Two weeks ago, the Emmanuel Baptist Church family met after Sunday service to plan the coming month’s Christmas celebration events. On Dec. 5, we would decorate our sanctuary and fellowship room. On Dec. 12, we would meet to select and practice our caroling songs. The afternoon of Dec 19. would be spent delivering the gift of homemade cookies and caroling to our shut-in members at home and at the Pioneer Home. And of course, there would be Christmas Eve service at our church.
Those plans will not be fulfilled because late in the evening of Dec. 1 some person or persons intentionally set fire to our church’s car parked next to our building. The car was destroyed and caused extensive fire damage to the sanctuary and smoke damage to the rest of the building. Instead of delivering cookies to our church members, my wife delivered them, with thanks, to the Juneau fire and police departments.
To those responsible for this fire: I can never understand the events in your lives that would have caused you to do this act. In this life and the next you will be held accountable for your actions. I know God will forgive your sins when you sincerely ask and accept him. It is my belief that the courts will be much more lenient if you were to turn yourself in. It is my prayer you do both.
This fire has shocked the community, especially people of faith. Some might believe when you destroy the church building you destroy the people that worship there. That is not true. People of faith know a church is not the building we worship in but a group of people that understand and accept God’s plan of love and forgiveness; we become family. That is why Christians of different denominations can sincerely greet one another as brother and sister.
Regretfully, there is a second church family this fire has affected. The Juneau Korean Baptist Church has shared this building for over five years. Emmanuel’s property insurance may not be able to cover all of the Korean Church’s personal property loss.
Emmanuel’s building status right now is OK. Our building insurance is covering the restoration of fire and smoke damage and most of the contents. Our car is a loss because we did not have complete comprehensive insurance. The restoration process began the second day after the fire (thank you, State Farm). Power and heat was restored to the original building the third day. Our sister church, Glacier Valley Baptist Church, invited us to use their facilities and we are meeting there. We hope to return and use the original part of our church in four to six weeks. The sanctuary will require major restoration, but we will be able to occupy it sometime this coming spring.
Emmanuel’s family thanks all the emergency responders for their quick and professional actions and also the fire investigators for the same. We also thank the insurance adjuster and contractors for their quick and professional response. Because of the prayers of so many people and churches, Emmanuel is stronger today than a couple of weeks ago. Emmanuel will rise from the ashes.
Larry Tong, Deacon of Emmanuel Baptist Church