Notre Dame Cathedral burning
The famed Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire in dramatic fashion, drawing attention from all over the world.

All eyes were on Paris earlier this week as the famed Notre Dame Cathedral caught fire, suffering massive damage. Even as the iconic monument was still smoldering, donations began coming in from all over the world to help fund the structure’s rebuilding.

But as this was happening, a parallel movement sprang up back in the United States – this one focused on three much lesser known houses of worship. Over the course of several weeks prior to the Notre Dame blaze, three historically black churches in Louisiana had been destroyed by fire. And these acts were no accident – according to local authorities, all three fires were the work of an arsonist, purportedly with racist motivations.

A Trickle Becomes a Flood

And yet, what began as a tragic story of hate soon morphed into one of unity and common humanity. It all started with a GoFundMe page formed by the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association in the wake of the incidents. The church group announced it needed to raise $1.8 million to cover the costs of the damage.

At first the donations came in slowly and in small amounts – barely enough to move the needle. But then Notre Dame caught fire, and so did the campaign. Athletes, politicians, journalists, and other prominent figures began sharing the fundraising page on social media. Their message: Notre Dame will have no shortage of donors as it rebuilds, so let’s help these small churches that are also in great need.

Other notable names who helped spread the word included actress Kristin Davis, talk show host Busy Phillips, and late-night host Seth Meyers. As the campaign went viral, it suddenly raised $400,000 in a period of just a few hours. It continued to gain momentum from there, and by yesterday had exceeded $2 million – well beyond its stated goal.  

An Act of Hate, Overshadowed by Love

Holden Matthews, the 21-year-old son of a St. Landry Sheriff’s deputy, has been charged with arson in connection with the fires at St. Mary Baptist Church in Port Barre, Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas and Mount Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church in Opelousas – all of which burned down between March 26 and April 4.

Retired NFL tight end Ben Watson, who played for the New Orleans Saints, was one of the first public figures to donate, explaining that he felt it was important to stand with all three churches as well as the black community as a whole.

“The fact that black churches were burned to the ground is a reminder of the fear and pain so many communities have repeatedly experienced since emancipation. This trauma resides deep within all of us, black and white, in America.”

The Rev. Harry Richard of Greater Union Baptist Church considers the nationwide support nothing short of a miracle. “I think that God has allowed this to happen to really bring us closer together. God always intervenes with love…It’s the kind of love we’re getting now that will carry us forward.”

Helping Thy Neighbor

Rev. Freddie Jack, President of the Seventh District Missionary Baptist Association, could hardly believe what he was seeing as donations kept coming in. He later told reporters:

“I’m just thankful for people responding as they are to meet the needs of these three pastors. It feels awesome to know that people you’ve never met, never had a conversation with, are calling you and telling you who they are and offering to help. From the east to the west they’re reaching out and contributing to our needs.”

This tremendous outpouring of support provides an uplifting bookend to a disheartening story. Thanks to all those who donated and shared, these churches will not only be able to rebuild successfully, they’ll do so knowing they have the backing of thousands of people from all manner of different faith backgrounds and political leanings.

It’s certainly nice to see a reminder that when called upon, we can still come together – despite our differences – to help others in their hour of need.

28 comments

  1. Rod Gesner says:

    Sad that We had to See The Ruin of such a Beautiful building to Show us the Injustices and Needs here at home..
    The County; Holden Mathews,his Father (deputy Sheriff); and the State of Louisiana Should have been First to Give;
    to rebuild these 3 churches..

    1. Laurie Cleveland says:

      I agree. The inhumanity of white officials towards the blacks, especially in the South has long been portrayed in the media. Even 007 James Bond got into the act in one of his movies , calling a black, boy. Yet, nobody squawked about that. Even movies in which Cuba Gooding, Jr. Starred in, “Redtails” and when he was the first black Navy diver to make Chief Petty Officer didn’t raise a ruckus like these churches. Even then, it took public figures to start the ball rolling. I honestly don’t get it. Many of the parishioners are poor and the buildings, which are historic, will be rebuilt and then some, but what about the people who continue to be terrorized by jerks like this kid. Clearly, he learned to hate at home. One of my nursing instructors at a school that I attended gave me some of the best advice that I could get. She told me that under the skin, we are all the same. She was right. I made it a point to go out with people of different races and ethnic backgrounds and we are all the same. Not only that, but I consider myself on par with people who may think because they are rich or powerful that they are somehow better. They aren’t. Same thing goes for those who are poor like I am at this juncture in my life
      Money doesn’t matter . It’s what is in your heart that matters. I chose love a long time ago and even when the wolves were at the door, I still believe that I made the right decision.

