Computers Also Stolen From Church That Burned Down

| May 25, 2010

Miami-Dade arson investigators said Monday that someone intentionally set fire to a century old church in Florida City a day earlier, and now they discovered someone also stole five laptop computers in the church's community center.

Branches United Methodist Church at 145 NW 5th Avenue was reduced to ash and debris after fire destroyed the building during the early morning hours Sunday.

Monday night church leaders discovered that someone took advantage of the chaos and distraction after the fire, and in an incredibly low move, they stole from the church community center. All five laptops at the meager center were used for kids to do homework and projects.

Parishioners said, however, it could not demolish their spirit and faith. And Rev. Audrey Warren told congregants that they should be prepared to forgive anyone who might have played a role in setting the fire.

"That fire is not the end of our story, but that God will increase our building three times fold," Warren said.

Still, many were saddened to see their church reduced to a pile of damaged concrete.

"I don't understand why someone would burn down the church if it provides love to everyone," said church volunteer Stephanie Benoit.

People from all over Florida City gathered Sunday at the church and looked at the recently built $100,000 playground destroyed.

"And the fire spread so quickly, before the fire department could get it under control that it pretty much destroyed the building," said Brent McLaughlin, executive director.

The fire, which occurred overnight, was captured on video by one of the parishioners. And despite the damage that was done, the church staff will not let anything dampen their spirit.

"Children were really afraid that Branches was gone," said community director Kim Torres. "I went to the school this morning and they said Branches is burned, that's it, and I said no, we will continue."

"There's no other option, there really is no other option," said Branches pastor Audrey Warren. "With Christ living in each and every one of us, we have to be together."

"It's the people who create the church, it's the people not the church," Benoit said. "The church is just somewhere where we do it. The church is the people, all of us together as one."

If you would like to help the church, make checks payable to Building Up Branches and send it to South Florida Urban Ministries, 2850 SW 27th Ave., Miami, FL 33133.

Investigators still don't know who burnt the church down or how they did it.

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Category: Church Security

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