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Thieves target Gadsden church; members target thief with lovecomment (0)

April 19, 2012

By Anna Keller

James Memorial Baptist Church, Gadsden, has suffered about $20,000 in damages within the last few months thanks to theft. Last December, the Etowah Baptist Association church discovered that someone had been tampering with the air conditioning unit and had stolen pieces of copper — leaving the unit destroyed.

“What the thief was doing was stealing copper pipe that ran from the a.c. unit to the building, then stealing the copper coil from the unit itself,” Pastor Mike Allums said. “When they do that, they rupture the lines and freon goes everywhere.”

Unfortunately, the church was hit again in late January. And James Memorial wasn’t the only victim. Other churches in the area were reporting the same problem. 

“It was surprising at first to think someone could do that to a house of God,” said Orva McDonald, the church’s treasurer. “We couldn’t believe [it] was actually happening, that someone was stealing from churches and businesses and community centers around town.”

After being hit twice (and instating a watch committee that signed up for shifts to keep an eye on the church’s property overnight), James Memorial leaders decided it was time to invest in a security system. They were concerned that their insurance premiums would increase or — even worse — that they’d lose their coverage. 

The church installed a laser-beam system in March, and early one morning the thief attempted to once again break into the units. But because the security system was in place, he moved across the street to a Church of Christ church instead.

Finally, in early April, the thief was arrested, which was a relief to the many churches and businesses that had been targeted in recent months.

“He broke the law, so it was the right thing to press charges, but we also agreed that we needed to reach out to this man and in some way express the love of Christ to him,” Allums said. 

“We had a responsibility to the community and other churches to see that he was punished, but we still felt an obligation to reach out.”

Since the arrest happened so recently, Allums isn’t yet sure what reaching out will look like for his congregation, but he has seen the church’s members show support for the idea.

“I think it’s good that we’re going to reach out,” McDonald said. “This young man is 19 years old. We want to show we forgive him and want to help him out. We want to show him we still care about him.”

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