      1. Rev Will says:

        Funny. To every poor person I know, including myself, money DOES matter. Until the world stops using money it will ALWAYS matter. Money matters when your hungry, about to be homeless because you can’t pay your rent that just increased, can’t afford your medication, can’t go to college, can’t pay the water or power bill, can’t afford to bury your husband or wife who just passed away, etc. MONEY MATTERS. The only people who say money doesn’t matter are people who have either given up or are wealthy. Money matters.

        1. precher richard h. says:

          Again Rev what do you consider poor? A man who has a strong spiritual life has the power to do anything if he has faith being poor is a state of mind. Of course you need money but money isn’t everything, You need spirit, health, Then you need to get a Job. Welfare an the gov. will not get you a good standard of living unless you do it illegally. Unemployment rates around the country are the LOWEST in 40 years thanks to Trump. If you cant find a Job were you are go online or the library an look across the country. Since our country began folks have been MOVING to were the Work is.
          Not today though Dems have convinced us we are ALL VICTIMS of something an NOTHING is our own Fault. This is a cop out
          we are responsible for our own lives
          Is 14,000 a year poor? because I don’t feel poor. I also don’t “suffer from envy of others for being Rich ”
          amen

  2. Lionheart says:

    God moves in mysterious ways 😇, but thankfully, no lives were lost.

    It seems there will be plenty of funds to rebuild it though, and obviously it will be safer than before. My only concern is that this fire doesn’t create ideas in the minds of religious fundamentalists to create similar havoc in well established communities in Europe and elsewhere.

  3. Rev. Rene says:

    Lovely words from Mrs. Clinton, but how many millions were to go with the sentiments??? As we now see in France, the billionaires have all the funds to spend on what they find important, and clearly people in their country, in the USA and in France, are not high on the list! People count, all the rest is just STUFF!!!

    1. preacher richard h. says:

      President Trump Donates his whole POTUS Pay to Charity , and Millions more.
      I don’t think they should use the term “BLACK” Churches make it sound like Blacks want to stick together as a close knit race.
      Unlike other races or Tribal units
      Someone point out the White churches

      1. Rev Will says:

        Again out of touch. I live kn a predominantly black neighborhood and do you know how many of them speak to me even when I bid them a good morning? ZERO. That’s right none. They don’t socialize with any if the white people in the neighborhood no matter how much we try. They do stick together and avoid white people. Black churches are exactly what black people call them. Why should a white person get offended by the terms used by black people? Are they using exclusive language? Secret code?No? Then stop with the feigned outrage.

        1. precher richard h. says:

          So your okay with whites on tv talking about white churches or if a blck person geos to an all white neighborhood church but is sort of shunned for going there.?

          1. precher richard h. says:

            I’m guessing your a guilty feeling white REV. They avoid white people because they see you as the devil, yes they are being racist.
            Let something happen in your black neighborhood like an act of violence with a white cop shooting a black perp. an See How fast they Ban together against whites.
            Its Just a FACT that you Wont admit Rev.
            Me I’m a Guilt Free White Preacher an as such will tell the whole Story, Both Sides.
            How much do you Live on Rev.?

          2. Rev Will says:

            Once again out of touch. I am NOT feeling guilty nor am I white. I am in face mixed race. As for what I live on monthly is less than $418.00 a month to the penny.

          3. precher richard h. says:

            so rev will tell us more about your other income or the church you live in or does your cardboard box get internet
            because this is were you would live if you didn’t have other income from the church or Gov.,
            Tell us the truth,
            remember I lived in the woods, n burned out buildings so I know.

