The Church of God in Monticello (Iglesia de Dios en Monticello) was destroyed by fire last month as the church was celebrating Pastor Appreciation Day. Flames have engulfed most areas of the building. Many of the church members are losing their possesions, as they had to leave all common resources and personal items behind. The church is losing tens of thousands of dollars in equipment such as computer systems, projectors, musical instruments, lighting and sound equipment, donation supplies, etc.. They purchased all these items using their own scarce resources. Francheska Boria Ramos, who serves as youth pastor at the Church of God Love and Faith, tells the story of the harrowing day :
On November 22, 2015 around 2:00 pm we were celebrating our pastor’s appreciation day and some members started smelling smoke. A few minutes after that two members went downstairs to see where the smell of smoke was coming from and they saw the basement filled with smoke and fire. They ran upstairs and got the kids out (who were having their own activity in the kids classroom). They followed to alert other members in the kitchen area. As someone screamed fire we started seeing how immediately everything was covered in smoke. Everyone ran out, some of the members were assisting the elderly. All of the 70 or so members that were participating in the activity were able to get out safely. No one was injured.
As members got their cars out of the parking lot, it was very chaotic. Everyone was scared that the church would collapse, explode or that something big was going to happen. Mostly, I was scared for my dad (the pastor) as he went out to the back to open the back door of the basement so the fire could have a way out. As we all ran out to be far from the church, we were consumed with grief as we saw our church go up in flames. The kids were devastated. The elders that had been part of this church since the beginning were crying and hugging each other. We all watched as the firefighters made holes in the ceiling. We knew this wasn’t a small fire.
The following day the building was condemned as a total loss by the insurance company. It was then that it sank in that we had lost our church. All the instruments, sound equipment, computers, guitars, amps, microphones, chairs. Gone. It was a great loss for all of us, because this is the place where many of us heard God’s calling for our lives.
Throughout the week (and until today) people have been mourning the loss. However, our pastor has been given strength like never before. We’ve seen miracles that we never thought we would see. We have seen the support of the city officials and many letters have been sent from community members saying they are with us. We have seen the impact that this church has had in the community because people have been coming to tell us they’re sorry.
This is really where we see God move. In the middle of our storms, we know that God has something planned. We are in the middle of the planning for the new building, and the plans look glorious. The church that is going to be constructed is almost twice the size. The financial goal that we currently have is something that will not be easy to achieve. We want to rebuild the Church of God in Monticello so that we can continue being a light in the darkness. We want to continue running the many programs we have in place to help our youth, adults and people in need. We don’t want this for ourselves; we want this for the Kingdom.
The Church of God in Monticello has begun a fund-raising campaign toward the reconstruction. The church of 100 members has also established a gofundme page (gofundme.com/cogmonticellofire), as well as soliciting donations via traditional mail. For those interested in assisting the Monticello Church of God, please make checks payable to Church Of God, P.O. Box 796 Monticello, NY 12701.
Ramos told a local reporter following the fire, “One of the verses the pastor shared on Thanksgiving was Romans 8:28, which says, ‘God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.’ We believe that God will turn things around for the positive…..We know we’re a small town and a small church, but we have big dreams!”