An Alabama pastor is demonstrating true forgiveness by asking his congregation to pray for an arsonist who set fire to their church.
Pastor Mark L. Bethea with First Baptist Church of Montgomery was notified on Sept. 30 that someone had reportedly entered the house of worship and set multiple blazes throughout the building.
“Overnight our church was attacked by an arsonist who attempted to set fire to several areas of our church building including our Sanctuary and historic Stakely Sanctuary,” the pastor wrote in a Facebook post. “There is an active investigation currently into who would have done this, and I encourage you to pray for this person who would seek to damage what the Lord has done for 192 years in the heart of downtown Montgomery.”
Pastor Bethea has continued to keep congregants updated on the clean-up and rebuilding process, all the while maintaining an attitude of faith and mercy.
“I left the church last night more encouraged and ready to take the gospel forward than ever before,” Bethea shared. “What man meant for evil, God is currently using and will use for good. I believe that with every fiber of my soul.”
The pastor told church members last week that an arrest had been made, then urged them to pray for the transforming love of Jesus Christ to surround the suspect.
“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. Would you join me in praying for this person by name? Pray the Lord would open their heart to the transformative power of the Gospel.”
First Baptist plans to continue meeting in a parking garage or outside until the cleaning and renovation of their church is complete.
According to WSFA News in Montgomery, 27-year-old, Xiaoquin Yan was accused of setting four fires inside the church and federal charges were taken out against her.
Pastor Bethea allegedly told investigators that he had interacted with a “small in stature Asian female” after the church service on Sept. 26.
Additionally, the pastor revealed that several weeks before the fire, church security “had previously interacted with an Asian female that was acting suspiciously.”