Emerald Isle church leans on faith after equipment stolen

EMERALD ISLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The Island Church in Emerald Isle is rising above adversity after all of its equipment was stolen, and church members said they are using their faith to get back on their feet.

Megan Vande Hei said she gave up religion for a long time before coming across the church.

“This is one of those places that from the very first day you set foot in the door, no matter if you’re a stranger or they’ve seen you forever, this is the one place you can come where everyone is family automatically,” Vande Hei said.

Paul Ortiz, the churches’ lead pastor, said it isn’t an ordinary chapel.

“It’s a portable church,” Ortiz said. “We take out the ceremonial pieces, the ritualistic things, the habits, the sacred cows, and we just make it about God and then people.”

Their world was shaken early last week when their trailer full of equipment was stolen.

“We probably had about $35,000 worth of equipment, including the trailer,” Ortiz said. “We had our chairs, our table, our sound equipment, some instruments (and) our children’s church set up, among other things.”

Now, they are left with chairs and bleachers.

“At the end of the day, it’s stuff, and that doesn’t make up the church,” Ortiz said. “The church is people and so here we are.”

Vande Hei says it was a test of her newfound faith, and she’s confident the congregation will overcome the setback.

“We are still going to worship,” said Vande Hei. “We are going to smile. We are going to hug each other. We are going to be here for each other no matter if we are in bleachers, chairs or if we are sitting on the floor.

The Carteret County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the theft of the church trailer and equipment.

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