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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News Tribune Pastor Mark Kiekhaefer, at left, talks about his new home that’s currently under construction at 411 E. Ashley St. He purchased a house at that address and had been renovating it so that he could move to the neighborhood. The two-story brick home, originally built in the 1920’s, was destroyed in last year’s tornado.

His family didn’t yet live in their soon-to-be new home at 411 E. Ashley St.; it was being remodeled. The home, which was built in 1926, sat vacant for more than 15 years before he closed on it in March 2018.

Demolition and planning to rebuild the home took until January 2019. Then construction really started.

It was well on its way to being a dream home, and construction crews removed forms from the garage and kitchen foundation early May 22, 2019. About 11:45 that night, the tornado that hit Jefferson City knocked the structure flat.

His future neighbors called and said Mark Kiekhaefer, the pastor at Living Hope Church, should probably come see.

When he arrived at the lot, nothing remained but a pile of debris.

“I kind of laugh, because I believe in the sovereignty of God,” Kiekhaefer said. “This house got leveled.”

He knew immediately that he was starting over.

God has a sense of humor.

“It was a mix of emotions because we wanted to save the house that was here. It was a beautiful old house. It was historic,” he said. “God had a new plan.”

Kiekhaefer said he probably spoke with almost everyone on the block that morning. He had met them during the renovation.

“There was a sense that we were going through this together,” he said. “People were out and people were helping, and it was just amazing to see.”

A friend who is an architect in St. Louis had designed the renovation. Kiekhaefer called and told him he needed to design a new house and that it needed to look like the old house.

Several weeks later, Kiekhaefer had a new plan in hand.

“The new house is tied to the community, sharing elements of the old house,” he said. “But it’s going to be new.”

The new plans allow for two bedrooms on the main level, in case it’s needed.

“We want the house to be a place where we exercise hospitality,” he said. “That’s what we wanted from the old house.”

Like the old house, the new house has an inviting porch, only the new porch is larger.

The new house has a space for Kiekhaefer to study.

“We’ve got three bedrooms besides our master bedroom, and we’ve got room in the basement to accommodate events,” he said. “We can just do a lot more with a house like this.”

Crews saved hand-cut limestone from the old porch. The plan is to use the stones for pillars on the porch of the new home. They saved several doors, which will be repurposed for shelves or furniture.

“(The house) will be maintenance-free. It will be energy-efficient,” he said. “We’ll live out the rest of our days here.”

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