Church destroyed by arson meets in new building for the first time

By Taylor Hemness - bio | email

VAN ZANDT COUNTY (KLTV) - On New Year's day, no one knew the fire at Little Hope Baptist Church in Van Zandt County was connected to the arsons that would happen in the following weeks.

But after Jason Bourque and Daniel McAllister were arrested, investigators revealed that they believe Bourque carved the words "Little Hope was arson" in the bathroom of Atwoods in Tyler.

But on Wednesday night, almost six months to the day after the fire, Little Hope was filled with a grateful congregation.

"I can't describe the excitement that I have," Pastor Bill Parr said. "This is just way beyond anything we had, or dreamed that we could have."

The church doesn't have pews yet, but it does have new classrooms, a huge new kitchen, and even a new piano.

"I picked it out Monday," said church pianist Kathy Yancey. "It was the best I thought, for what we needed."

Yancey has been playing piano at Little Hope for years. She told KLTV 7 that it was hard to deal with the fact that her old piano may have been used to start the fire, but she's still glad that it wasn't worse.

"I'm thankful that those two were caught, and I'm sorry that they did so much destruction," Yancey said. "I am thankful they did not hurt anyone."

The two alleged arsonists were on the minds of the Little Hope congregation Wednesday night, and apparently have been for months.

"We're taught that we're supposed to love them no matter what," said Kati Sigler, who's been attending the church since she was three years old. "God told us to love everybody, and that's the best example that we can give of him."

Prayer was the focal point Wednesday, as the congregation went to every room, classroom, office, and bathroom, asking for the Lord to bless their new home.

Something Kathy Yancey says, He's already done.

"It's wonderful to be back."

The church will hold its first Sunday service in the new building, this Sunday, July 4th. The building will be officially dedicated next month.

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