INDIANTOWN, Fla. (BP) – Windows were broken. The organ and piano were overturned. Resources were ripped up. Vandalism that occurred March 4 at The Village Church of Indiantown seemed like one of the worst things that could happen to a church. Instead, it has become a blessing.
“Evil did not win,” said Pastor Chris McDonald.
The pastor can share story after story about phone calls he’s received from local churches and businesses, members and complete strangers who want to help the church after hearing about the incident. Nobody, it seems, likes the idea of vandals destroying church property, and plenty of people are pledging their support.
‘Meant for evil … used for God’s good’
On Saturday, March 11, just one week after the vandalism, volunteers from various churches gathered for a clean-up day that had been scheduled by Covenant Fellowship Baptist Church in nearby Stuart. McDonald said it looked like an army had arrived as people began filing into the church.
After a group prayer in the sanctuary, team captains were assigned for various projects, volunteers were separated into teams, and work began. The group included 50 to 60 volunteers, including 15 from Village Church.
“All of the work was just incredible,” McDonald said. “This place looks amazing.”
Volunteers painted the fascia of the building and interior doors, replaced broken kitchen windows, cleaned all the windows and bathrooms, replaced ceiling tiles in the vestibule, repaired the ceiling over the baptistry and much more. Volunteers also repaired one wrought-iron gate and replaced the other, offering more security for the church and hopefully preventing another break-in.
Matthew Gille, associate pastor at Covenant Fellowship, said he and other members were happy to assist and encourage Village Church and the community as part of Covenant’s “Living the Mission-Serve Day.”
“The timing of our service day couldn’t have been better,” Gille said. “We ended up having 40 volunteers from our church go and complete several much-needed projects around their church, including reinstalling the windows that were shattered by the people who broke in a week prior. We are hopeful that these acts that were meant for evil by the vandals will be used for God’s good.”
God still in ‘miracle business … forgiveness business’
Of course, McDonald had no idea of this support when he first got word a week earlier about the break-in. He was visiting his parents in Fort Lauderdale when he got the call and drove as fast as he could to the church that he’s pastored for two and a half years. When he arrived Saturday afternoon, he found the police investigating and plenty of people already pitching in to help clean up the mess.
And what a mess it was. One or more vandals had broken into the church, turned over the organ and piano, destroyed mirrors, ripped up books and tracts, threw stuff around and broken the jalousie windows in the kitchen. The sanctuary looked terrible, and church members who had arrived to help wondered if Sunday’s service would be moved to the fellowship hall.
But the more they and other volunteers worked to clean the church, the better it started to look. It went from tragedy to triumph.
“We picked up the piano, put it back together and prayed over it, and it worked. Then we set up the organ and prayed over it. We plugged it in, and it worked. That’s when I said, ‘We’re having church in here.’ Once they started working and I knew we had the workday coming up, I had a feeling of peace and I knew we were going to be OK,” McDonald said.
The day after the vandalism, McDonald preached a sermon about the miracles of Jesus, discussing the biblical story where a woman was healed from an illness just from touching Jesus’ garment.
“God is still in the miracle business. He’s also still in the forgiveness business,” he said, referring to the church’s need to forgive the people responsible for the incident.
“We have to be a church of forgiveness. We’re praying for the guys who did this.”
McDonald said the outpouring of support has been amazing. The Spanish-speaking church next door was there to help clean up the day of the incident, as were people form the CROS food bank who distribute food at the church. The Martin County Sheriff’s Office, which is investigating the crime, posted the incident with photos on its Facebook page, resulting in even more calls from people wanting to help the church.
“One guy called and said, ‘I want to help pay for a new piano. My grandparents used to go to that church.’ That’s the kind of calls I’ve been getting,” McDonald said. That is particularly good news as the piano will need some repair work.
He is especially thankful for members of Covenant Fellowship Baptist Church and Treasure Coast Baptist Association who came out to help with clean-up. Some were members of the Florida Baptist Convention’s Disaster Relief Team and it was evident, McDonald says, because of how skilled and talented they were.
“The Christian community coming together has been awe-inspiring,” McDonald said.
“God has been glorified through this. He’s moving and working through all of this, and it’s really something great to see.”