Retired NFL player Benjamin Watson is stepping in to help resurrect three Black churches after they were set on fire.
Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, Greater Union Baptist Church and St. Mary Baptist Church were set ablaze in ten days from March 26 to April 4. The suspected arsonist, Holden Matthews, received three state hate crime charges for the incidents, as Blavity previously reported.
The former New Orleans Saints tight end spoke to the pastors of each church, and Rev. Freddie Jack, who runs the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association. Watson and his wife also sent a donation.
“In speaking with these pastors I am in awe and inspired by their faith and courage, comforting their congregations and family members," Watson told The Advocate.
"Through sadness and shock they spoke of forgiveness for the arsonist and grace for tomorrow. Most importantly, they spoke of being overwhelmed by support from people of goodwill and all religions from around the country. And they were humbled by what God has already done through this series of events."
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He was not the only one with the three churches on his mind.
Donations to the rebuilding fund have spiked since a fire in Paris, France, partially burned the Notre Dame Cathedral, reports The New York Times. The crowdfunding campaign has received more than $850K in donations since Tuesday. Jack told The Times the money would be put to good use. The churches had insurance, but the policies had limits. Additionally, the new buildings will have to follow post-Katrina Louisiana’s stricter building guidelines.
“Let me say it like this: The only building that had any sign of any furniture remaining was Mount Pleasant,” said Jack. “St. Mary and Greater Union, all you see is charcoal. It’s a total, complete loss at all three sites.”
The initial goal was $600K, but Jack bumped it up to $1.8 million based on his experience from renovating his church.
“They have a long road ahead of them,” he said. “They’re a long way from full recovery, but the generosity of the people seems to be speaking volumes.”
Those interested in donating to the churches can mail their payments to the following address:
Seventh District Baptist Association
P.O. Box 281
Ville Platte, La 70586
The association is also accepting donations via GoFundMe.
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