Pastor Mark Bethea of the First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama is asking churchgoers to pray for Xiaoquin Yan, a 27 year old woman who was charged with second-degree arson and sent to jail after she set fires in multiple locations in the church. Investigators did not find any motive behind her destructive actions, which caused thousands of dollars in damage, and set her bond at $30,000.
According to CBS 42, the woman caused about $25,000 worth of damage to the First Baptist Church of Montgomery. But in the eyes of the congregation's leaders, the arsonist who set church on fire needed salvation from God.
"By God's grace, none of them got out of control," Pastor Bethea said of the fires, as reported by the Christian Headlines. "Thank goodness our wonderful police department and firefighters came quickly."
Pastor Bethea added that church members should be gracious towards the arsonist who set the church on fire despite her actions. He pointed out that the arsonist poured gasoline in the aisle of the sanctuary but the wooden cross near the pulpit was spared.
"The squiggly line of accelerants stops short of the cross - the cross where Jesus took the full weight of our sins," Pastor Bethea wrote on Facebook after the incident. "If I believe that Jesus saved a wretched sinner such as myself, then I believe he can save a church arsonist from their sins as well."
Pastor Bethea called upon the faithful, writing, "Would you join me in praying for this person by name? Pray the Lord would open their hearts to the transformative power of the Gospel."
The fire that was set ablaze on Friday caused the Montgomery church to move its Sunday worship service to a parking garage. Despite the change, church members continued to sing their praise through hymns and partake in Communion while thanking God for His blessings. The church service was supposed to be held at an uncovered parking lot but the rain forced the congregation to change their plans.
"The church has never been about pews or walls," Pastor Bethea told WSFA. "It's been about the people of God doing the mission of God in their life."
The First Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama isn't the only church to have seen an arsonist attack recently. Two churches in Clay County, West Virginia were recently burned down as well. According to West Virginia Metro News, a fire was set ablaze at the People's Church, which caused it to burn down and even left major damage to the Flat Fork Missionary Baptist Church, which sat only a few miles apart on Flat Fork Road in Harrison.
According to investigators, one of the fires was caused by arson while the other was "classified as undermined on a cause , but looks highly suspicious." The community has already organized a benefit gospel sing on October 23, with proceeds going toward rebuilding and repairing the two churches.
"Whoever did this, I hope they see how strong this community is. It's going to take more than arson to burn a church down," Desi Facemire, a churchgoer whose family are part of a gospel group in the area, said of the incident. "It's more than just a building, it's the people that make the church."