SLIDELL, Texas — In a small Wise County town where there is one main street, one post office and just one school, it is the one local church on everyone's mind.
Pastor Bobby Cates arrived at First Baptist Church of Slidell on Friday to find his laptop missing and office ransacked. He soon realized the sanctuary's sound system, electronics, flat-screen televisions and musical equipment were gone, too.
A van used to help with field trips and other church activities was also missing.
"They came in through the windows in the kid's room," Cates said. "That has been kind of tough."
He estimates at least $40,000 of church property was stolen, although the van was recovered over the weekend. The amount represents about one-third of the church's annual budget.
Wise County sheriff's deputies have made no arrests, but Cates hopes a bigger lesson can be learned from the burglary.
This is the message now posted outside the church:
TO THOSE WHO ROBBED US, WE FORGIVE YOU
"There are desperate people no matter where you live — Dallas, Fort Worth, or Slidell," Cates said.
Other folks who live in town, like 90-year-old Mayme Fletcher, are still a little shocked.
"The Lord says to forgive, but we're not going to forget," she said.
Fletcher has attended Sunday services at the church for 56 years; she has lived next door for nearly five decades.
"My husband was a Baptist, so here I am," she said.
Insurance is expected to cover part of what was stolen.
The case remains under investigation by Wise County authorities.