GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Burglars broke into a Gulfport church and went away with a safe and hundreds of dollars in cash.
This is the second South Mississippi church targeted in just three weeks. Similar to the previous burglary, the thieves also enjoyed snacks while they were there.
Assistant Joanna Ratcliff was shocked when she walked into the office at New Birth Full Gospel Baptist Church Monday morning to find someone had broken in overnight.
"You feel violated," Ratcliff said.
Burglars ransacked through all the files where credit card information is stored. The intruders took the church safe from under the desk, getting away with about $450 in cash.
"How could this happen to a church?" Senior Pastor and Overseer Kevin Payton asked. "The disrespect, not to me, not even to the parishioners, but to God."
The unwanted guests even helped themselves to candy and Hawaiian Punch. And they didn't clean up the mess they made on the floor.
"It almost feels like I've been raped," Payton said. "We have been invaded spiritually, if they would have just come to me and asked for something."
Instead, the burglars threw a rock into a window in the back of the church, moved a bench over and climbed inside.
Church leaders believe it was someone who had been to the church before because they knew the way to the administrative offices on the other side of building.
"To see the hurt in my overseer's eyes, see the water build up in his eyes, to hear the crackle in his voice, they don't even understand the damage they have done," Security Director Thomas Robinson said.
"There is no extent he won't go to try and help people and that's why we are here. And for someone to do something like this is just disheartening," Ratcliff said.
Pastor Payton said he will be praying for the culprits to find the right path. He is also offering a reward to bring them to justice in a court of law.
This is the second church burglary in South Mississippi in just three weeks. Permission Hill Church in Saucier was also burglarized and there are some similarities in the crimes. Both times, the burglars broke a window and climbed in, went straight for the offices and went through all the files looking for money.
Harrison County deputies have not made any arrests in that particular break-in. WLOX News contacted Harrison County investigators and told them about the most recent break-in. They plan to call the Gulfport investigator and compare information about the two crimes.