CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A bus owned by a local church in Chesterfield was vandalized, putting a dent in the faith community’s outreach programs as the holiday season approaches.
According to Chesterfield Police at some point between 8:45 p.m. on Oct. 21 and 10 a.m. on Oct. 22, a bus parked at M3 Church on Old Courthouse Road was vandalized. Authorities said not only was the bus damaged but the church’s mailbox was smashed, two exterior lights on a nearby building on Courthouse Road were damaged, as well as a car in that area.
Wade Runge, Senior Pastor of Mountain Movers Ministry (M3), and U.S. Marine said he was distraught when he pulled into the parking lot of his church on Friday morning to find their bus severely damaged.
On Monday, Runge showed 8News what’s left behind. At least 24 bus windows were shattered, at least one of the window frames was punched out and the bus stairs were partially ripped off.
“I saw it and my heartaches. It brought me to tears,” Runge said. “It really upset me. I’m sitting here a grown man crying, but I just think about all the little kids that we pick up, about the families and the single parent mothers.”
The yellow bus is a vital part of M3’s outreach mission. Pastor Runge said the church purchased the bus three years ago for an estimated $6,000. The bus is used to feed the homeless, transport mothers, children and those in recovery programs back and forth to the church as well as transport hot meals and groceries to those in need. Runge said without the bus, the church’s operations will suffer and the vandals’ actions have hurt the community.
“We have so many things planned for the upcoming holidays. We’ve fed 30,000 people over the last few years. We also have a house for the homeless veterans, we pick people up from hotels and motels to bring them here (church) to feed them and give them a couple bags of groceries,” Runge said. “During the pandemic, we did not shut down. We were open every day and this bus was a vital part and now it’s impacted our ability to be able to serve our community and help others who are in need.”
Pastor Runge believes that the vandal(s) used rocks that line the church’s parking lot and chucked them at the bus windows, among other things, to destroy the bus.
Despite the damage and set back, Runge is choosing love and said he forgives whoever is responsible. He said we are all human and make mistakes. Although a police report was filed for insurance purposes, Runge said he will not be pressing charges and is instead inviting those responsible to his church. He said he wants to help them and talk about the source of their anger.
“I want to let that person know we do not want to pursue charges because everyone makes mistakes and the debts been satisfied,” Runge said. “Jesus has paid that price already and we just want to let them know and show the world that there’s enough anger and people walking around with bitterness. We as Christians and believers should be the most forgiving and loving people on the planet.”
In the name of love, the yellow school bus is still parking in the lot but covered in homemade signs with inspiring messages and images. Runge said he was surprised to walk into his Saturday service to see the bus wrapped in “love.”
The pastor said the church’s children’s ministry made the signs with some reading “love wins,” “we forgive you,” “we are praying for you,” “love trumps evil,” among scriptures. The messages are taped to the bus as a reminder to the community and to the person(s) responsible.
“If they come back and try to vandalize the bus again. We are letting them know that we love them,” Runge explained.
Although Runge has forgiven the vandal(s), the damage leaves him with a financial burden. He said the church is on a tight budget and this has set them back. Crews are running estimates on the bus, but he says the one window will cost around $200, so the windows alone would cost nearly $5,000. At this time they’re weighing the costs to determine if repairs are worth the cost or if they should look into trying to purchase a new bus.
Runge told 8News the bus only has liability insurance, so the incident is not covered.
“We believe by God’s grace that we will overcome,” Runge said.
Pastor Runge and the M3 community are asking for support if possible as they work to get their bus up and running. If you’d like to donate you can on the church’s website, by giving him a call (804)-379-0093 or contacting them through social media.
Runge said he would love to meet anyone who donates to pray with them and say thank you, not only for him but for helping those in need.
Chesterfield County Police are asking anyone with information to call Crime Solvers or the department.