Pastor Zingisisile Shadrach Tshambo watched in horror as a fierce wind ripped the roof off Wallacedene church in June.
“My hart is so seer,” he said, as he recalled the tragic day.
It was the latest in a string of trials faced by the 10-year-old Prophecy and Healing Ministry Church.
The congregants, who number some 200, had spent the past three years building the church, in Phosa Street.
It had been slow-going because they are poor and have, for the most part, depended on donors.
The church was about 70% complete when the June 7 storm hit.
Mr Tshambo, still struggles to describe what happened coherently without becoming emotional.
“Sjoe! Yoh! Yoh! Yoh! I just saw… sjoe” he said before resorting to sound effects of wind noises and crashes.
He had been at his home, a few streets away, on that fateful day, when he heard loud rattles and bangs and decided to see if the church was okay.
He soon realised it wasn’t: the roof was lifting in the wind, and he barely had time to shout a warning to the on-site caretaker before the tempest tore the zinc sheets apart.
“I just saw sheets flying everywhere,” he said.
A section of the roof held and folded in half on top of itself, but the rest was scattered onto surrounding properties.
A panicked Mr Tshambo ran to the church’s neighbours for help and they all braved the storm to retrieve as much of the scattered roofing material as they could.
“Hulle het kom help. Ek het net gehoor, ‘Sjoe, pastor. Sorry pastor. Sorry pastor’.”
Mr Tshambo stashed the mangled zinc sheeting and support beams in a narrow alley.
After the storm, the full scale of the damage became apparent: more than half of the roof was gone and most of the roof sheeting could not be reused.
Unable to use the church for services, the congregants pitched a tent on the site, and that’s where they have been holding their services for the past two months.
Mr Tshambo is appealing to the community to “asseblief” help the church with its efforts to rebuild.
“Rerig, ons sukkel,” he said.
The tent is too small to accommodate all the congregants and they spill out the sides and into the street during services. On warmer days, the heat inside is sweltering and when the wind blows those inside can barely hear themselves above the howling and whistling.
If you can help, contact Mr Tshambo at 073 330 5401.