CLEVELAND (WJW) – A local church is sharing surveillance video with FOX 8 from inside the historic building as a violent tornado touched down early Friday morning. 

At first it looks like an eerie mist spreading down Euclid Avenue and across the parking lot at New Life Calvary Church in Cleveland.

Then, the winds turn turbulent with wicked rain ripping off the roof and destroying multiple rooms inside.

Choking back tears, Pastor Kellie Sullivan described her reaction seeing it for the first time, “I just broke down crying. It’s just been really hard to see our building so demolished and destroyed.”

Especially the children’s space, which was entirely obliterated.

 “We offer free piano lessons and all of the piano’s are destroyed. Every single one of them,” said Pastor Sullivan.

The church is more than 140 years old and made from solid sandstone, but the tornado with winds in excess of 110 mph did significant damage.

A massive tree was also uprooted and landed onto a recently restored portion of the church.

“All the sudden, everything is just flying around whipping around, so it’s pretty devastating,” she said.

But in the midst of all that loss and while trying to salvage records from the 1800s and computers, church leaders took time to serve the community.

Pastor Sullivan and Tina Marr with First Baptist Church of Greater Cleveland went forward with a pre-planned dinner Friday night.

The free scheduled meal is for members of the congregation and members of the community who are in need.

Since the church was off-limits, they served it right in the parking lot to between 20 and 40 people.

“I was shocked. I was in tears this morning at home,” said Marr, “but my second reaction is, people are still looking for food today.”

“When all is said and done, it’s a building and these people still need to eat. They still need to know they’re loved and they’re cared for and that they aren’t alone,” said Pastor Sullivan.

The church has not missed a service in 10 years, not even during COVID when they held services in the parking lot.

She says if they have to, they will do that again.

“We’re going to continue to do ministry here,” she said. “We’re going to continue to serve here to love on people, to help people and encourage people.”

She says they’ve contacted their insurance company, but repairing the historic building will be challenging and expensive.

They’re grateful for any donations, volunteers or other support that people might be willing to provide. 

She also thanked city leaders, the Cleveland Restoration Society, fire chief and others for stopping by. 

But more than anything, she says they are grateful for all of the prayers.

“We have definitely felt the prayers,” she said again with tears welling in her eyes. “Truly the prayers are most important. Don’t give up on us, just don’t give up.”