By Mekialaya White

DENVER (CBS4) — On Thursday morning, the Odom Memorial Church congregation was devastated. That’s when a fire swept through their building.

(credit: CBS)

“My brother called about 6:30 in the morning and he said the church is on fire,” said AJ McDonald, pastor of the church.

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AJ and his wife Claudine told CBS4’s Mekialaya White their story via Zoom. AJ says fire officials concluded the fire was electrical. The blaze ripped through their building, destroying the attic. After being informed of the news with a phone call, he got his first look at the fire on TV as a helicopter flew overhead.

(credit: CBS)

“And there’s just flames billowing out. And I’m frozen and it’s so jarring. It was surreal because you see things like that on the news but it’s always happening to someone else,” AJ said.

The congregation had just returned to in-person services the previous Easter weekend for the first time because of COVID-19 precautions. Being forced back out was disheartening for the McDonalds. But that sadness didn’t last long: They decided to still have church the following Sunday, even if it had to be virtual.

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“One thing this pandemic has taught us is how to be flexible and how to embrace modern technology. For a year, we’ve been assembling at home… you brush your teeth and you have service,” explained AJ. “It’s like okay this has happened, but how do we regroup, how to we rebound and because of our faith.”

(credit: CBS)

The McDonalds hope their resilience serves as an inspiration to others.

“People ask us, ‘How do you go through so much turmoil? You look like you’re just fine.’ But you’re human. You have your moments… but we realize where our help comes from and it truly comes from the Lord,” Claudine said.

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The congregation is still in need of donations to get their church repaired. A GoFundMe campaign is posted online.

Mekialaya White