Church Cleaning Up Following Vandalism

INDEPENDENCE COUNTY, AR--Church should be a safe haven, but several Region 8 churches were broken into over the weekend.

88 year-old N.V. Hodge is an active member of the Sharp United Methodist Church in Gainesboro.

"I open up the church every Sunday morning and close it up after services," said Hodge.

Hodge has attended the church for over 80 years and hasn't seen anything like he did on Sunday when he opened the building up and discovered someone broke in through a window. While inside, they vandalized much of the church, even sticking a cross in the toilet.

"Whenever I came in, that flag was over the pulpit up there and had all sorts of writing up there everything and bad language," said Hodge.

In addition the vandals used the collection plate as an ashtray and wrote a number of obscenities in the Holy Bible. All in all, the church says it cost them over $300 in damage and even more in disrespect.

"We have had a good congregation lately and they just couldn't understand somebody doing the church that way," said Hodge.

For Hodge, who grew up at Sharp United Methodist and considers it like a second home, he took the crime personally.

"I wouldn't want someone to do my house that way, much less a church," said Hodge.

Hodge says the criminals who entered his church are lucky.

"I would have hated to see him in here. Either me or him wouldn't have left in very good shape," said Hodge.

Since he probably will never be face to face, Hodge has a message for those responsible for this crime.

"I would say they need to get with the Lord and change their way of doing," said Hodge.

Surprisingly the only thing the thieves stole was a couple of batteries.

This wasn't the only church that was hit over the weekend. In Forrest City, at least three churches reported break-ins.

Police are unsure if the break-in's are related, but if you have any information on any of these crimes, you are encouraged to call either the Forrest City Police Department or Independence County Sheriff's Office.