A dozen years after it launched in 1998, Creekside Community Church in Elizabeth built its first building with help from Southern Baptist construction teams. Thirteen years later, on the night of June 22–23, 100 feet of the rural Colorado church’s driveway was destroyed when Running Creek changed its course during a flood.
“In the 10 years I’ve been at the church, [the creek] never flooded,” Rob Geislinger, vice chairman of the church’s administrative board, told The Baptist Paper. “It’s a very small, quiet creek.”
Creekside Church, with just one way in and one way out from County Road 13, is about 45 minutes southeast of downtown Denver and an hour northeast of Colorado Springs. The congregation is now unable to meet at the church until the road is repaired. After two weeks of online services, they’re meeting in a park for Sunday worship and in homes for other church-related activities.
The church property also houses the disaster relief equipment for Mile High Baptist Association, so it too is out of commission.
“We were getting pretty heavy rain regularly,” said Geislinger, who is working with the church’s pastor, Luke Heirendt, on what will be a massive, two-phase repair project. “The night before, we had a heavy storm that left a little (rainwater) over the driveway. The next night, more rain, and ground so saturated [the rain] had nowhere to go.”
Fast-moving water rose overnight in the creek, which then took an unexpected 90-degree S-shaped turn near the southern boundary of the church’s 26-acre property.
When an engineer surveyed the damage, he concluded that a previous property owner might have diverted the creek so he would have more usable land, Heirendt said. Then, during several days of heavy rainfall, the creek corrected itself back to its original course.
“The force of the water against that curve overwhelmed it and eroded the bank,” Geislinger said. “The rerouted creek caused incredible erosion that we are going to have to address. It’s an 8-foot drop that runs the entire length of the property. Could be a quarter of a million dollars or more (to repair.)
“I imagine hundreds of thousands of tons of dirt to fill it back to its original grade.”
Safety is the main reason for the erosion repair.
“Kids have always had the run of the entire property,” Geislinger said. “We have to protect them.”
Heirendt arrived at the property the morning of June 23 to check the bridge, which had standing water on it in previous storms.
Anticipating the bridge might be flooded, he said “it was there, but the driveway wasn’t. You could walk across the bridge. There was just this 75-foot-wide river in front of you.”
Because of the cost, erosion repair will be pushed to the second phase of the massive project, Geislinger said. The church has enough in reserves to pay for restoring access to the church, which handles the immediate need.
“We need to get the driveway back,” Geislinger said. “We’re building an elevated berm with culverts underneath to channel the water. The berm will become the base of the driveway; we’ll drive over the berm.”
The cost is expected to be about $70,000 but could increase to $100,000 or more depending on what engineers find as they monitor the work of road-building crews.
“We hope to be back in the building by mid-August because we have a school that uses our building Thursdays and Fridays,” Heirendt said. “It’s a time crunch for restoring access for them as well as us.”
The storm damage might be an answer to the church’s prayers, the pastor said with a chuckle.
“For the last year we’ve been discussing and praying for God to help us so that the church would become more known in our community,” Heirendt said. “Last summer our town started free concerts on Friday nights. We had a booth for activities for kids and information about Creekside, and we found a lot of people didn’t know about us.
“Now people are telling us they’ve heard about us.”
“I think we live in a world where there are hurricanes, tornadoes and sometimes flash flooding,” the pastor continued after a pause. “We do believe that God can bring good out of these things, as devastating as they can be. But more than anything, this has served to remind us that, as much as we miss access to our building, the Church is not a place; it’s a people.”