Community helps church clean up after vandalism

It wasn’t the recognition Rev. Robert Babcox had in mind.

In a unanimous vote on May 13, the 25 worshipers who attended evening services at Trinity Baptist Church, 2748 B 1/2 Road, agreed on a name change. When lawyers signed the paperwork, the 54-year-old Southern Baptist church would be known as Orchard Mesa Baptist Church.

Five days after the vote, Trinity Baptist was hit with a wave of vandalism now projected to approach $60,000 in repair, replacement and clean-up costs.

“We wanted to reach out to the community more,” Babcox said of the name change. “But the community ended up reaching out to us. I’m in awe of what’s happened here over the past week.”

Hints remain from the burglary and arson that Michael Moore and Caleb Hovland, both 17, are accused of committing May 18 at the church.

Small sections of carpet inside the sanctuary are stained after foam cushioning melted off a church pew, which was set on fire. Near the podium where Babcox delivers Sunday sermons, a series of white stars from the blue field of an American flag are now scattered on the floor, melted into the carpet.

Inside Trinity’s small library, a series of books sit ruined on shelves because of yellow paint stains. The room’s carpet must be replaced after a painted graffiti message, “West Side,” couldn’t be removed.

“Why the books?” Babcox asks.

The building is a far cry from the ravaged mess that churchgoers found on the morning of May 18. That same day, Babcox canceled services scheduled for the following Wednesday. They ended up holding those services anyway, the same night the congregation formally added Moore and Hovland to the church’s prayer list.

“I underestimated my God’s ability to do his work,” Babcox said of the quick clean-up.

“That’s my fault.”

Trinity Baptist’s kitchen, the room that took the worst of the vandalism, has seen the most remarkable recovery. Community donations, some arriving in letters accompanied by $10 or $20 bills, have funded the purchase of three new refrigerators.

“The larger donations were from people who asked to remain anonymous,” Babcox said.

Five refrigerators were found damaged beyond repair on May 18.

A food bank that was nearly destroyed was stocked and opened for business by last Friday after donations from community members and several churches. The largest was from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which gave $1,000 worth of food, Babcox said.

“That’s about a fifth of our loss,” he said.

Church officials have said the food bank served roughly 250 people — members of the church and nonmembers — on a monthly basis.

Four donated computers have replaced those that were smashed with baseball bats.

One was from a 90-year-old woman who phoned Babcox last week.

“She just felt we needed it more than she did,” Babcox said.


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