By Portia Williams
NEW BOSTON — A people united can withstand any adversity; such is the case for Pastor Mike Percell and his congregation of New Boston First Church of the Nazarene (NBFCN). After a pickup truck crashed into the church’s sanctuary wall last Friday, the pastor and parishioners have been growing closer despite their present challenges.
Pastor Mike Percell the truck crashing incident has drawn the members of NBFCN closer to one another.
“It has done nothing else but make us stronger, and has united us together. We’ve met with the two young men, and our church board, our church family and myself have genuinely forgiven them, they asked for forgiveness,” Percell said.
Samuel Gibson, 21, of Portsmouth, the driver of the truck, was charged with Operating a Vehicle under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs (OVI), and tested .13. Gibson was cited by the New Boston Police for failure to control his vehicle. Zach Cunningham, 19, of Wheelersburg, is the passenger who was present in Gibson’s vehicle during the time of the crash.
“They are very devastated by their actions. In fact, we are trying to help them on the spiritual side to walk through this, and to help them understand that there are results and consequences for their actions, but that has to be taken care of by the courts, and lawyers, and insurance company. As far as us having any kind of anger toward them there is absolutely none — there is zero,” he said.
Percell said he believes his church’s response is contrary to the cultural norms.
“It is really unlike what you see in the world today. We as a Christian church must set a different pace, a different tone, that the church is all about forgiveness,” he said. “This building is very sacred to many people, it has been here for many years, but as I have told them, and the news media, it’s just a building. It is brick and mortar, it’s not the church, and whatever direction we have to go, whether we continue to worship here or somewhere else is immaterial to us.”
They are currently working with the insurance companies to rectify the problem.
“Right at the present time from Friday until now, we’ve been working with the insurance adjusters, both insurance companies of Mr. Gibson and our own insurance company here. The adjusters from Indiana and also our local adjuster and structural engineers out of Charleston, W.Va. They were here part of the day yesterday. The street had to be closed because of the probability of the wall collapsing. The engineer that came in and did the inspection and they brought in Freeland Construction Company to put some additional cribbing in to keep the wall stable, but they have opened the road back up now,” he said.
The sanctuary of the church has been declared uninhabitable due to the incident causing the damage.
“No one is to have any kind of service in there. We can go in move stuff around, but it is still structurally unstable. So, we are waiting for the insurance companies now to tell us the next step in what we are going to do with the building,” he said.
According to Percell, an estimation of the structural damage has yet to be determined.
“We don’t have a dollar value, but it is going to be very high. We just can’t say right at the present time. The next step they’ll do, once they settle on an amount, they will have to come in and build a wall about three foot, four foot out from the wall and that will be just a temporary wall to hold the roof up and go in and tear the existing walls out, and rebuild them,” he said.
He said it is a long process on the road to repairing the damage to the sanctuary wall of the church.
“They are trying to expedite it, but it doesn’t mean that it is going to happen today or tomorrow or next week. It could even be up to two weeks to a month before we could actually start doing anything,” he said.
The temporary gathering for NBFCN is in the New Boston Community Center.
“Sunday we met at the community building, which worked out fine. The only problem is that we have to move all of our equipment or there, and then tear it down that night, but we are very thankful for the availability for us,” he said. “Tonight we are meeting in the fellowship hall for bible study, and then we will be back over to the community building. From there we will take it day by day. We have many options, so that is the least of our worries.”
The church has received a tremendous amount of support from the community, including other churches, city officials, and law enforcement agencies.
“The support has been overwhelming. Not only the churches, and the pastors, but Mayor (James) Warren and the Village Council, New Boston Fire Department and Police Department have been very supportive. Daymar College has offered their services, and I hate to start naming names because there are so many,” he said. “We are very thankful to everyone. We are very open about everything, because there is nothing that we try to cover up, we are extending spiritual help to these two young men and their families,” he said.
Portia Williams can be reached at 740-370-0712 or on Twitter @PortiaWillPDT.