This article was originally published by The Mennonite

MDS staff visit site of church burning

Photo: MDS Region I director, Phil Troyer, speaks with Todd Taylor of Samaritan’s Purse. Troyer assesses damage from a fire at the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church, near Charlotte, N.C. Photo provided.

A Mennonite Disaster Service staff member and the MDS Region I director visited the Briar Creek Road Baptist Church near Charlotte, N.C., on July 29, to assess the needs for support in rebuilding a burned building on the property.

During the last week of June several predominantly African-American churches were burned in southern states, charring either their main church building or buildings on their property. Three of the nearly half-dozen burnings were determined as set intentionally.

While the fire at Briar Creek Road has been determined as arson, officials have not determined if it was intended as a hate crime.

During their visit, Larry Stoner, MDS Disaster Response Coordinator, and Phil Troyer, MDS Region I director met with two representatives from Samaritan’s Purse, (SP) an international faith-based disaster response and relief agency based in Boone, N.C.

The Samaritan’s Purse works with MDS in other disaster response work in the US and Canada and invited MDS to provide volunteers to assist in the cleanup and rebuilding of the church buildings.

“Major damage was done to one of several buildings on their property,” Larry Stoner said. “The goal is to remove all the debris from the floor and begin to remove some of the roof debris.”

There was also a need for asbestos removal from the floor tile and glaze around the windows of the building, Stoner said. He expected a company specializing in asbestos removal would be needed.

Stoner and Troyer met with Todd Taylor, assistant manager of domestic projects for Samaritan’s Purse and Wayne Shoemaker, the SP volunteer manager for the Briar Creek Road Church response.

Stoner and Troyer planned to contact their churches and MDS volunteers to assist in the cleanup and rebuilding as needed. Taylor asked MDS to explore the situation of another church that was burned in South Carolina.

Mennonite Disaster Service has responded to church burnings in the past but was encouraged by the delegates to the Mennonite Church convention in Kansas City to formulate a response to the recent church burnings in Southern states.

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