The smell of ash was still in the air Tuesday as people started arriving in the parking lot of Faith Baptist Church to offer their condolences on the fire that destroyed the church on Monday evening.
Preacher Randy Edwards was kept busy greeting and thanking those who stopped by as well as speaking to fire officials. More than a few tears were shed in the parking lot next to the brick shell that used to be their house of worship.
Charity Edwards, the preacher’s daughter, said at one point her dad handed his phone over because he couldn’t keep up with all the calls and people at the same time.
“I’ve been contacted from Japan and the Philippines,” he told one caller. Baptist missionaries around the world have reached out as well as church leaders from other counties and states.
Randy said he wasn’t over where the rehab center was set up to give firefighters a rest and hydration during Monday’s blaze, but he wanted to thank those that showed up to help.
Charity said that not only were the American Red Cross and Mount Airy Rescue Squad there, but some local businesses showed up, too.
Chick-fil-A, Burger King, Papa John’s, Pizza Hut, Brady’s Coffee and Circle K showed up to offer drinks and food.
The Edwards family gave their thanks and appreciation to all the personnel who showed up to assist with the fire Monday as well as those who offered their support behind the scenes.
Right at the front entrance of the church there is a melted load of groceries inside a metal shopping cart. Randy said that the congregation was raising supplies to help Franklin Elementary School’s backpack program that sends food home with needy families on weekends.
After people heard that the supplies were destroyed, businesses like Food Lion and Walmart showed up with replacement deliveries. Randy said on Tuesday afternoon that the total already was almost as big as what he had before the fire.
“We’re extremely grateful for that,” he said. “This wasn’t anything to do for us; it was something we were trying to do for the community.”
The Edwards family has been serving Toast for 35 years. Charity said her dad started out in the little church on the other side of Franklin School.
Her father told the congregation he had wanted the new church to be built on a foundation of God’s word – literally, she said. In the four corners of the layout, a Bible was placed in the ground and covered in cement when the structure was built years earlier.
Even though this was a tragedy, said Charity, “this is where you see miracles happen.” In hard times, people show their generosity.
Ultimately, Charity said, “it’s just a building. I’m worried about my folks.”
Randy said he was glad the firefighters were able to save the building behind the church.
When he first heard about flames coming from the church, he rushed over and saw there was no way he could do anything for that building, but he started spraying water on the auxiliary building in the back in the hopes that the embers wouldn’t spread. When fire departments appeared, the volunteers took over the task and saved the building and much of the covered walkway between the two structures.
“The SBI has released today … that it had to do with the breaker box and electrical,” he said of the cause. “Last night about 11 o’clock they pulled me aside and showed me pictures of what they thought it was. … They were showing me the evidence that it had been arcing. … They felt like that was the start of it.”
As for the future, Charity insisted, “We will rebuild the church, and it will be bigger and better than before.”
Jeff is the news editor and can be reached at 415-4692.