Pastor John H. Hill is safe after a firefighter in Summerville, South Carolina warned him that his First Emmanuel Baptist Church was on fire. On June 15, a massive fire broke out while Hill was preparing inside for the church’s Wednesday night spaghetti dinner.
“I heard knocking at the door. There’s a guy trying to get my attention,” Hill told local media, referring to the firefighter trying to evacuate the building. “I had no idea he was on fire.”
Firefighters were quick to extinguish the blaze, but not before it had caused extensive damage to the building and its roof. An investigation is currently underway as the Dorchester County Fire Department tries to determine the cause of the fire.
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In the aftermath of the fire, pastors in the area contacted Hill to offer support and use of their facilities. Hill explained that “these things, you consider them a tragedy – and they are. But if it brings a community together, I’m okay with that. And it’s a matter of having faith. Who do you trust? Do you trust in man, or do you trust in God? And we choose to trust God.
Hill said, “God is in control. We sometimes think that he only controls when things go well, but he controls when things go wrong.
“If you come to our church and run away without at least one or two people giving you a hug, you’ve walked out too quickly,” Hill said, extending an invitation to everyone in the community.
With much prayer and hard work, Hill has faith that the church will rebuild. The rebuilding process will be emotional, as the First Emmanuel Baptist Church will celebrate its 85th anniversary in October.
Local pastor Rodd Hibbard said it was very difficult to lose things in a fire and shared that he knows how Hill felt, having experienced a house fire a few years ago. “It’s very difficult. I’m very grateful that no one was hurt,” Hibbard said.
“Just knowing the emotional…and especially with the church, something that you are so closely connected to, the people of this church and what they do, especially Pastor John, I just want to make sure that we are here to pray for them and support them in any way we can,” Hibbard said.
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Hibbard told local news that “the church is not a building; it’s a family. It’s a group of believers coming together and immediately trying to figure out what we can do to make sure they can still come together as a family.