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Fire strikes prayer tent

Nov. 19, 1997

Fire

strikes prayer tent

By Ganesha Martin

Reporter for The Baylor Lariat

An investigator from the Waco city fire marshal's office was summoned Tuesday morning to the scene of the 24-hour prayer wall tent located adjacent to Fountain Mall, after an arsonist or arsonists set the structure on fire causing significant damage.

'We do not know exactly what happened,' Jim Doak, Baylor Police Chief Jim Doak, said.

'It is under investigation by the Waco Fire Department. 'In my view it is a truly unfortunate incident that someone had to stoop that low to make a statement.'

According to Steve Bridges, a fire investigator for the Waco fire marshal's office, someone set the tent on fire using an accelerate, probably gasoline. The person obviously poured the gasoline on the side walls of the tent and its contents and then lit it.

'I was paged at 5:45 a.m. after Baylor DPS was informed at 5:15. There were things that appeared to be sign-in books or possible Bibles that were found in the tent that were set on fire also,' Bridges said. 'We did not have to put the fire out because the tent was made out of inflammable materials. It burned as long as the accelerate was still on it, and eventually put its self out.'

There are no suspects at this time. Evidence collected from the crime scene has been sent to a laboratory in hopes of recovering some information to aid in the investigation and finding the identity of the arsonist.

'It's bad that someone did that, but I never used it. It's those NoZe Brothers,' Chris Heckler, a Fort Worth Worth freshman, said.

Doak said The NoZe Brotherhood is not suspected in the incident.

'This type of activity is not a reflection of the NoZe Brother's organization,' Doak said. 'Historically speaking, they have been a little obnoxious, but being destructive is counter to what they are all about.'

Student prayer wall leaders where looking for alternative locations just last month for the tent in an effort to curb constant criticism by students concerning the location of the wall, and the idea of putting prayer on display. There was even discussion of totally doing away with the physical location and just having a prayer request book at the Student Involvement desk in the Bill Daniel Student Center.

Chris Kennedy, a prayer wall representative, said the burning of the wall was very unexpected, and a new tent will not be put up this semester.

'To be honest I think it is sick and distorted,' Michael Wibbelsman, an Atlanta freshman, said. 'I would not go there, and it's not the greatest idea, but it was wrong to destroy it.'

The prayer wall was more than a tent for students on campus to utilize solely for daily concerns about life and school. It was a dream for a revitalization, and a way to get people united under the name of prayer Kennedy said.

'Ten people had a vision for revival on this campus. If you want something to happen you have to pray for it. A revival could not happen until Christians humbled themselves and prayed for it to come to Baylor,' Spencer White, a Dallas junior, said.

The wall was a means to making this vision a reality. People signed up as a promise to dedicate an hour a day or several hours a week to prayer, so that there was someone praying for Baylor and Waco 24-hours a day seven days a week.

'As Jesus was being persecuted at Calvary he said to the Lord forgive them for they know not what they do. That's how I feel about the wall,' White said. 'The people who burned the wall did not know what they were doing.'

Kennedy said that the people involved with the prayer wall are staying optimistic.

The tent is not what was important; the heart of the people praying is the most important thing,' Kennedy said.

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