MACON, Ga. — In less than one month, Macon's Victory Church was stolen from three times.
"At first I couldn't believe it," Pastor Donald Watkins said.
He believes it was the same thief all three times because the church has video cameras that captured a man running onto their property. The thief can be seen stealing the copper pipes from their air conditioning units and running into the woods near the church.
Watkins said it feels like a sign of the times. He's also afraid it might happen to another church. They've filed reports with the Bibb County Sheriff's Office, but said he hasn't heard from an investigator yet.
"It's sad because they don't respect the house of God," he said.
After the first theft on Aug. 11, they replaced the copper pipes and added Freon back to the units, costing them $1300.
Then it happened again on Aug. 20, and once more on Aug. 30.
"Some of the estimates that we received is upwards of $60,000," Watkins said.
The church has insurance on the property, but leadership won't use it, afraid of being dropped by their insurance company.
Watkins said the church is a smaller congregation with a tight budget. For now, they've bought multiple electric fans to plug in around the church. It still doesn't cool down the building enough.
"So Sunday morning services, we have shortened those to a very minimum amount of time here in the sanctuary, because I'm being considerate of the people," Watkins said.
Executive Pastor Arizona White said it's affected everybody, including the youth who rely on the church's summer programs that help keep kids out of trouble.
The church has various programs that are expanding this summer to include music education, academic support, and mentorship. Some of those have been delayed because of the heat in the church.
"I believe that some of the violence that we see, it does stem from basic things that you learn at home. And we realize that the foundation of a human is family. And a lot of times when you have families that are dealing with poverty, mental health issues, lack of employment, then the children they fall through the cracks," White said.
Watkins said he knows that crime can come from desperation, which is why he wishes the person who took their pipes came to to the church for help, instead of resorting to theft.
"I even told the congregation, I would just like to have a conversation with him, let him know hey, you don't have to do that. We are here to help the community. If you need food, we have a food bank. If you need clothing, we have a clothing bank right here in the church,"
The church has plans to install a sturdier fencing system soon, along with motion sensor cameras.
13WMAZ reached out to Bibb County Sheriff's Office for updates on the case. We have not heard back yet.