    2. Tom B says:

      Rene…thank you for your exceptional comment…i too find it almost abhorrent that millions and billions of dollars can spring up for fixing buildings, but not for the many millions of people who are starving and living in squalor…Peace..Tom B

      1. preacher richard h. says:

        Well People figure a building burned due to no fault of its own and has Historical value
        donating an Giving money to people that are poor is harder donators figure people have free will and choices in life an with that are consequences some good some bad. Its hard work but people can choose NOT to live in squallier except those with mental defects and disabilities.

        1. Tom B says:

          Richard…Respectfully…your attitude is blanket arrogant…do you really believe that tens of millions of starving and homeless people chose that life?…Peace…Tom B

          1. John Owens says:

            Not certain, Tom, but I think he was saying that is the attitude of many people. He didn’t seem to exactly say that was his opinion. Maybe you can clarify, Richard?

          2. preacher richard h. says:

            I’m Saying I was a starving homeless person for years, lived in the woods, burned out buildings n houses Until I made a choice not to be Homeless n starving an by the GRACE of GOD I Wasn’t .
            Millions of people should stop having kids if they cant afford them

        2. Rev Will says:

          9You havee no idea what you are talking about. You are so out of touch with reality. Become poor and be forced to live in the low income areas on a city. Tell us then about choices.

          1. precher richard h. says:

            I live on 14,000 bucks a year. Collect no food stamps or welfare. If your in the ghetto an feel trapped pack a bag pick a destination and hop a bus.
            the only thing that traps you is yourself an your unwillingness to take a risk in life.

            This happens to many who don’t fully have faith in GOD

  4. JORGE TERAN says:

    2 + millions , Poor Jesus, he had to make miracles to eat

    1. John Owens says:

      No big deal, but Jesus wasn’t poor. He fed thousands on two occasions when there was an impromptu gathering and not enough for them to eat. After His ministry began, He traveled around without an income, but His family was fairly well-to-do since He was about 2 or 3 years old and the astrologers came from Iran with the gold and frankincense and myrrh.

  5. minister Flagg says:

    Nothing like a good neighborhood pawn shop for your gold, frankincense and myrr. I always wondered who bankrolled JC.

    1. Oldaabill says:

      The Magi. It is unknown how many Magi there were. There were three types of gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrr. The actual weight of gifts was unknown. Joseph was a successful carpenter, so it is very likely he had significant savings (more gold). He had sufficient resources to travel to his home town of Bethlehem for the census and to pay taxes (based on his net worth). Jesus’ family prospered because they obeyed the Law and tithed, and Joseph worked.

  6. Rj Levesque, Jr. says:

    What really pissed me off is people send in all these donations to help restore Notre Dame and then the Pope turns around and gives a crap load of aid to the illegals trying to migrate into the USA…

  7. Oldaabill says:

    The Church is not the building. The people are the Church. If they choose to invest in property, then like any property owner, the congregation needs to insure the property from comprehensive loses (fire, flood, storm, etc.) and liabilities (injuries on church property). An alternative to owning would be renting, but that may not cost less. I live in the Southeastern US which has sporadic issues with church burnings and bombings, usually by demented white supremacists. Destruction of property and violence towards Christians, regardless of race, is not new or specific to one area of the world.

    1. Rev Will says:

      Let’s not ignore the violence against Jews committed by Christians over the centuries. It is still happening. And Jews killing Palestinians, and Muslims. Christians killing Muslims has gone one since the crusades. Racism and religious prejudice are older than Jesus. It won’t send until the world does. It is only going to get worse. World Peace is impossible. God already said as much.

    2. precher richard h. says:

      Muslims are killing Christians around the world by the thousands an the media is Silent
      Jews Crucified the 1st Christian by GODS Design an did for centuries
      Palestinians blew up the Marines in Beirut Lebanon in Oct 1983
      Racism is a State of mind for those who think of themselves as VICTIMS The Irish , Italians, Chinese were Discriminated against fiercely but Got over it an became good Americans
      We are all being tested an when the Trumpet sounds EVERYONE will account for their Lives
      amen
      Oh n probably Oldaabill
      is right about the fires n bombings in the S.E.
      but Liberals are responsible for all the SCHOOL SHOOTINGS

  8. Minister RVW says:

    Some of the comments are rational and heartfelt. Others seem to use any topic as an opportunity to spout pet, personal topics.
    Whatever motivated people to donate to the rebuilding of those three churches, I’m glad. The display of human caring is always appreciated.

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