Orchard Mesa church moves on after vandalism
The Rev. Robert Babcox preached about sin early Sunday, nearly a day before sin broke into his sanctuary.
“Satan’s obviously scared now,” said Babcox, standing outside police crime scene tape Monday morning at Trinity Baptist Church, 2748 B 1/2 Road.
“The church is growing and he ain’t happy about it.”
Having started just a month ago as pastor at the small Orchard Mesa church, Babcox has been busy with a host of housekeeping items, such as refilling the building’s half-dozen fire extinguishers.
He paid that bill last week.
All the extinguishers were emptied early Monday in a fit of vandalism that hit all but two rooms at Trinity Baptist, leaving damage estimated by staff around $40,000. The Grand Junction Fire Department was called out to the church around 3:30 a.m. after a passerby reported smoke billowing from the church’s steeple.
Inside, a sanctuary pew was set on fire, flags were burned and spray paint messages were left on walls, while someone had taken baseball bats to several computers and televisions.
A smattering of blood was left behind — Babcox believes the vandals may have cut themselves on shattered glass.
They appeared to pay particular attention to a food bank maintained at Trinity Baptist.
A host of food items were strewn around the building’s kitchen, while Babcox estimated the loss in food at $5,000.
Marion Baldwin, a Trinity Baptist member who runs the food bank, said some 257 local families were served last week alone.
Babcox, however, repeatedly called for forgiveness for those responsible.
“I’m loving these people to the Lord,” he said. “Something made these people hate God and their country, and we need to bring them back into the fold.”
Grand Juction police said in a news release they haven’t identified suspects. Investigators with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were at the church on Monday, but the case will stay under local jurisdiction, police spokeswoman Kate Porras said.
Moreover, she said the case likely will not be investigated as a hate crime under state law. In the case of Trinity Baptist Church, the state hate crimes law would allow only a charge of a bias-motivated misdemeanor because no one was hurt, Porras said.
Those involved face a series of more serious felony charges.
Babcox, meanwhile, said services scheduled for Wednesday evening will be canceled, but his congregation is determined to worship there Sunday.
“Whether we’re out on the lawn or on the roof, we’ll be here,” he said.