For at least five years, police in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and surrounding communities have being trying to apprehend a pair of serial burglars who have been targeting churches and possibly other establishments in central Nebraska. This past week, Buddy Barrel — the Boys and Girls Missionary Challenge (BGMC
) mascot — helped put an end to their crimes.
According to the security cameras at Victory Assembly of God
in Gothenburg, burglars broke into the church at 11:48 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 17. Working their way through a bathroom ceiling, the burglars gained access to the church offices and started ransacking desks and cabinets, looking for money.
Blake Frost, who pastors the church of about 80 congregants with his wife, Shelly, says all the burglars found was some babysitting money and a small amount of change in their bright yellow Buddy Barrel bucket.
“They opened every single door and drawer in the entire church,” Frost says. “Our computers were sitting right here, but they didn’t take them because they must have known computers can be traced. But what they did take was the money and our Buddy Barrel bucket.”
When the break-in was discovered, police went through the scene and reviewed the video.
What Frost learned was that Victory AG was just one of seven churches hit that evening, as the pair of criminals broke into churches in the relatively nearby communities of Kearney, Lexington, and Cozad as well as another church in Gothenburg.
The police had been tracking the pair of suspects for years, but were unable to catch them in the act or find any identifiable stolen items in their possession — they had been very careful in what they took.
“But this time, when the police investigated, they found our big, smiling Buddy Barrel sitting on their kitchen countertop,” Frost reports. “They texted me his picture, and I was easily able to identify Buddy.”
Both of the suspects are now in custody, with Buddy Barrel remaining with the police as a key “witness” (piece of evidence) in the case. Nevertheless, without Buddy the police investigation would have again proven fruitless. In fact, the suspects have now confessed to being the ones who burglarized Victory AG five years ago.
“The police are now asking every AG church across the nation to utilize buddy buckets and buddy barrels as obvious sources of protection for the church,” David Boyd, national director of BGMC states, tongue planted firmly in cheek. “You see Buddy Barrel and the Holy Spirit make a great team!”
In addition to helping clean up the other church in Gothenburg that was burglarized, Frost notified other churches about the break-ins. This has led to churches in the community coming together to tighten up their security and share protection tips and tricks.
“I’m not sure why they took Buddy,” Frost says, “But on Sunday, we prayed for them before we took our BGMC offering, that God would move in their lives, because it seems clear — thou shall not steal — that they need Jesus.”
Dan Van Veen
Dan Van Veen is news editor of AG News. Prior to transitioning to AG News in 2001, Van Veen served as managing editor of AG U.S. Missions American Horizon magazine for five years. He attends Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri, where he is BGMC coordinator and teaches 4- and 5-year-old Rainbows boys and girls.