PIQUA — The Snyder Road Church of God continues to clean up the mess left behind due to an incident of vandalism that occurred there three weeks ago. The vandal reportedly emptied six fire extinguishers’ worth of dry chemical into the building, covering surfaces in various rooms, the sanctuary, the fellowship hall, and the kitchen.
While the vandal also reportedly damaged property in the church, including breaking a cross and overturning furniture, it is the dry chemical that poses the most difficulty, and danger, to the church.
“Everything in here was coated with the dry chemical,” the Rev. Richard Keen said about his office.
The office, four bathrooms, the nursery, and the secretary’s office have been cleaned and straightened up, but the professional cleaning crew working on the building is continuing to clean the air in the sanctuary. The fellowship hall and kitchen are also still covered in the dry chemical.
“They said it was probably, if not the most extensive, one of the most extensive cleaning jobs they [were] going to have to do,” Keen said. They have to wipe every book and wash each surface as well as steam clean the carpets.
Keen explained that after sitting in his office for an hour last week, he began to get a slight headache from the dry chemicals still in the church and in the air.
“The dust filtered into everything,” Keen said. “Everything was just covered.”
Even with the ground left to cover, Keen remains optimistic.
“It’s coming along real nice,” Keen said. “Don’t know how much damage was done to the electronic equipment, so we don’t know that … Right now, it’s looking 100 times better.”
Keen recalled when he first walked into the church after it had been vandalized, and the sight of the damage simply made him ask, “Why? Why?”
After that, Keen said that he decided that whoever did it needed help.
“They were looking for something, and they’re still searching,” Keen said.
Piqua resident Dustin L. Connor, 29, was charged in connection with this vandalism. He was also charged in connection with a breaking and entering incident at the Victory Baptist Church on South Street, a residential burglary on Brook Street, and allegedly assaulting a corrections officer. Connor is currently being held at the Miami County Jail on a total bond of $40,000. A court date is set for Connor on Sept. 9.
Currently, Keen and the Snyder Road Church of God congregation are worshipping at the Miami Valley Centre Mall. They have approximately 25 attendees, and Keen stated that the congregation feels the same way he does.
“All of our people are thinking the same thing I’m thinking,” Keen said. “That he needs help. And we’re trying to reach our hand out to him and his family.” They have not been able to speak with Connor, but Keen stated that the jail ministry in the area has talked to Connor.
“He’s saying he don’t know why he did what he did,” Keen said. “It’s one of those things. A lot of times people do things, and after they do them, they don’t realize what they did for whatever reason.” Keen added, “I want to see him find the Lord.”
One member of the church spoke with Keen about the cross that was broken at the back of the church. She told Keen that they should fix the cross and put a sign underneath that read, “The cross was broken, but the church was not.”
“The church is not the building,” Keen said. “The church is the people.”
While still feeling the effects of the vandalism, the church continues to hold no animosity toward the alleged suspect.
“We pray for him all of the time,” Keen said. “We’re going to keep on praying that everything will be okay.”
Keen is hoping that they will be able to move back into sanctuary of the church within the week and by the beginning of September at the latest. The church is hoping to hold a special homecoming and Thanksgiving service once they are able to fully take back their church.
“It’s just a time to praise the Lord,” Keen said. “It could have been worse … it could have been paint or it could have been a pile of ashes.”
Keen also expressed gratitude toward the Miami County Sheriff’s Office as well as the other area churches. Keen explained that at least a dozen area churches reached out to Keen and the church to see if they needed help.
“We very seldom give thanks,” Keen said.
Reach Sam Wildow at (937) 451-3336 or on Twitter @TheDailyCall