MATTOON, Ill. (WCIA)—Kenneth King has been a pastor at Mattoon Christian Church for more than a decade. Now he’s wondering what’s next for his congregation. “When you put 12 years of your life into a building, build it, do construction, plaster, and new furnaces, it’s hard when you see it gone in a couple of hours,” said King, Mattoon Christian Church Pastor.
Saturday morning his church was on fire. Flames were coming from the second and third floor windows. “There is heat and smoke damage throughout the entire building,” said Jeff Hilligoss, Mattoon Fire Chief. “Right now, I’m hurt, kind of broken, but God is in control. He’ll take care of it. I’m just taking it day by day,” said King.
Once crews took a closer look, they had reason to believe it was arson. “The burn patterns that we encountered on the inside indicated that there could be an accelerant that was used,” said Hilligoss.
The next day, police arrested Michael Kallis. He was found at a train station waiting to get on board. “He indicated to investigators that Jesus told him that he needed to help the church. He thought if he burned it, they would get insurance money, so he went ahead and burned the church,” said Taylor.
Kallis has been to the church to get food from their pantry. The pastor didn’t know he was also sleeping there the past few nights. King says he wants Kallis to know he’s forgiven. “Everybody makes mistakes,” said King. King is focusing on the future that lies ahead. “I thank all of you who have offered to help and come together as a community. This like I said is not an ending. It’s a new beginning,” said King. Police say Kallis took keys from the church and stole a car nearby to get away from the scene of the fire.