The Friday following Mother’s day I got a phone call from a church member saying that the church was vandalized. I happened to be down the street from the church and made my way over to see the damage. For the most part the church suffered some minor damage that day. We still don’t know who broke in and why. The next day I got another phone call saying that the church was vandalized again and that this time it was pretty bad. I made my way back to the church and apparently some vandals decided to turn on a fire hose and the entire church sanctuary as well as a meeting space was flooded with about 2 inches of water as well as some other vandalism that occurred. The building that was flooded is approximately 4000 square feet. There was water every where you walked. The news that a church in Palmdale was vandalized ended up making the local television news. For the most part, the different news stations did a great job telling the story which was a good way to alert the community about what had happened.
The day after the vandalism was Pentecost Sunday, the day that Christians celebrate together the birth of the church from Acts 2. It was also the day that the church would move forward and make a statement to the neighborhood that nothing can separate us from the love of God. It was a day we happened to have a guest preacher who shared with the church the importance of being a blessing to others. How do you tell a church that God calls us to be a blessing to others when the church you love has been turned upside down? The pastor did a wonderful job at being an encouragement to those in attendance that morning, a morning which was filled with celebration and gratitude that it isn’t a building that makes up the church, but that it’s the people of God that make up the church and that it is the people of God who are called to love their neighbors, “no matter what.”
What’s happened since the vandalism?
Loving God and loving the neighborhood continues. It hasn’t changed the mission of the church. It definitely hasn’t changed the call to be people of the new commandment and to make disciples (John 13:34-35 and Matthew 28). It hasn’t changed the call to have a heart for the community and to make people the church’s priority. It’s not about programs and it’s most certainly not about the building. It’s about sharing God’s love in a way that draws people to the cross of Jesus Christ. Here’s what I noticed about the community after the vandalism. People stopped by as we were getting ready for the worship service the day after the vandalism and helped us set up chairs. There was a local ambulance company that donated ambulance service because they heard, that we would have to meet outside due to the flooding and in case someone got dehydrated, they would be available to help. Other businesses even offered support. Between the phone calls, the emails, the letters, as well as the kind words of encouragement as well as the prayers, it told the church that the church still matters.
It’s been a few weeks since the vandalism has occurred. The church is now back in the sanctuary for worship services. The carpets were cleaned and people are moving forward although there is lots of work to be done repairing and restoring a sacred space of worship that so many people call their church home.
As for the persons who vandalized the church?
You’re always welcome to worship. You will be loved. You will be cared for and you will indeed hear Good News.
“So, what do you think? With God on our side like this, how can we lose? If God didn’t hesitate to put everything on the line for us, embracing our condition and exposing himself to the worst by sending his own Son, is there anything else he wouldn’t gladly and freely do for us? And who would dare tangle with God by messing with one of God’s chosen? Who would dare even to point a finger? The One who died for us—who was raised to life for us!—is in the presence of God at this very moment sticking up for us. Do you think anyone is going to be able to drive a wedge between us and Christ’s love for us? There is no way! Not trouble, not hard times, not hatred, not hunger, not homelessness, not bullying threats, not backstabbing, not even the worst sins listed in Scripture: They kill us in cold blood because they hate you. We’re sitting ducks; they pick us off one by one. None of this fazes us because Jesus loves us. I’m absolutely convinced that nothing—nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable—absolutely nothing can get between us and God’s love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.” Romans 8:31-39 (MSG)