ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. – Deputies say a church in the process of rebuilding fell victim to a theft over the weekend. Hundreds of dollars-worth of construction equipment batteries were stolen from the Mount Carmel United Methodist Church in Ruffin.
As deputies search for the thieves, they're now telling other churches to be on the lookout.
In the winter of 2015, the Methodist Church burned to the ground. Investigators say power surges caused the electrical fire. This year, they were finally able to start the work on a new church, with this as a minor setback in the rebuilding process.
Barry Lawrence says it happened so fast, when his church went up in flames.
“Once it got started, it burned completely to the ground,” the longtime member recalled.
He says by the time flames came shooting into the air, it was too late.
“I married my wife here, I christened my children here, so all of the major events in most of our lives happened in that building,” he said.
Fast forward two and a half years. Now, crews are now working on building a new church on the original site. But over the weekend - thieves stole hundreds of dollars-worth of batteries from the construction equipment. Deputies say the culprits tried to take them a few weeks ago but failed, though this time – they succeeded.
Sheriff Sam Page said in the past couple of years – churches in Rockingham County have seen their fair share of break ins. Mount Carmel is unfortunately the latest victim of a crime. He says this serves as a reminder to keep a lookout.
“If you see anything that is unusual around your church, that doesn't belong after hours, contact law enforcement right away,” he said.
The Sheriff said recently for different break-in, it worked.
“We had a church that someone was trying to break into about two weeks ago, and one of our neighbors saw something that didn't look right, got on the phone and called 911 right away,” Page said, “We caught the suspect right there in the church.”
Mount Carmel's congregation isn't letting this incident bring them down.
“We’re going to adjust to go forward, and we hope it doesn't happen again,” said Lawrence.
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