South Bend church suffers major damage from vandals

By: Ryan Famuliner Email
By: Ryan Famuliner Email

A South Bend church has a lot of cleaning up to do, and has a lot of questions, after their building was vandalized Sunday night.

Windows were broken, walls spray painted, and small fires were even started inside the church.

The Church of Christ in the 1800 block of Caroline St. has a small congregation: less than two dozen people.

They already had some minor problems with vandalism a few weeks ago, but nothing compared to this.

"I saw it and said 'why us Lord? You know, why does this happen to us? What did we do that we deserve this? But who are we to question him, you know? If he allows it to happen, he allows it to happen. Is that to tell us something or make us stronger? I don't know," said church Trustee John Japa

"But also, the devil works in mysterious ways too and this is absolutely the work of the devil," said Trustee James Peden.

The graffiti on the outside walls was considered offensive to the church, with the word God written with the “o” represented by the Star of David. But the graffiti also included a possible clue: the name of an area gang.

"They said there were two gangs involved. So, who did what, I don’t know," Japa said.

Fire investigators are handing the case, but would not comment since the investigation is ongoing.

It appears the vandals broke in the back door.

The church says they must have sprayed the floors with a fire extinguisher and cement compound, and basically ransacked the place.

"I still think it was a hate crime, based on what they were trying to destroy… They just didn't like our messages that we put out. That's all I can think of," Japa said.

The burnt papers on many walls luckily didn't start a larger fire.

Nothing was sacred: even the sacramental wine was thrown all over the pews.

"Very sad. If crying could do any good, I could start rivers," Peden said.

The trustees hope the people who did this are caught, and punished.

But if they aren't, they believe it won't really matter.

"God will do the punishing to them in the end. If they don't do it here, then God will do the punishing in the end. I really believe that," Peden said.

The church says nothing was stolen.

They hope to have everything cleaned up in time for next week's services... but say if that’s not possible, they’ll likely hold services at a member’s house, or another public place.

The church had problems with vandalism a few weeks ago… but it was much more minor. The same back doorknob that appears to have been broken to gain entry in Sunday, was recently replaced, because someone broke it off in the last couple of weeks.

Windows had also been broken before, and the church was going to install some plexi-glass over the windows, but it just didn't get done quickly enough to avoid this round of vandalism.

The trustees said they never imagined it would escalate to this.

Monday they were still getting in touch with their insurance, and said they had no idea what amount of damage there was monetarily.

Police say they will increase patrols in the area.

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