Deacons of vandalized church thank inmates, community for recovery

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MORGAN COUNTY, Ala. – For more than a century St. John Missionary Baptist Church has held service on the outskirts of Somerville, only suffering damage once before.

“We had a tornado take out (the building) once but that was years and years ago,” church elder Amos Burton said. “But other than that, no vandalism or nothing like that.”

That was until nearly every interior surface was ruined by vandals.

“It was devastating to us,” church elder Rosa Stewart said. “And for a while, I just couldn’t believe it had happened up here. Because it was a beautiful church, a loving church, a praying church.”

Thursday, Morgan County’s Jail Trustee inmates chose to step in and haul off the signs of pain that church deacons had never before seen.

“When you’ve got an older generation that has to walk in and see this type of vandalism, it is painful and hurts me to see it,” Morgan County Sheriff Ron Puckett said. “So it was no problem for me to say, ‘Look, we will help.'”

The participating inmates told News 19 the project was their own choice.

“It’s no problem to do volunteer work when you’re giving back to the community, helping the community,” one said. “Because most of us here are trying to better our lives. And that’s what the goal is for everybody. It’s to better yourself and help the next person, that gives me gratitude to help people in that way.”

The small congregation of St. John acknowledged few original pieces will remain after work is finished, but said they’re relieved anyway.

“The kindness of all the people that come by, I just can’t say enough for them,” Burton said. “And it feels so much better when you know somebody is thinking about you. (They) don’t even know you by name but are thinking about you and loving you.”

The Sheriff’s Office said they fully expect worship to continue Sunday.

As of Thursday evening, a GoFundMe for the church has raised more than $9,500.

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