Pastor Nick Hawkins showed up to church Sunday morning to anything but a peaceful sanctuary.
Doors were kicked in. Glass was scattered everywhere. Fire extinguishers had been sprayed all over the walls and floor. Music equipment was drenched in soda.
“It’s obviously pretty shocking,” the senior associate pastor of the 300-member Lake City Assembly of God in Medical Lake said Monday. “When you pastor a church, it’s like your second family.”
Sometime between 9 p.m. Saturday and 5 a.m. Sunday, vandals forced their way into the church and effectively destroyed everything they could, he said.
More than 12 classrooms were broken into. Damage is estimated at more than $50,000.
The vandals wrote profanity on the walls, stole several electronic devices and bashed in a vending machine to steal the change. The candy in the vending machine was apparently not enough. The vandals also stole candy from the youth center, another building that was vandalized.
Whoever was there stayed long enough to cook themselves a meal – hot dogs and espresso, Hawkins said.
Those who showed up for church services instead grabbed a broom, a paintbrush, whatever they could to pitch in and restore their church.
“In some sense, it’s like your home’s been violated,” Hawkins said.
About 40 volunteers had most of the mess cleaned up by Monday afternoon, although some of the repairs are beyond church members’ ability to fix.
The carpet is still full of shards of glass and will have to be replaced, he said, as well as some upholstery. The fire extinguishers coated the entire kitchen – preserving perfect footprints of the culinary vandals as they cooked up their franks – and will have to be treated as a toxic environment. Air ducts will also have to be cleaned because the foam spread from the kitchen.
Church services are on hold, Hawkins said, and will likely be moved into the church’s gym until the rest of the roughly 30,000-square-foot facility is put back together.
Spokane County sheriff’s Deputy Craig Chamberlin said the case is one of the largest property crimes his office has seen.
“The report’s huge,” he said.
Investigators are looking for help from the public to identify the vandals.
Hawkins said the 73-year-old church has had minor damage from local youth in the past, but nothing like what they found Sunday morning.
Whoever broke inside is most likely not on a good path, Hawkins said, and the church would like everyone to remember to watch out for people who might be in need of help.
“Maybe we need to be the ones to help reach out,” he said.