A recently renovated worship center in North Tyler will have to start from scratch after a fire caused extensive damage to its building.
Temple of Deliverance and Healing (TODAH) International Worship Center Inc., a local church with a vision to be a source of outreach for the community, is heavily damaged after a fire at 2 a.m. June 8.
That’s when Bishop Laramie Jackson received a call that broke his heart and left him in disbelief. He was told the church, where he and his wife Jennifer Jackson are pastors, was up in flames.
Driving from his home in Whitehouse, Jackson recalls arriving on the scene at the building’s location on 130 N. Glenwood Blvd. in Tyler as firefighters blocked the building. He hoped the report was not true, but soon found out it was a reality.
“The fire department had blocked off the roads so I couldn’t see the building,” he said. “So when I asked the firefighter, ‘What building?’ they said, ‘This one’ and instantly my heart just dropped because we worked hard. We had renovated the office parts, probably like two years ago, so we updated the building. Just to see that work go, it was heartbreaking.”
Jackson said standing in front of the building had him in shock, especially because of how cautious they were with the safety of the building.
“I was thinking, ‘Not our building’ because we are always so protective of making sure everything is off and everything is unplugged ... so I was like, ‘No way,’” he said.
According to Tyler Fire Department spokesman Paul Findley, the fire is still under investigation. Investigators believe the fire likely started in a van that was located by the worship center leading the building to catch on fire.
“There was information given to us that someone may have been living in the van, but we haven’t been able to verify that as of yet. But at this point it’s still under investigation,” Findley said.
Prior to the fire, Jackson said he had received another call on Monday that someone broke into the building toward the backside in the storage area. Once the alarm went off, police immediately arrived, he said.
Although nothing was stolen, Jackson believes the incident could be related to the fire.
Jackson said he and his wife were in the process of purchasing the building and had been making constant upgrades and renovations for the past few years.
As he walked around the building, Jackson got a glimpse of the damages that ruined the warehouse storage area of the center. The fire caused roof damage and severely damaged storage items and the ceilings. Debris and burned items can be seen throughout what’s left of the center.
An area where the kids church sessions were held is unrecognizable from what it used to be.
“We wanted to make this our sanctuary, that was the ultimate goal,” said Jackson, as he roamed the building showing the fire damage.
In the aftermath, Jackson said the owner is wanting to knock down the building or rebuild it, which is still in question. Either way, the worship center will relocate and they are in search of a new area. Jackson said he hopes to keep the center in North Tyler.
After seven years of doing church service in the building, Jackson is pained to say goodbye but said this will lead to something bigger and better for his family and the church members.
Although the fire has not been determined as arson, Jackson said he “doesn’t hold any ill will” toward anyone if it was set intentionally. Even if so, “God loves them, I love them and hopefully they will see what they’ve done and be sorrowful for it,” he said.
“As far as how our church goes, we are encouraged that this is the next step for us to rebuild and do more for the community. It doesn’t stop us from what we’ve been doing, we’re going to continue. Hopefully we will be bigger and better,” Jackson said.
The church, which has 75 active members, has started doing services online and will continue until a new location is found, Jackson said.
Even though the damages have hurt in-person services, the fire has not affected the main mission of the worship center, he said.
“We are a family, this is where we came together every week, we helped other families,” Jackson said. “And I want them to know their impact, it affected some people but that didn’t stop anything. If we have to temporarily move our services and the outreach that we were doing, we would definitely do that.”
Jackson mentioned the support from the community and how appreciative they are for them. He also said the church will continue to be a light for the area.
“The biggest message, even for our members, is to be encouraged that this is part of our next. Our next season is going to be greater. We’re not defeated but we are encouraged by what’s coming next,” he said. “This doesn’t stop us and this is not going to limit our availability to the community, we are still moving and striving. We have different things in the community that we do, the network is still going.”
To help the center financially as it works to find a new location, donations are being accepted at a GoFundMe at www.bit.ly/3N9S0bu, $TODAHIWC on CashApp, and todahiwc on PayPal.