Abilene Church Burns Down on Longtime Pastor's 72nd Birthday

A two-alarm fire destroyed two businesses and a church in south Abilene Tuesday morning. Now, members of the congregation are picking up the pieces and looking ahead.

"For me, it was my home away from home," said Edward Hernandez, who has been attending Mission Good Samaritan Church on S. 8th and Butternut for seven years.

Quietly sitting in Butternut Square for sixteen years, the tight-knit church is exactly that for more than 40 of its members, many of whom rushed to the scene of the two-alarm fire moments after they learned their sanctuary was burning to the ground.

Pastor Lydia Rodriguez received the call just before 8 a.m. and stood crying in the rain with her congregation, as they watched the flames take over.

"I never expected everything in the building would just be torn into pieces," said Rodriguez.

And for the pastor, yet another blow -- Tuesday marks her 72nd birthday.

"It's sad to believe that her church is no more," said one member of the church, who had been attending since he was an infant.

"We just have to keep going and believe in mighty God and pray for one another -- and that's all we can do," Rodriguez said.

That same attitude is shared by all members of this congregation -- young and old.

"I grew up there, I found my sense of maturity there," said Hernandez. "I woke up to imagine it was just going to be another school day, and it's hard."

Hernandez is part of a band started in this church that ministers the word every weekend -- a band that lost all of their hard-earned instruments in the blink of an eye.

Despite the heartache, the loss and the uncertainty of what comes next, there's no doubt this group is keeping their faith alive.

"This church has to stay united, no matter rain, fog, storm or even fire, we're still united with the pack of God. And this is a big problem for us, but God's bigger," Hernandez said.

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