Sumter County church victim of arson
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006
The Demopolis Times
PANOLA – On Feb. 7, an early morning fire left the members of Galilee Baptist Church without a place of worship.
It may have been easier for members of the Sumter County church to handle the tragedy had the flames been caused by an electrical problem, however they were forced to face the facts
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– someone had purposely burned their church down.
Galilee Baptist Church in Panola, had become one of the four churches burned that day, along with Dansby Baptist Church near Aliceville, Spring Valley Baptist Church near Emelle, and Morning Star Baptist Church near Boligee, but members and church leaders took the unfortunate event as a sign to speed up their rebuilding efforts.
“All things work together for the greater good of God. We were planning on rebuilding closer to town, but this just made us move faster,” Galilee pastor Bob Little said.
Little had grown up in the isolated church along with many of his family members since his great grandfather pastured there years ago.
“I’ve been pastor at Galilee for the past six years,” he said. “We can replace the building, but we can never replace the history and memories that we created there. But God just escalated our rebuilding efforts with this.”
Unlike, Morning Star Baptist Church that will rebuild on the same property, the Galilee church family has decided to move into the “heart of Panola,” Little said.
With the location change, also comes an objective change in the Panola place of worship.
“We have a bigger vision to be open to the public seven days a week and become a hub for social services, awareness, development and enhancement,” Little said. “We hope to offer classes to the youth, especially the young woman, and we will have parenting classes to help teach parents what they need to do when raising children. We just want to bring awareness from a biblical perspective to help enhance people in the community and their lives.”
Since the fire, Little said the membership has decreased some, however he is expecting for all of them to return once the new structure is in place.
“Membership is basically the same but a lot of people are anticipating the new building,” he said. “We are looking at a lot of changes though because people of other races are coming by and showing unity in Christ together.”
In order to help with the rebuilding efforts, Birmingham Southern donated $53,000 to the suburban church which also accepted countless donations and assistance from various groups, evangelical teams and individuals.
“We’ve been having service in a portable unit provided by the Southern Baptist Association for the past few months, but things are going pretty well. We got the property cleared off and the foundation is being set.” Little said, “I just want to say thank you to all those who’ve contributed and God is sure to get the glory in the end.”
To contact Little call his cellular phone (205) 454-5703, or call the church at (205) 455-2304. You can also write to Little at Galilee Baptist Church, P.O. Box 174, Panola, AL 35477.