Vice President Mike Pence is surrounded by parishioners and the pastors of the churches that burned.
Two pastors listen to Vice President Mike Pence speak.
Vice President Mike Pence arrived in Lafayette on Air Force Two around noon on Friday.
Vice President Mike Pence gets off of Air Force Two.
Vice President Mike Pence holds a baby in the crowd at the airport.
Vice President Pence arrives to the back of the church walking with the pastors.
The vice president shakes the hands of parishioners at the burnt church.
There is still plenty of work that needs to be done at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church.
Parishioners encouraged by Vice President Pence's visit
OPELOUSAS - Sancha Noel Smith said only good could happen by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence meeting and visiting with parishioners of three churches that burnt in March and April near Opelousas.
Smith was one of a handful of parishioners who met with Vice President Pence on Friday at Mt. Pleasant Baptist Church near Opelousas. The Baptist Church was one of three community churches that was set on fire and burned.
“Vice President Pence coming has been a blessing,” said Smith after the vice president left the church grounds. “We know that we are loved, and we are humbled. Mr. Pence’s visit shined a light. His
support means a lot. It is a source of encouragement and can only make us stronger. We are grateful.
“God Bless America.”
Vice President Mike Pence walked towards the back of the church and shook hands and gave hugs to parishioners of the church. He then spoke for about 15 minutes on his thoughts of the burning of the churches.
“What happened here at Mt. Pleasant, at Greater Union, and at St. Mary’s was evil, but these communities of faith have overcome evil with good,” said the vice president.
Rev. Pastor Kyle Sylvester of St. Mary Baptist Church was happy to see the vice president visit the area.
“It just proves that we live in a world where people still care about each other,” Pastor Sylvester said. “We have to make sure that we don’t lose heart... and remember that we’re here to help one another.”
Vice President Pence told the parishioners that America is standing behind them and wants to help them rebuild their three churches.
“I wanted to be here today just simply to tell all of you, on behalf of our President, on behalf of all of the American people, that we’re with you,” said the vice president. “We’re praying for you. Also, we’re standing with you. And we know these churches and this community will rebuild bigger and better than ever before.
“Your resilience, your faith and your courage in the wake of this unspeakable evil has inspired the nation.
The first Opelousas area church to be hit in the Opelousas area was the St. Mary Baptist Church on March 26 in Port Barre, just outside of Opelousas. Days later, the Greater Union Baptist Church and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Opelousas burned.
An internet campaign for the churches’ restoration has raised more than $2.1 million.
Holden Matthews, 21, has been charged with offenses including arson in the burning of the churches. He has pleaded not guilty.
In April, the Rev. Gerald Toussaint, who is the pastor at the Mount Pleasant Baptist Church, said he was saddened when he saw what remained of the church, which is more than 100 years old.
Shaking the vice president’s hand and standing side by side with him next to his church was a blessing, said Rev. Toussaint.
There is only one reason why the vice president of the United States visited his small community church, he said.
“I could have made 10 or 15 phone calls to the vice president, and he would not have come,” said Rev. Toussaint. “But he came. There is only one reason why he came. God sent him. All glory goes to God.”