When Virgil Humes heard someone had snuck onto his Baptist church’s property in Wayne one night last week and wreaked havoc, the news conjured a familiar feeling.
It was the third time in the senior pastor’s nearly 30 years leading New Hope that trouble-makers had left damage.
The incidents unfolded years apart and bore different hallmarks, but Humes and some in his flock wonder whether the latest was intended to strike the same chord among a congregation dedicated to serving others.
“Someone intentionally meant to do massive destruction,” he said while working there one evening days after the discovery. “This was someone spending time to make a message.”
Under the cover of darkness, and not far from the Police Department, vandals last week shattered nearly a dozen windows and kicked in doors at the brick-bordered former Burger King building the church acquired in recent years, Humes said. They also are believed to have damaged a handle and lock on a church vehicle nearby.
Meanwhile, New Hope’s estimated 1,800 parishioners are pushing ahead with plans for its adjacent community center the suspects marred. They also are hoping to help more visitors, even the vandals, through the Biblical ideals they strive to uphold.
“You don’t have to break in. You can come in and we’re willing to help,” Humes said. “We don’t want someone to go to jail. We want to turn their heart around.”
After learning about the damage, longtime member Curtis Johnson spent hours tending to repairs with a contractor, who already was pursuing renovations at the church to prepare for a Head Start program.
He wonders why New Hope, with its mission to provide scholarships, seminars, monthly dinners and last month’s Thanksgiving feast that fed more than 100 families — might have attracted miscreants.
“Satan is always on the case, trying to destroy what God is building up,” the Romulus resident said. “Whether it was against the church or not, I really don’t know. But they had to know it was a church facility because it says so right on the sign outside.”
The church was targeted twice before. In 1996, when New Hope was in another location, two teens faced felony ethnic intimidation charges after plastering swastika-laden stickers across the building, The Detroit News reported.
Years later, after a relocation, a racial epithet was spray-painted on the structure, Humes said. No one was charged.
Those incidents had particular significance for the church, whose membership has long been predominantly African-American and, participants recently wrote, “feels strongly about the need to uplift a unified voice against racism, hate and terrorism.”
While awaiting estimates for the extensive damage, Humes and his administrators are looking ahead to the future by installing security cameras on the property and opening the community center to possibly house youth programs as well as other events.
“We’re willing to be one of the pillars in the community and help people who need help,” Johnson said. “We’re trying to build up a community and make life a little better for those around us.”
Anyone with information on the New Hope vandalism can contact the Wayne Police Department at (734) 721-1414. Anonymous tips also can be left with Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 1-800-SPEAK-UP, www.1800speakup.org or by texting CSM and details to 274637.