Unknown vandals ransack Missouri church


WARSAW, Mo. — The New Home Baptist Church sits outside of Warsaw, just down the road from the Baptist Ridge Camp of Fellowship Baptist Association.  In late November they were plagued by a series of increasingly drastic vandalism incidents. The damages from four separate incidents are estimated to be in the tens of thousands of dollars, according to church officials.

Recently they had been experiencing a string of fairly minor incidents, but then damages were getting more severe. A church “blessing box” of food for the needy was damaged first. The door was ripped off of the box, which was outside the building and contained non-perishable food items that can be taken as needed. The food was left undisturbed.

Then a week or so later, some windows were damaged, some of them historic stained glass windows that are from an older church building and are essentially not replaceable as they were.  Even though they had outer glass coverings, the vandals busted the windows all around the outside of the sanctuary. Two nights in a row, window damages occurred.

Then, a week or so later the building was completely ransacked and items were overturned and destroyed all throughout the building.

Pastor Paul Dawson said they have no idea who would do such a thing to the church building.  He has served there since March of this year and said there has been some vandalism reported in the Warsaw United Methodist Church and in a church in nearby Cole Camp, but he cannot think of any reason anyone would have a grudge against the church.

The church is near the Baptist camp and the home of the director of missions for Fellowship Baptist Association, Randy Festervand.  He said his wife noticed furniture strewn across the front yard of the church as she drove by on a Saturday morning.  She reported it to Randy, and he then called the sherrif’s office and notified the pastor.  Damage was considerable in almost every room of the church.

Sanctuary pews were turned over.  The pulpit was tipped over onto the Lord’s Supper table, offering plates sent flying.  The piano and organ both were tipped over.  An expensive guitar was smashed. Paint was splattered on the projection screen.  The church office and media room were vandalized and equipment destroyed.  In the Sunday school rooms, tables and chairs were thrown about.  And in the church kitchen/fellowship hall, the appliances were damaged.  The glass cooktop of the range was busted. 

In all of this ransacking and looting, the church officials have only discovered theft of about a hundred dollars.  Some money was being collected for a missions cause by a women’s group, and cash was stored in a jar. Other than that, nothing seems to be missing but thousands upon thousands of dollars of damage has been inflicted.

Pastor Dawson said even the investigating sherriff’s officers were baffled at the rage obviously inflicted on this rural church.  They were surprised that no Bibles or hymn books seemed to have been touched or tossed around. 

But as the church approaches the Christmas season, Dawson said they didn’t want to disrupt their Christmas celebration plans in spite of the damage and trauma inflicted on them.  They held services the next day after the major damage was discovered.

Festervand offered the chapel of the Baptist campground to them, but the church leaders seemed determined to get the mess cleaned up and they worshipped in their building the next day, even though the furnace had been damaged and there was no heat available.  They will postpone their annual Christmas dinner but hope to have it a week later if the fellowship hall floors can be replaced in time.

The church insurance will cover most of the damage, and they report they hope to soon have their property restored.  “It’s just things that are replaceable,” Dawson said. He said they feel a little violated at the turn of events, and some anger has been expressed.  But he feels they will bounce back, and they are processing the loss.

In a sermon to the church on the Sunday after Thanksgiving, Pastor Dawson spoke about sin as it was described in Genesis 6. He said the reason Jesus Christ came to the world was to deal with sin such as they have experienced.

Asked if they would press charges if suspects are caught, he said, “Yes.” They want to see justice.

He said if he could speak to the people that damaged their church furnishings and building he would ask, “Why? What anger, at this level, would drive you to do this?”