Update: Missing Generator Located in Craighead County Shop

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) -- Officials with the Jonesboro Police Department said Sunday that a high-dollar generator, thought to have been stolen off the Central Baptist Church parking lot, has been located in a Craighead county warehouse.

Albert Lewis, who is a member of the Forrest City First Baptist Church, said an employee with the County Road Department moved the generator to a safer location, but didn't inform the owners.

The employee reportedly thought the generator belonged to the American Red Cross, but Ray Oswalt, who made the orginal report, wasn't informed of the move.

Officials with the First Baptist Church said they'll pick up the generator Monday.

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A Forrest City man said Saturday his church's primary generator for disaster relief was stolen sometime this week. The generator was stolen from the parking lot at Central Baptist Church in Jonesboro. The $40,000 generator belonged to the First Baptist Church of Forrest City and helped cook thousands of meals for storm victims.

"This is a ministry and they didn't actually take it from me, they took it from, they stole it from the Lord," said Ray Oswalt.

Oswalt has served in several natural disasters with the Southern Baptist Convention's Disaster Relief organization. He said the generator was large enough to power equipment, which could provide 13,000 meals a day.

"It's on a trailer, and it's about a 25kw generator. It's yellow. It's got a white butane tank on the front of it. It's made by Olympic," said Oswalt.

Oswalt filed a report with the Jonesboro Police Department on February 13th. According to the report, a 'yellow w/white 80 gal butane tank w/yellow trailer' was taken from the parking lot. Oswalt said in the report that a lock on the trailer hitch had to be removed before anyone could take the trailer. Police didn't find it at the scene.

The report said there are no known suspects at the time.

Oswalt and David Butler said the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Disaster Relief program has provided hot meals for thousands of disaster victims. Volunteers helped serve food to victims in ice storms, tornados and hurricanes.

"Down in Texas, we were down there after Hurricane Ike I believe it was, hit back in the summer. We were down there and this lady kept coming through it. She said 'can I get some food,' and she had this old car that had plastic all over the windows and everything, and this lady came back every day, and about the second day, I was able to talk to her and find out why. She had herself and about 6 kids in that car, and they were living out of that car. They didn't have a place to live, and that meals that we served them the first time was the first meal they had had in 4 or 5 days, she said," said Butler.

Recently, the Southern Baptist Convention cooked food for disaster victims in Jonesboro. In late January, it set up a cooking station at the ASU Convocation Center, where one of the largest emergency shelters was set up.

"We just here to cook and try to give them a warm meal. A lot of them you know, without electricity, and it looks like for a number of days, you know, they'll be without it," said Oswalt on January 31st.

"We also have out beside, somewhere out beside the trailer here, we have a unit that does the washing of the pans and cambers and things like that. They're all pressure, high pressure wash with hot water," said Butler.

According to Oswalt, the American Red Cross provides the program with food to cook. Once the meal is ready, Red Cross volunteers distribute it as needed.

"We work very closely with the Red Cross and through the Red Cross. We will prepare the food and they will take it out to the areas which need it," said Butler.

Butler said the person who stole the generator may need the help of the disaster program someday. He said he wants the thief to return it.

"It's a nice generator, big enough to do anything that we want to do, any equipment that we might want to add, it could handle that," said Butler.

Southern Baptist said it couldn't operate as efficiently or as long as it could without the 25kw generator.

"We were in a pickle, you know, because we depend upon that generator to take care of all our electricity, and on these trailers," said Oswalt. Oswalt said the organization held disaster training seminars Saturday at Central Baptist. Several people attended the function to learn how to help in preparation for the next natural disaster.

"You'll be surprised a lot of the times when we're out here cooking and the people we run into that are victims of disaster, and they're so thankful that we've came along and they're able to eat a hot meal, a warm meal," said Oswalt. "We're a portable kitchen and we rely on that big generator we had to produce the electricity we needed."

Officials said they wanted the generator back before it's too late.

"You may need it but we need it worse. We're out trying to serve a community, and if you want a generator go buy one and bring ours back," said Butler.

"It wouldn't be hard to notice if somebody had it in their yard somewhere," said Oswalt.

Butler said the ministry would continue operating as long as possible, but if it doesn't get its generator back, then the future is uncertain.

"There's a lot of ministries that you can serve, and the lord causes different people to do different things, and this is a ministry, to me, that I can commit myself 100% to, it's a ministry that helps people. It's a ministry that you can see the results immediately," said Butler.