“Broken” Church

September 11, 2009 | 35 comments

They left a trail of evidence: shattered glass, muddy shoe-prints, broken cabinets. They stole, and they rummaged, and they popped the lid off the baptismal font looking for treasure inside, though the sacramental contents could never be sold at a pawn shop.

That’s how we found our church last night, a bit overturned and broken and muddied by thieves. Our men picked up jagged glass with gloved hands, and they boarded up the window.

And all I could do was shake my head, and sigh deeply and — once again — wonder how we can protect this sanctuary nestled between fields of yellowing soybean plants and tassled corn.

Beside me, Lydia found words to fill the silence. Her voice shook: “Do you think they took our new markers and our Bibles, Mommy?”

She gripped my hand and pulled me in the direction of the classrooms.

Just two days earlier, the girls and I had sorted new supplies for Sunday School. Giddy we were, reveling in this holy rite of sharpening new No. 2 pencils and thumbing through Noah’s Ark sticker sheets. We stacked PlayDoh, arranged glue bottles and marked fresh new Bibles with students’ names.

Since then, someone had shattered a window — shattered our excitement — and then slipped out a side door with some of what they’d come for.

The sheriff’s deputy came by, took an account of what we’d lost. Mostly electronics. Our supplies, though, were still in place.

We are a church of great worth, but not of great riches. Our worth comes not in things that can be put on shelves or stored up in bank accounts. We’re a church of farmers and widows, a few young parents and a couple old bachelors. Some of us show up in ties; others in T-shirts.

We’re aren’t perfect people under that steeple. No. But we know the One who is. And it’s His riches we cling to — the kind that can’t be bought or sold. Or stolen.

Still, our family of four left the House of God last night feeling wronged and angry.

Lydia knew what we ought to do: “Mommy, we just gotta pray.”

***

And we did pray.

We prayed that investigators would find the burglars. We prayed we’d get our stuff back. And we prayed that the thieves would find new riches — not in things, but in Jesus.

And we all felt better afterward.

But as the sun set over our church’s white steeple a mile away, fear crept into the bedroom of our youngest.

We heard whimpers from her bedroom, and went downstairs to find her with wide-eyed fear. Little Anna — sweaty and tear-streaked — clutched Uniqua, her stuffed animal.

“I’m afraid they’re going to break into my window,” she said.

Churches aren’t supposed to get “broken,” Anna said.

But if someone could break her church, then maybe they could break her house, too.

Into my arms she went. I scooped up her little body, all bundled in purple and pink, and held her close. I carried her up the steps; Daddy made her a bed next to ours.

Fresh anger rose up in my throat again. And I didn’t want to pray for this band of thieves who’d come to steal and destroy; I wanted to curse them.

They didn’t just steal “things.” They’d stolen my little girl’s security.

“Church is a scary place,” she told me again this morning, and my heart winced at the words.

“Oh Lord, mend those fears. Drive them out with your perfect love,” I prayed this morning … and again I pray it now.

And I know I have to add this to my prayer:

“Lord, mend my heart of spite, too.”


***

On Sunday morning, 14 children will show up under that steeple for their first day of Sunday school. They’ll clutch new pencils, and they’ll peel back covers of a brand-new story Bibles, and they’ll fold tiny hands in prayer.

And we parents will pray, too
for a year of
seeing His glory in the Story,
finding His joy in the song,
feeling His comfort in the storm,
sensing His protection in broken places.
Even here, under this steeple
in this “broken church”

With us — his broken people.

We — the broken ones — are made whole, even when the thief comes.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy;
I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
— John 10:10

Photos: My church steeple. Anna’s temporary bed, with Uniqua resting on pillow. A stained-glass window in our church. Lord, keep watch over your children.

by | September 11, 2009 | 35 comments

35 Comments

  1. isumom

    I am so sorry Jennifer, for all of you. Prayers are being sent up…

    Reply
  2. Ann

    I am very sorry that happened to your family as well as your church family. I know it is a very difficult thing to deal with. Then the fear your little one has now because of these people. It is sad. I will be lifting up your family and your church in prayer. Prayer heals the heart and mends the soul.
    God Bless!

    Reply
  3. Lindy

    A church should always feel welcoming and I'm so sorry that it now feels "scary" to some. I hope that whatever those thieves were looking for they find in their hearts instead. Prayers as you fill your building this weekend with those who love and forgive!

    Reply
  4. Jennifer

    Jennifer, I am so sorry to hear this! It is heart breaking that people in this world can do such things. Praying for your family and your church family!

    Reply
  5. Denise @ A Sacred Longing

    I remember the moment when found our car broken into (in our own driveway). The intensity of the emotion and the sense of betrayal. I can only imagine what it must feel like when the place that seems most holy and sacred is violated.

