Church members seek answers after arson fire

July 18, 2011 2:20:23 PM PDT
Under cloudy skies, it was a dark day Monday for members of Living Hope Church in Baytown. Nila Sullivan has cleaned the church for more than three years. It's also where she finds spiritual direction.

She can't fathom why or how someone would feel the need to burn her church building.

"I'm just sad," she said, wiping away tears. "I'm not mad to that person. I pray that the Lord will forgive him."

Fire crews got the call around 3:40am Monday.

Arson investigators say someone forced their way into a back door, then started the fire at several locations inside.

They even found graffiti.

It took more than 40 firefighters from three departments more than two hours to put out the fire. Two firefighters were treated and released at the scene for heat exhaustion.

By the time the blaze was extinguished, most of the church was gutted.

"It's hard to make sense. I really can't," youth pastor Kylie Wilson said. "What would possess somebody to burn a church down?"

Unfortunately, they've been down this road before. The church was destroyed in a fire at its first location, and was rebuilt at its present location in 2005.

The pastor is now starting over...again.

"It's painful. It hurts," said Senior Pastor Kevin Kleinhenz. "But God saw us through before and he'll see us through again."

Church leaders say surveillance video caught what appeared to be a teenage boy breaking in Friday, stealing a guitar. It's unclear if the fire destroyed that footage. They wonder if the same person is responsible for the fire.

They say no matter what, they will survive.

The church is planning to hold Wednesday services at a county building next door. They're working on where they will worship until they can rebuild.

"It's just a building, and were going to be able to rebuild it," church elder Len Hyde said.

The church is not the building here, but the people. The clouds above it soon enough will dissipate.

Crews were on the scene of another church fire overnight. Fire severely damaged an outbuilding containing BBQ pits at St. Andrew's Catholic Church on Sheldon Road. Those BBQ pits were being used yesterday. The building is a total loss. No one was hurt in that fire, either.

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