Emmett churches hit by arson feel blessed by community support

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMay 10, 2013 

  • WANT TO HELP?

    To send a card or a donation to the Emmett churches:

    • Emmett First Baptist Church, 126 S Hayes Ave., Emmett, ID 83617-2906.

    • Emmett Community Bible Church, 120 E 3rd St., Emmett, ID 83617-2912

The calls of concern have come from far and wide.

So, too, have the offers of donations.

First Baptist Church of Nampa plans to deliver a baby grand piano and organ to a sister church in Emmett, after the fire-damaged building is cleaned up. Members of the Nampa church stand ready to provide volunteer labor, too.

"We've offered, and we're willing to go," Nampa Pastor Mike Halliburton said Thursday. "We're just waiting for the go-ahead."

On April 27, fires engulfed two churches within a quarter-mile of each other. The fires, reported at 4:30 a.m., were deemed arson.

Emmett Police Chief Steve Nebeker said investigators have been chasing leads every day but still do not have any suspects.

"We have been working very hard on this case," Nebeker said.

Pastors of both churches told the Statesman that items were stolen.

The churches are working to make an inventory of what was lost and what can be salvaged.

Dressed in a jumpsuit to protect his clothes from soot, Emmett Community Bible Church Pastor Jonathon Phillips was looking through items in his library when Boisean Jane Freund stopped by.

"My jaw just dropped as we walked through there. The damage on the exterior is starkly different than the damage on the interior," Freund said.

Her own church, Capital City Christian, was hit by arson in 1982. The perpetrator was never caught.

Phillips said many have the same reaction as Freund when they come in the brick building.

"When you come inside, the entire church is ruined," he said. "Some things burned up, some were damaged by heat and everything else was damaged by smoke."

There is no estimate on the damage yet.

"Smoke penetrated every recess of the church," said Phillips, who hopes to have some personal books dating to the 1880s restored. "There were no exceptions to that."

Community Bible members are holding services in the adjoining family ministries building. The walls and ceilings were scrubbed, so it can be used; it will get a more thorough cleaning later.

Phillips said the inventory process has been slow and painful, but he's been heartened by offers of help from all over. Rick Warren's Saddleback Church in Orange County, Calif., sent materials for the church's 12-step Celebrate Recovery program.

"That was surprising," he said.

He also got a call from Richard and Judy Grout, who have been missionaries in Russia for 19 years.

Members of First Baptist Church of Emmett are holding services at a 7th Day Adventist Church in town.

First Baptist Pastor Lance Zagaris said the church has received many calls, letters and donations, including checks from Hanigan Auto Sales in Emmett and an 82-year-old Boise man who was baptized at the church.

Over the weekend, a local family offered free storage and office space. Joe McGivney, owner of the Sonic in Emmett, said Thursday night that he plans to donate profits from six months of Sundays to the churches.

"We just really have appreciated people, not only in our community but our surrounding community, the Treasure Valley as a whole," Zagaris said.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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