    I pray that peace and security will soon return to the hearts of those who have been hurt.

    Shalom,
    Denise

    Reply
  6. Get Real Girl

    This post saddens me deeply. And it reminds me that this world is such a broken place. But you are right, we do know the One that is perfect. And he always heals us. Praying for your daughter that she will receive some comfort, too.

    Reply
  7. Warren Baldwin

    I agree with some of the other comments – this is a sad post. But I appreciate you writing it. It needs to be written. We need to know the nature of the world we live. Here is a church that would love to share the message of eternal salvation with whoever these thieves are, yet all they want is to steal some electronics that in the scheme of eternity is valueless. How to you explain that?

    Then, they undermine the security of a child. You are right, they stole more than things.

    I would like to use your story for a radio program if you don't mind.

    wb

    Reply
  8. RCUBEs

    Sorry to hear about what happened. Even sadder how fear was instilled in a young girl's heart. But perfect love casts out fear…In our brokenness, we are whole again because of the transforming power of the cross. Praying with you that may those thieves be caught! May the Lord whisper to their conscience and bring them to Him. Praying that your daughter will be feeling secured in the Lord's protection. God bless you and protect you all.

    Reply
  9. Julie

    Oh Jennifer! This saddens me so much. I feel your struggle here and I myself do not know how I would handle it. How else are we to handle but just give it to the Lord.

    This is where I find it hard to "love your neighbor". I would want justice to be served. That whoever violated this sacred place to pay for the wrongs that they have committed. But if I step away I think "Who is the person that did this and what inside of them would make them do such a terrible thing?"

    Could it be a teenager that is growing up in a broken home that knows no better? One that is searching for attention at any cost? Someone in need of money that needs to fund a hidden addiction? What brought them to your church of all places? Could it be that underneath their intentions they are searching for something more?

    What saddens me most is what has been taken from your daughter- her sense of security and while I am on my knees praying for your children I will also be praying for whoever did this to realize that they stole something that money can't buy or fund.

    I will be thinking of you and your family (and church family) on Sunday morning -that a peace surrounds you all and heals the hurts that this has caused all of you. I know that God will be right there with you and so will my prayers.

    Much love
    Julie

    Reply
  10. Stacy

    Losing our innocence is so much harder than losing objects. Praying that those responsible will be held accountable and that all, including reasonable fears, will restored.

    Reply
  11. Beth E.

    I'm so sorry about the break-in at your church, and for the fear it has caused.

    Praying for God to reveal who the thieves are, and that through this they will come to know the love and forgiveness of our Father.

    I'm praying, too, for your your family and your church family. May each one of you feel safe in the arms of Jesus.

    Reply
  12. My Home of Five

    Oh Jennifer, I am so sorry! I know exactly the feelings that you and you family are now experiencing. Not too long ago, our church was also "broken into", but from within. The church is my place of escape from this old world and the sin within it. It hurts when someone violates this sacred place! I will be praying for you and your little church. Whether the thieves are caught down here or not, they will receive their just punishment in time. They may steal material items, but what dwells within our hearts… they can't touch. God bless.

    Reply
  13. Anne L.B.

    You've poingnantly captured the pain and hurt and sense of violation. You've beautifully pictured the fact that we've been broken and violated and are being made whole.

    I understand.

    I understand because my home was once burglarized. Because family members have been violated. Because I've taken countless police reports from people shattered by the violation of sacred space in homes and persons.

    I understand because my Savior was once horribly violated and broken apart, so that He might, as you said, make all things broken once again new.

    I am confident He will do so in your church and in your family. My family will pray for yours tonight.

    Reply
  14. TUC

    Jennifer,

    You amaze me how you take something so stressful and frightening and turn it around. I pray that God blesses your church richly and brings in some new folks 😉

    Reply
  15. Doug Spurling

    The timing of this post is amazing. We remember when our country was broken. From the brokenness we rose up united, less broken. Our eyes were opened to vulnerabilities.
    I pray with you for your protection. That any vulnerability be handled with God’s wisdom and His security saturate the soul of your little ones driving out all fear. And we pray those who entered searching for obsolete treasures find the True Treasure of heaven, eternal life with Jesus.
    We pray not for victory but from victory. God knows them by name and where they live. We pray for restoration of all. And that they stand in your church and give testimony to the saving power of Jesus Christ. Amen. I want to be there for that.

    Reply
  16. Debbie

    Such a sad commentary on how far our country has declined. There is no respect any more for anything! May the Holy Spirit comfort you and your family and church family. Will pray for peace for your daughters!!

    Reply
  17. Lyla Lindquist

    Not so much to add to the comments you already have here. But I'm glad to know that Anna has a fierce Mama Lion at the ready.

