After losing van to fire, Christ’s Church gets new ride from Tacoma-based elder care center

Weeks after one of their vans was set on fire, Church of Christ administrator Mac Hoover walked into the church to find a voicemail on his desk phone.

Outside, the charred remains of the van still sat – shattered windows and debris strewn across the floor, the interior reduced to ash and twisted steel.

So it was a pleasant surprise for Hoover to hear on his answering machine that Andrea Peterson, the general manager of Weatherly Inn Assisted Living in Tacoma, had a proposal for the Federal Way Church.

Weatherly Inn had recently bought itself a new van and was preparing to sell its old activity bus – a 15-passenger shuttle the facility used to take seniors on scenic drives and trips to the zoo or theater . The van ran well and was in good condition with only 100,000 miles on the odometer.

A few Saturdays earlier, Peterson, who lives in Federal Way, had read an article in The Mirror about the loss of their van to the church.

“I just felt awful for this church,” Peterson said Tuesday. “I thought, ‘What a big loss.'”

The story touched her and the idea came to her later that they could just donate their used van to the church instead of selling it. The administration of Weatherly Inn approved the idea, which also seemed good to the people of Christ’s Church.

On October 11, three members of the church leadership traveled to Tacoma to pick up the van and give thanks for the donation, which allows them to maintain the pace of their activities by taking school children to retreats and doing the shuttle with church members.

“In our worldview, God is part of everything. He orchestrates the details and obviously I think has given us a blessing this whole time,” said senior pastor Jeff Moorehead. “It is an encouragement for our congregation.”

The folks at Weatherly Inn walked the Church of Christ members through the operation of the van, transferred some paperwork, and handed over the keys to the new owners of the van.

“We are grateful that there are caring people in our community who recognize the need and respond to it so quickly,” said Jim Low, associate pastor. “We are extremely grateful for this kindness.”

The new van even includes a feature that the burnt-out van didn’t have – a lift that will also allow wheelchair users to board the bus.

“As a care pastor, I know the wheelchair ramp will be a great tool for transporting some of our seniors,” Low said.

Christ Church lost one of its vans last month after someone, or something, set the van on fire, parked in the church parking lot overlooking Dash Point Road. This follows other acts of vandalism the church has suffered recently, including smashed windows, thefts and the targeting of the gas and catalytic converters of their other vehicles.

The burnt-out van itself is in a sorry state, and the Church of Christ has spent weeks jumping through hoops to get it removed.

“It’s been a big deal trying to get everything approved so they can tow it out of there,” Hoover said. “It’s tough on the neighborhood, and probably harder on the neighborhood than it is on us.”

The cremation is still under investigation, but Moorehead said they were told police had identified a person of interest.

Their obvious dismay aside, the fire in one of their vans was concerning to the entire community, Moorehead said — especially with Sacajawea College right next door.

But if he had the chance to sit down with whoever caused the van fire, Moorehead said they would like to offer a different approach to life.

“We were telling them about the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, how it can change your heart from within, and how it can give you a purpose in life that is different from what you might be trying. find, pursue the wrong side of life,” Moorehead said. “We would probably say, while we forgive you, there are also…consequences that come with the things we do, and sometimes those consequences help us turn over a new leaf.”

Joshua Magana shows Jeff Moorehead and Jim Low how to operate the wheelchair lift on their new van.

Andrea Peterson officially hands over the keys to Mac Hoover.

Andrea Peterson officially hands over the keys to Mac Hoover.

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