Pastor welcomes burglars to church after major theft

SAN ANTONIO – A West side pastor said he is full of prayer and forgiveness for three burglars who broke into his church and stole $8,000 worth of equipment.

Manuel Donel, senior pastor of Ignite Church, said he and other members of the church arrived one Saturday morning in November to start their outreach to feed the homeless when they noticed damage done to the doors.

“We noticed that someone was trying to pry open the front door and when that was unsuccessful, we looked and noticed the doors to the side entrance had been pried open,” Donel said. “We later found out they stole 12 to 13 monitors and about three to five computers.”

Donel said the theft set the church back.

“It is a smaller church so funds are always needed,” Donel said. “It set us back on our budget but we are always thinking about the community and outreach and the Westside which is why we are here. A lot of bigger churches cater to the Northside which is fine. God told us to move here where our heart is at.”

This is the third time the church has been broken into.

“The first time, we were two months into this location,” Donel said. “They stole a bunch of tools and things that were a part of the demolition process still. The second time they stole a brand-new air conditioning system that was right outside. Then, we didn’t have the iron gate surround the building.”

He said he wants the members of his church to learn from this recent theft.

“I teach them what it is to forgive and to love those who do harm to you,” Donel said. “There is a scripture that I would like to share. In the Bible, Romans 5, it says while we were still sinners, Christ came and died for us. I teach the church to pray for them and love them the people who broke in. The Bible also says love your enemy which is taught by Jesus Christ and we are to follow his example.”

Since the incident, Donel said they have been able to replace what was stolen including a video wall and new computers.

“We must not focus on the bad things but look beyond that. God has been faithful and he has given to us,” Donel said.

Now, the church has more security measures such as an alarm system, cameras, secured doors, boat locks and bars on the doors as well.

“I am concerned that the suspects are still out there, but I am concerned more for other churches that are less fortunate that don’t have funds to replace what we have (been able to),” Donel said. “Some churches are struggling. They really put us in a bind, so I know if they do this to someone else less fortunate, they could really struggle trying to even replace a computer because it's so expensive.”

He added that while he wants the thieves caught, he wants more for them to turn their lives around.

“I would tell them that there is no bitterness and there is total forgiveness,” Donel said. “I was once a thief just like them, and by the grace of God he came and saved me. I want to extend that to them to show mercy and love and to also, believe it or not and as weird as this may sound, I want that one day they would walk through those doors and they would give their lives to Christ. That is my prayer. That I would see these individuals and love them with unconditional love because that is what was given to us and given to me as well.”

If you have any information that could lead to an arrest, you are urged to call Crime Stoppers at 210-224-STOP.

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