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Crime and Forgiveness

| Gazette | March 24, 2012

By Linda Vanek

The Cellular Church of the Santa Clarita Valley on Soledad Canyon stands as a beacon of faith and hope. The congregation spent the last 17 years planning and saving for the moment four months ago when their worship center opened.  Then in the very early hours of Thursday, March 8 their building was defaced by vandals who used a stencil to paint the name of a city council candidate on four sides of the building.
“Why would someone deface a church for no reason?” questioned Pastor
Edwin Recinos.  “We feel that it took so long to build the church.  We went into each detail with such love and loved seeing it all come together and so beautiful.”  It took two days with an anti-graffiti chemical, power sprayer and wire brush to remove the paint, but it could have been worse.  “One of our pastors is a painter and he insisted that we put sealer on the whole building.  That saved us,” Pastor Recinos said.  However, the brick is scarred where the paint was and the blemish on the new building is a constant reminder to those who know it was there.
Recinos helped his congregation discover the silver lining in the crime.  “I learned long ago that a congregation takes its cue from the pastor and leadership.  If they are bitter, the congregation is bitter.  If the pastor is in the mold of forgiveness and tries to see the light in the dark, the congregation will be the same,” Recinos noted.  “It’s an opportunity to practice what you preach.  We stood up as a congregation and blessed the person who did this.  It was a good feeling.”
Another part of the light was that the candidate who was singled out in the attack visited the church on Sunday, March 11.   “The congregation was tickled because it was the first time ever a council candidate visited our church or any person seeking a power position,” Recinos commented.  “He found smiles, welcome, prayer and worship music.  I spoke of peace and blessings and for the candidates to be blessed with wisdom.”
“I hope other candidates will meet our people.  We need them to see the face of our congregation on Sunday morning.  We are primarily Hispanic.  We’re nice people.  We’re honest and hard working.  We’re people that are focused on a better future for our kids and the country,” Recinos added.
While the church is occupied almost 24 hours a day, it only took a short time when it was empty for the vandalism to occur.  Not only were the vandals most likely watching for the brief time that it was empty but they had pre-planned the crime by creating the stencil.  A new security system is being installed that provides an instant alarm and video to cell phones if an unauthorized person is on the premises.  A sad reminder that even a place that provides sanctuary to the lost and lonely isn’t always safe.
In the end, this is a story about faith and love triumphing over evil.  “One of our pastors said that we could hang a sign on the paint spot that says ‘We forgive you,’” Pastor Recinos said.  As it is said in the Bible, “Love never fails.”
For an expanded story about the Cellular Church please read the February 2012 issue of Canyon Country magazine.

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