JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – An early morning fire has destroyed a Jonesboro church.
The fire started around three Thursday morning at the Forest Home Church of the Nazarene on Race St. Jonesboro E911 Dispatch was called after drivers passing by saw the flames.
Twenty extra firefighters and a reserve fire truck were called in to help battle the blaze.
Jonesboro police at the scene said no one was injured.
Jonesboro Fire Marshal Jason Wills said the church is a total loss. Crews are still investigating the cause of the fire.
"We're gonna all be working on this and, like I said, between the Jonesboro Fire Marshal's office, state police and ATF, we're gonna get everything we can to get it figured out," Wills said.
Meanwhile, church members are trying to figure out how to bring their community back to life.
"One of the most sickening sights you'll ever see, to see your church burning down," pastor Ken Stallings said.
Stallings has been the pastor at Forest Home Church of the Nazarene for 26 years and went to the scene of his second home the moment he got the call.
"Our fire department did a wonderful job trying to put it out and contain it, but it was just more than could be handled," Stallings said.
"It was pretty well underway when we got here so we had to go to a defensive fire attack. It was a challenge trying to get water into the building," Wills said.
"It's so heartbreaking," Stallings said.
However, his day quickly turned from heartbreaking to heart warming with the help of the community.
"We have received calls, emails and contacts from people saying, 'How can we help?,'" Stallings said. "We are grateful to the community for their response and their outpouring of love to us."
Now, Stallings said they are trying to figure out the church's future.
Several years ago, church members started a relocation process just down the road off Ritter. It is now a youth facility.
"We're able to operate out of there a little bit," Stallings said. "And the plan was to someday do phase two up there. It could be that's a little sooner rather than later now, but certainly a lot to work through before that takes place."
Until then, Stallings said they will remain hopeful, and a symbol to keep their faith alive is the one thing that didn't perish in the fire, the church's white cross.
"That's what the church is about, lifting up the cross of Jesus Christ out of the ashes. There will be beauty that comes from it and the cross will be lifted again," Stallings said.
Pastor Stallings said the church also has many unanswered questions. Church members are holding a church board meeting Thursday night to make a plan for mass times and locations this weekend.