JEFFERSON CITY—Cornerstone Baptist Church has taken the negative energy associated with a felony case involving burglary and property damage to their building and turned it into an opportunity to pray for the suspect.
Jared Hayes, 17, who lives in an apartment complex near the church, is being charged as an adult. Cornerstone members know him as a young man who had been attending the church’s youth group since January. Hayes told Cole County Sheriff’s Department investigators that he took out his anger on church property because friends were treating him badly. He has been charged with two counts of second-degree burglary and one count of first-degree property damage.
Cornerstone Pastor Brian Credille said he is relieved that a suspect is in custody after the church endured a series of attacks since Feb. 15 involving broken doors and various acts of vandalism. The sequence that led to Hayes being caught occurred on the morning and evening of March 13, the evening of March 14, and the evening of March 15.
Credille addressed 35 people who came to the church March 16 for the regular Wednesday evening service.
“Obviously we’re upset, we’re concerned about the church building, but far more important than the church building is this human life,” he said.
The downstairs area of the church was marred with damage that amounted to several thousand dollars, according to sheriff’s department reports. Profanity-laced graffiti had been spray painted on walls, and blocked drains had led to flooding, reports said. Several items in the church were damaged by paint, a claw hammer, and water, reports said.
Credille publicly thanked the work crew that did the bulk of the cleanup, and then made it known that March 19 would be when volunteers would be returning to help paint rooms.
Above all else, Cornerstone prayed. Three of the four members who led out that night in group intercession prayed for Jared. The closer was Credille.
“Lord, we have been visibly made keenly aware of brokenness this week, and even as we see the brokenness in a building, things that are broken, we can’t help, Lord, but also see behind it a broken life, a broken heart,” the pastor prayed.
“And only You can repair brokenness of soul and spirit. So we pray for this young man, for Jared … that You would just come to him in a way that he has never really experienced You before.
“He’s heard the Gospel. He’s heard it here. He’s talked about it. And we pray, Lord, that he would embrace the Savior who died for him so that the brokenness can be healed and He can be made whole, as You have always intended.”
On March 24, Credille communicated in depth about the situation.
“I have seen here what we saw many times overseas in Southeast Asia when we were with the International Mission Board. We would see churches that were attacked and persecuted come together and quietly, calmly pick up the pieces, repair the damage and go right on with loving people and sharing the Gospel. That’s what we have seen in our people here at Cornerstone.
“There has been no real expression of anger or bitterness, but a quiet resolve to put things back together and keep doing what God has called us to do. There is also an overwhelming concern for this young man who has his entire life ahead of him. We are praying for him and will continue to do so, because we know God has a wonderful plan for his life. We want what’s best for him, and we know that God can bring that to pass.
“It has been such a blessing to see the support from other believers, both in our area Southern Baptist churches, our Missouri Baptist Convention, and also from other denominations and the community. We received calls of support and offers of assistance from many, and that was a great encouragement in itself. The Cole County Sheriff’s Department did an outstanding job, and has been great through all of this as well.
“It’s interesting that church buildings often become targets, both here and around the world. It’s as if there is the idea that if the building can be harmed or disabled, the work of God’s Kingdom can be hindered or stopped. But these kinds of situations just drive home the reality that the Church is not a building. It’s the people! It’s the miracle of God that this kind of adversity not only does not prevent the work of God from going forward, it strengthens and unifies God’s people, and strengthens our resolve to stay focused on the main thing—loving God and loving others.”
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor