Example: [The (Findlay) Courier, 2003]
FOREST — A guest evangelist at First Baptist Church in Forest was preaching about penance and asking for a sign on Tuesday night, when the church's steeple was hit by lightning, setting the church on fire and blowing out the sound system.
"It was awesome, just awesome," said church member Ronnie Cheney, 40, of rural Forest, who was in the church at
"You could hear the storm building outside ... He (the evangelist) just kept asking God what else he needed to say," Cheney said. "He was asking for a sign and he got one."
At about 7:45 p.m., lightning hit the church's steeple, went through the electrical wiring and blew out the church's sound system. Cheney said the lightning traveled through the microphone and enveloped the preacher, but he was not injured.
Afterward, services resumed for about 20 minutes, but then the congregation realized that the church was on fire and the building was evacuated.
According to Forest Fire Chief Doug Hawkin, his crew, along with the Kenton and Wharton fire departments, responded to the scene.
After firemen arrived they saw flames coming from the steeple. Firemen doused the blaze, remaining at the scene about three hours.
"It was kind of interesting hearing the preacher talk about what had happened," Hawkin admitted.
There were no injuries.
Damage to the church was estimated at about $20,000.
Origins: On 1 July 2003 a bolt from the sky hit the steeple of the First Baptist Church in the small town of Forest, Ohio, setting it ablaze. That in itself is not unusual, as lightning strikes start a number of fires every year, and lightning sometimes hits structures, including churches. (In fact, the 124-year-old Immaculate Conception Catholic Church in Cecil, Ohio, burned to the ground on
The Rev. Don Hardman, a traveling evangelist from Virginia, was preaching to the congregation during the storm. According to the Bible,
As the Toledo Blade reported:
"It just lasted a second, but it was pretty wild to say the least," Mrs. Cheney said.
After a pause, Mr. Hardman resumed his sermon and preached for another
"We tried to focus back on what the evangelist was saying until a neighbor lady came in the back door and said the lightning had hit the steeple,"
"I smelled something burning," young Smith said, "but I thought it was the sound system. We didn’t know it was the steeple."
Meanwhile, several heavy clay tiles had fallen from the steeple and crushed a car in the parking lot,
"That was the first miracle, that the tiles didn’t crush the Hardmans' camper,"
Barbara "practice throw" Mikkelson
Last updated: 14 September 2005
Bates, Kim. "Parish Mourns Church Loss in Fire But Looks to Future." The Toledo Blade. 23 July 2003. Grant, Denise. "National, International Media Tell Story of July 1 Incident in Forest." The [Findlay] Courier. 8 July 2003. Associated Press. "Lightning Hits Just As Preacher Asks for Sign From God." 3 July 2003. The [Findlay] Courier. "He Was Asking for a Sign." 3 July 2003. Orlando Sentinel. "Church Damaged by Lightning." 26 August 2003 (p. B3). The Toledo Blade. "Did God Speak When Lightning Hit Forest, Ohio, Church?" 12 July 2003.