‘A reminder that God is in control.’ Modesto church largely spared in lightning strike

In a flash, Christian Love Baptist Church in Modesto got a demonstration Saturday night of God’s power and his grace, one of its leaders said Sunday.

Associate minister Charles Genratt, who works as a bus driver for Turlock Unified School District, had just returned from a field trip when a church deacon called to tell him the roof had been struck by lightning. He quickly was assured that the building did not catch fire, but he was asked to head there to check on the extent of damage.

Driving from Turlock to Modesto, the lightning strikes all around were “terrible,” Genratt said, and he felt he couldn’t get to the church fast enough. After an alarm alerted other church leaders, he got the call maybe around 7:30 p.m. and arrived at Christian Love, which is at H and Second streets, around 8.

The power was out at the church and in the surrounding area, and Genratt said he is thankful that neighbors who heard what happened and came out to see “stayed on watch till someone got here to share their information with us.”

He used a flashlight to see what he could, and said he thought, “Thank you, Lord, that the church is still standing and didn’t catch on fire, because if it was powerful enough to knock a hole in the roof, it could have struck down below and set something on fire.”

But beyond the tower, there is no interior damage, he said. When the power was restored, there were no sparks or any other signs that wiring was damaged, he said.

“It was strange and, at the same time, being the believer that I am, I can say thank you, Lord, because when we hear of lightning strikes, we hear of fires afterward, or complete destruction, and it only went through there,” Genratt said, his eyes toward the steeple. “It is a reminder that God is in control of all things. His mercy and his grace was with us on this one, and we’re thankful for that.”

Inspectors will assess the damage Monday, he said, and the congregation will waste no time in getting repairs made.

Genratt said he believes the building will sooner or later receive historic designation. “So we as a congregation do our best to keep it up and make sure it’s standing on a strong foundation, with prayer that it will get that historical recognition not just as a building but as a spiritual church reaching out to the community.”