Rebuilding After Arson at Richland Baptist Church
RICHLAND, Wash. -- The Richland Baptist Church is celebrating today after finishing part of its rebuilding project. The church was burglarized and burned last October and lost much of its office space.
Richland Police believe 22-year-old Matthew Lohstreter broke one of the church's glass windows, stole some computers, and then set the church on fire. Lohstreter is currently in jail for these and other charges. Church officials say they are glad that he was caught.
Deacon Bill Moffitt says, "This young man needs to get his life straightened out and I hope it happens soon." But young and old members of the congregation say they don't have any ill-will towards the suspected arsonist.
Church member Sydnie Stockton says, "We don't harbor any bitterness. We don't want any revenge."
What church officials say they do want is for the church to grow. Sr. Pastor Stanley Hughes says, "Sometimes difficult times make the best of opportunities."
So they began building the now completed 18,000-foot structure that has 14 new rooms. Officials say it took the congregation coming together.
Moffitt says, "Lots of volunteer labor, people helping out people."
Many of the office buildings that burned in last year's fire are still under construction but they should be finished soon. Richland Baptist members say they have learned a lot from the experience.
Stockton says, "We got to know what it's like to go through trials and then be able to stand up."