It wasn’t the phone call James Purser wanted to get.
The pastor of Living Word Hanford, an outreach church on Hanford-Armona Road next to the Hanford Soccer Complex, was at a conference in Indio Wednesday when he got the word that the church sanctuary had been burglarized earlier that morning to the tune of approximately $10,000.
Thieves made off with two flat-screen televisions, computers and cables, all of it used in worship services and other church events. They ransacked Purser’s office, taking financial records.
It was sophisticated work. Purser said they disabled the alarm system before the theft occurred.
“It was a big hit for us,” Purser said. “They knew what they were doing.”
Purser said that Living Word, located in a part of town facing many socioeconomic challenges, made a point of reaching out to people in trouble.
He said the church runs two recovery homes – one for men, the other for women. The fellowship also supports a parenting class. Purser said that the Kings County Probation Department is starting to send convicts on probation to the church as part of an effort to put lower-level offenders into community programs rather than jam them into an already overcrowded jail.
The church has planted new congregations in Lemoore, Corcoran and Visalia with the same mission in mind, according to Purser.
Purser said that outreach has exposed the church to a certain amount of risk. He noted that the church receives no outside funding, but rather survives financially on contributions from members and attendees.
“I know we set ourselves up,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can to make Hanford a better place. It just breaks my heart.”
To a certain extent, Purser also took it personally as a Christian. He noted the recent vandalism of Hanford First Christian Reformed Church with anti-Christian slogans and graffiti.
“It’s a trying time right now,” he said.
However, Purser said he has no indication of abandoning his task. In fact, he hopes the incident will make the church stronger.
“We’ve got to take it on the chin,” he said. “We’re not going to stop doing this. I’m hoping for tenacity in our hearts to keep doing this.”