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Pastor of charred church: 'God's got this, and we can trust Him'

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WRIGHTSVILLE, Ga. – The pastor of a Georgia church that lost a historic building to fire was be back in the pulpit on Sunday, sharing a message of hope with his congregation.

“God’s got this, and we can trust Him,” said Pleasant Grove Baptist Church Pastor Chris Mitchell.

The fire that authorities have preliminarily said may have started in the kitchen destroyed a fellowship hall that dates back to 1879.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Mitchell said the damage was disheartening for lots of people.

“I know there are many wonderful memories associated with our fellowship hall, but remember our God is a good, holy, righteous, and perfect God, and He will comfort us and guide us in our time of need.”

The charred structure served as the sanctuary when it was built 143 years ago.  In addition to serving as a house of worship, it also doubled as a school in the early years. It became the fellowship hall after a new sanctuary was built nearby in 2015.

Mitchell said the local resident had strong sentimental ties to the historic building because it had been the venue for many weddings, funerals, and baptisms over more than a century.

Church leaders plan to discuss next steps on Sunday.

Mitchell, a former missionary to Uganda, said members of his congregation know they can trust God in the rebuilding process.

“First, we’re going to pray and get on the same page with God,” he said. “Through that, I believe God is going to prepare us to make plans. And we just believe God is going to provide.”

The building was insured.

Mitchell said firefighters think an intellectually disabled 30-year-old man who had walked away from a nearby group home may have accidentally started the fire after finding his way inside the building.

“They believe he was trying to cook something,” Mitchell said.

WXGA-TV in Macon reported that Johnson County deputies and a deacon heard the man yelling for help and got him out of the building. The man was taken to the hospital to be evaluated for possible smoke inhalation.

The state fire marshal's office is investigating.

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