By Message Staff
SLIDELL – A Louisiana Baptist church is searching for answers after a fire destroyed most of the building last week.
Pastor Frank Treme received a phone call from a church member around 10:30 pm on Oct. 22 that Bayou Baptist Church in Slidell could be on fire. When he arrived on the scene, about a mile from his home, several firetrucks already were battling the blaze.
The New Orleans Advocate newspaper cautioned that it is too soon to declare arson as the cause, however, Treme said he believes the blaze was intentionally set.
“It’s hard for everybody in our church,” Treme said. “This is devastating. It’s not bad enough they violated and burglarized parts of our building but why did they have to put a fire to it?”
Treme said the insurance company has not yet made a determination about the extent of damage, but he believes it will be a total loss. The fire destroyed a part of the building that houses classrooms, a nursery and the kitchen.
The sanctuary did not burn to the ground but the interior sustained enough damage from smoke that Treme is doubtful it can be saved.
Regardless, Treme is certain the church will rebuild. While they look for a location to build, the congregation also will be searching for a temporary place to worship.
Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for Northshore Baptist Association which includes Bayou Baptist Church, said this is the first church he knows of in his association that could be the victim of arson.
The day following the fire, a number of churches in his association had contacted Wascom to offer assistance, and he said he was not surprised at the outpouring of support for Bayou Baptist Church.
“Pray for pastor Frank Treme and the Bayou Baptist church congregation,” Wascom told Baptist Message. “Thank God for the cooperation from the local church down through the association and the Louisiana Baptist Convention. Be thankful for a genuine spirit of cooperation.
“You can burn a building,” he said. “You can’t burn a church.”
This is the second time in 10 years the church is going to rebuild a new sanctuary. After Hurricane Katrina heavily damaged its sanctuary, volunteers from throughout the US came to help in the effort.
But just like before, Treme said his congregation of 50 will come together and rise to the occasion.
“We’re not giving up because of some burglars or others who want to do harm to us,” Treme said. “If you do that, they win and we lose. Several people from the neighborhood have dropped by and said it’s such a loss. It’s a comfort knowing that we touch so many people in this area.”