A congregation's decision three years ago to leave the doors of a Thurman, Iowa church unlocked allowed a family to take refuge in the building's basement, likely saving their lives, as a fierce tornado struck over the weekend.
The family, which includes a young mother, father and three children, lived a modular home, according to the United Methodist News Service.
"We decided we are a community church, we are open to our community and we are not going to lock our doors. Well today, that decision may have saved lives," said the Rev. Jaye Johnson, pastor of Thurman, according to the United Methodist News Service.
He made the comments on Sunday afternoon as the community gathered to celebrate and pray after morning services were cancelled.
While most of the town was damaged, there were no injuries or deaths, Johnson said.
"If they would have found the doors locked … we could have been looking at casualties, no doubt. We are quite grateful they found their way into the church," he said.
Johnson said it's too early to tell what will happen to what remains of the church structure.