Community Encourages Church After Crime

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CLINTON, Md. — In the wee hours of the morning on Jan. 22, two police officers spotted a van that matched the description of a white vehicle involved in the robbery of a fast food restaurant. As the police officers approached, two men ran to the van, jumped in, and attempted to drive off. One of the officers tried to stop them by opening the door and grabbing the driver, but the two took off with the officer hanging on. They drove across four lanes and the officer was thrown from the van. The second officer fired and shot one of the suspects and continued to chase them for fifteen minutes before apprehending the two men, who were charged with second-degree attempted murder, assault, and auto theft. The man who was shot and the officer who was dragged were treated for their injuries.

Clinton Baptist Church Senior Pastor Colin Pugh was shocked to discover the van used was the church van, stolen from their property. Pugh and his congregation were dismayed at the violence committed with their van.

 Additionally, the loss of the van is devastating, Pugh said. “The van was used to pick up seniors and bring them to events and to Sunday School and services, and it was used for those with disabilities. We were going to start picking up kids from Bowie State to come to service,” he said.

The van, which had an alarm and a steering wheel lock and just 35,000 miles on the odometer, was totaled. The cost to replace it is about $10,000 after the church receives payment from insurance.

Blessings in the Midst of Trials
Though the theft was definitely a hit, Pugh said the incident allowed him to share about the love of God on various secular television and radio/online news broadcasts. In one interview, Pugh said, “We have so many things that we offer to this community to help and to embrace this community, and they depend on this church. So it was sad to see that happen to us, to be honest, but we know that God is in control and all things work together for the good, for those who love God and are called to His purpose,” he said.

Pugh also said, “We stand on the scripture that if you do a crime, you should pay for it. But we do want to see people’s lives changed.”

Another blessing was the outpouring of love from the community. “We’ve got a lot of people reaching out and praying for us, and they have a heart for what God is doing here. It was an overwhelming response of sympathy and encouragement. One thing that amazed me was the response from the senior living building that we minister to and take care of. They asked one of the residents to call me and let me know that all the tenants were concerned and asked if there was anything they could do. They asked if they could take up a collection to help towards buying a new van.” Pugh said he thanked them but knows many are on a fixed income and did not want to burden them.

“They are amazing! They know the work that is done for the community by this church. That was a moving time for me.”

Pugh is also encouraged to see church members step up, using their vehicles to pick up seniors and bring them to church.

“God is still encouraging our church and me as the pastor,” Pugh said. “God has shown us so much favor. I mean, God is just Amazing!  What He is doing is amazing – bringing light to this community and we‘re watching people come to Christ. Our church is not growing from transferred members but from new converts. Our Sunday School is busting out.”

Pugh knows God will provide another van.

Looking ahead, Pugh said he will reach out to the men who stole the van when he is able after the processing by multiple agencies is completed. “I want to write them letters, let them know we forgive them, and we’re praying for them.”