    Reply
  18. *~* Jenni *~*

    I am so sorry that this happened, and I;m even more sorry that it left your daughter feeling insecure.

    I'll be keeping your family and your church family in my prayers.

    Reply
  19. Deidra

    I know that feeling all too well. Broken people have invaded both our home and church in the past few years. Over time, the grace of God in this broken vessel has healed fear and anger and need for revenge. I will be praying the same for you…

    Reply
  20. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    I am so sorry – that just breaks my heart.

    Praying, praying,….

    Reply
  21. Deb

    I don't have much to add either, just a prayer and an I'm sorry. Church should be never a scary place. Your church sounds a lot like ours.

    Reply
  22. sparrowwatch

    I am so sorry Jennifer. Your story has left me breathless and speechless…

    I suspect … in fact, I invite the Lord, to wake me at His will this coming night… to pray. To pray for you, your church, your sweet family and especially for the little ones…

    Be assured…

    Sunday is coming.

    Amen

    Reply
  23. Deb

    The, "I wanted to curse them" part.

    You're not alone.

    Like people who hurt. Or abuse children.

    In any way.

    I can't pray for them.

    That's probably too much info for a comment.

    Will try to be better next time.

    And, I love the post before this one.

    I'm always finding myself on some of those pages too.

    Sweet dreams.

    Reply
  24. Teresa @ Grammy Girlfriend

    I am so sorry….Thinking of you…

    Reply
  25. Jennifer

    I've been here with both my church and home broken into. It was my own fear that I had to deal with, not my children's fear. I pray for God to watch over you all.

    Reply
  26. Carey

    Oh, Jen, how awful! Praying God uses this in ways that only He can. And praying peace for all, especially Anna and the other kids.

    Reply
  27. Julia C

    Hey Jen, cheer up 🙂 This reminds me of what our pastor shared with the church recently- His family car's windscreen got smashed, not once, but twice in the same week. And he knew the boy who did it, but chose not to report it to the police. He obeyed this verse:

    Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. – Romans 12:19

    Maybe try explaining to your girl that God has his guardian angels around her? See, they theives are only out for the material wealth and riches of the church, because they don't have Jesus in them? When she's bigger, she might learn about how christians will face persecution like our bibles heroes.

    Its really hard actually, but we're all (yes me too) trying hard to practice 'forgiveness' 🙂

    Shalom!

    Reply
  28. hope42day

    As I was reading this, bells sounded from the church down the street. All will be well and Christ will heal the broken among you. I pray for all of you as well as those that saw the need to break in.

    Reply
  29. Colleen

    I am sorry for what happened to you and your church. Someone broke one of our stained glass windows several years ago. It is hard to understand. Prayers and hugs.

    Reply
  30. Deborah Ann

    Aw Jennifer, I'm so sorry this happened! You know, as I was reading the end of your post, I saw a picture. It was from the movie "The Grinch." The community (and little Cindy Lou) were all singing, hands joined, hearts lifted up to the Lord (or at least that's my take on it). So march right back to church and worship the Lord like you never have before. It'll give the enemy a nice, big black eye. Your worship will rise to God's throne like a beautiful breath of incense and flowers…it'll be precious to God!

    Reply
  31. Pfeiffer Photos

    As all have expressed, sorry this happened to your flock. I did think two things while reading…I wish they had stolen the Bibles, because they need them. I also found a double meaning in the sentiment about broken churches. Our church family is just moving into a time of brokenness–but in a supernatural way. We are praying for broken people, not in spirit but for willing and open hearts to catch His fire, be willing to serve and spread the Word to the darkness in our city.

    Weak people can never forgive–only those who are strong have what it takes to forgive. ~Ghandi

    Reply
  32. Marilyn Moser

    I am sad to hear this about the BREAK IN at your little country church. Where it seems to be the "safe place" or refuge and then to know that thieves can target a church? That just seems wrong on so many levels! I hope there is restored "peace and pieces" to what was lost in this little incident! God bless your church family!

    Love ya,
    Marilyn

    Reply
  33. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Deeply moved by your prayers. How can I thank you?

    My thanks go out to you today, in a post on my home page.

    Reply
  34. Brian Ray Todd

    John 16:33 tells us: "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

    In a perfect world … oh, that isn't until Heaven. We can so easily take for granted the godlessness in the world, but our peace is in Christ, who has overcome the world. I am taking your precious daughter's wonderful advice and pray for you, your family, the church and the thieves. May Jesus change their hearts.

    What a gem you wrote: "We're aren't perfect people under that steeple. No. But we know the One who is." May the world come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.

    Reply
  35. Bina

    I am sorry for your losses in physical property and damages…but delight with you in the security that is yours thru our Father and I love your willingness to be "God with skin on" to your baby girl… Praying for you all!
    Bina

    Reply

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