MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church has seen church members in services for more than 150 years, but something happened early Monday that members say hasn’t happened before.
It’s not what one would expect, a house of worship marked up with spray paint. Volunteers with the church spent Tuesday cleaning and scrubbing markings off the building after a person vandalized it with graffiti.
Now the pastor says it’s only making his congregation stronger.
Graffiti was discovered spray painted on its old church building, on nearby light poles, and a bridge.
“I sat down here and I was praying and crying at the same time," said Senior Pastor Donald Johnson. "My feelings were really hurt.”
Pastor Johnson said the vandalism was first discovered by those attending a summer camp at the church. Once he spotted it, he said he was left in disbelief.
“Wow, why would someone do that?" questioned Johnson. "What has our world come to that we’ve lost that kind of respect and reverence, at least for the church?”
Surveillance video shows a car pulling up and then leaving sometime before a man walked up to the church around 1:30 a.m. to spray paint the building.
“They were spelled out ‘F God,’" described Johnson. "Then it was ‘God does not exist.' ‘God is not real.'"
“I’m the great-great granddaughter of one of the founders of this church," said lifelong member Debra Long. "It just brought tears to my eyes knowing our church has been here since 1863.”
Long says she still has forgiveness in her heart for the vandal and shared what she would say to him if she got the chance.
"God loves you and so does Oak Grove Baptist Church," she said. "You might have made a wrong decision but we’re here to help you get on the right path.”
Pastor Johnson commented that he believes the law will do its part and the Lord will do His part.
“When he’s apprehended then I would love the opportunity to just sit down and just talk to him and try and minister to him.”
Memphis police say the Multi Agency Gang Unit is investigating the graffiti as gang-related. It is uncharacteristic for anti-God messages to be included along with it.