Pastor says Leesburg church will rebuild after fire

Investigation into cause of fire ongoing

LEESBURG, Fla. – The pastor of GraceWay Church said they will rebuild after a fire damaged the facility's youth building.

Pastor Shawn Smith said his message during Sunday morning's service would be filled with uplifting words.

"We believe that God is going to make us whole and the community whole through all of this," Smith said. "We will rise through the ashes and God will shine brighter through the darkness."

Smith said he is keeping his congregation's spirits high after one of their lowest days.

"It's heartbreaking," Smith said.

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The youth center at the church caught on fire Friday night.

According to a post on the church's Facebook page, someone broke and vandalized the building. Church leaders wrote on social media someone is in custody, but Smith said he couldn't say anything else because it is an ongoing investigation.

"I know that we will rise up and we will overcome," he said.

Part of the damaged area was a cafe run by congregation members and people who are diagnosed with autism. Smith said all of their hard work is destroyed.

“Some of it is just stuff, but really it’s the emotional impact of feeling that was our space. There were so many memories,” he said.

Smith said they are moving some of the youth services to another building on campus. He said the fire does not define the church and they will rebuild.

"We know we'll be stronger because of all of this," Smith said.

Smith said churches from all over the country are reaching out. Some are donating items and many are offering their prayers of support.

Smith said they're waiting while investigators look into the cause of the fire. But he's not letting that stop him from spreading his message of hope and healing.

"We know who we are and this has challenged us, but we know at our core who we truly are," he said.

Investigators have not released any suspect information or said if anyone was facing charges in connection to the fire. The cause of the fire is unknown.

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