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Thieves clean out Georgia church ... during the service

"They left the Bibles," Pastor Mona Harper tells Bill Liss of WXIA-TV.

Thieves tore apart the youth center of a Georgia church and made off with nearly everything they could — including a refrigerator, a stove, a microwave oven, broilers and the copper in the ceiling — while the congregation worshiped during Sunday services upstairs, the church's pastor says.

"They stood on the chairs and took all the copper. They took our kitchen utensils," said Mona Harper, pastor of Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, a suburb of Atlanta.

But then they went a step further, NBC station WXIA of Atlanta reported.

"They took crayons, magic markers and DVDs. They left the Bible and the Scrabble game, but they took the board games," Harper said.

"Things that we use to get kids off the street, they just took it," she said.


Pastor Mona Harper surveys the damage at Kingdom City Church in Stone Mountain, Ga.

The break-in was discovered Wednesday when members arrived for weekly Bible study. Harper said she believes the break-in started during Sunday night services because the sound system and lights began malfunctioning.

"They were apparently downstairs cutting electricity to some of our units," she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

News of the break-in galvanized community support in the Atlanta area.

Within an hour, Home Depot — whose corporate headquarters is in Atlanta — donated a refrigerator, a stove and a microwave oven. The School Box, a chain of education supply stores in the Atlanta, offered to replace the stolen school supplies. Mount Carmel Christian Church in Stone Mountain, meanwhile, offered to let Kingdom City use its facilities for services.

Harper, whose leads the congregation with her husband, James, the church's bishop, said the robbery had left her undeterred.

"If somebody could come in on a Sunday night while church is going on and literally rob a church — not only rob it but endanger the people and possibly could have set this place on fire — I believe that my work here is more needed than it's ever been."

Police said they were investigating the incident.

M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com contributed to this report by Bill Liss of NBC station WXIA of Atlanta. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.

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