Pastor Mark Smeltzer arrived, as he usually did, at the Glenwood Community Church around 7 a.m., on June 16.
He thought nothing of the fact the trailer that had been parked in the church’s parking lot the night before and loaded with supplies for a mission trip to leave that morning was not in the parking lot.
That is, until Smeltzer played a message on the church’s answering machine from the Mills County Sheriff’s Office left at 3:30 that morning. The message said deputies had found the church’s trailer, burning about a mile and a half away.
A confused Smeltzer immediately called Dan Boone, who was overseeing the mission trip. Boone was just as confused as Smeltzer.
“I asked what was going on and he (Boone) asked me if the trailer was in front of the church and I said ‘No’,” Smeltzer said. “I thought he had taken the trailer home with him but it was gone. So we called the Sheriff’s department and got the details.”
Smeltzer quickly realized the trailer had been stolen some time over night.
The trailer was loaded Friday evening and when a group left the church at approximately 11 p.m the trailer was still sitting in the parking lot. Less than five hours later, the trailer was gone.
The 12 -foot trailer was loaded with items for the church’s bi-annual Lakota Journey mission to the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The trailer was found near 250th Street and Hershey Avenue, about 1 1/2 miles from the church. The fire was extinguished by the Glenwood Volunteer Fire Department.
Most of the valuables were looted from the trailer including power tools, games and a generator. The remaining contents were then set a blaze by the thieves.
“We think someone was just driving by and saw it,” said Smeltzer. “I know there’s problems with thieves in every county but, and I don’t know for certain, it could have just been a random thing where someone who was cruising county roads for something they could get their hands on. We’ve left the trailer loaded before. This was probably the fifth or six time they’ve done the trip and we’ve never had any problems.”
The church sits on an isolated stretch of road and Smeltzer admits break-ins had been a concern but this is the first such incident the church has faced since opening in that location in 2005.
Smeltzer did not have an estimate of the value of the trailer and its contents but did say insurance would cover much of the losses.
About 20 members of the church were to leave Saturday morning on the mission trip. But the theft of the trailer and contents only delayed the mission trip. After a church meeting, the group rented a trailer, re-stocked it and left Sunday morning for Rosebud.
“A church member sat with the trailer all night Saturday to make sure it wasn’t disturbed,” Smeltzer said.
Smeltzer said there was actually a bright spot to the incident. The church bounced back immediately and wasn’t dissuaded from its mission.
“No one got hurt and it was really just an inconvenience. They re-grouped and they went anyway.”