christian College in Lincoln, Ill., but returned each summer to work at The Times. He said his experience at the paper serves him well to this day.

"I probably learned as much in sales (at The Times) as I did in college," he said. "The people skills I learned there have been invaluable."

But no amount of experience could have prepared him for a tornado strike. Grayless was safely at home strumming his guitar when the storm hit, but several members of the church sidestepped disaster by a much smaller margin.

Union Christian buzzed with activity in the hours before the tornado struck. The youth group met from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., and the choir convened for practice around the same time. The church's nursery facility teemed with the children of choir members and other parishioners.

Grayless said everyone had gone home by about 7:45. The tornado struck shortly after 8 p.m., just a few minutes after the last person left the building.

The steeple atop Union Christian was sucked into the tornado and thrown onto nearby S.R. 46. The roof of the church collapsed into the recently-emptied nursery.

"We were about 20 minutes away from a disaster," he said.

Grayless said the church's top-flight insurance policy covered everything but a $100 deductible, and he'll meet with a structural engineer this week to discuss the prospect of rebuilding the roof. If everything goes according to plan, Grayless said the repairs should be completed by May.

Despite the severity of the damage, Grayless and his fellow parishioners refused to miss even one Sunday service-- they counted their blessings Sunday during a service staged in the building's gymnasium, which escaped the brunt of the storm.

"That, to me, was almost a miracle in itself," he said.

On the Net:

Union Christian Church: http://www.unionchristianchurch.org

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