La. churches rebuilding after fires

Benjamin Watson may have retired from the New Orleans Saints, but these days, he’s repping his community in other ways.

The former NFL tight end spread the word about fundraising efforts for the three historically black churches that burned down in Louisiana’s St. Landry Parish in recent weeks.

St. Mary Baptist Church in Porte Barre was set on fire March 26, followed by the Greater Union Baptist Church in Opelousas on April 2 and Mount Pleasant Baptist Church on April 4.

Authorities arrested 21-year-old Holden Matthews in connection with the fires.

Watson sent out a tweet with an address and GoFundMe page where people interested in helping the churches rebuild can send donations.

“It is imperative that we show this community and the entire country that these types of acts do not represent who we are. And most importantly as the body of Christ, we suffer along side our brothers and sisters whenever tragedy, persecution or loss happens,” Watson wrote on Twitter.

According to the page, the GoFundMe campaign is an initiative of the Seventh District Baptist Association, a group of about 60 Baptist churches in Southwest Louisiana, including the three churches affected by the fires.

“All of your generous donations will be disbursed equally among all three churches for not only rebuilding their sanctuaries, but for the purchase of all necessities lost in the fires, including pews, sound system, musical instruments, etc.,” the GoFundMe page reads.

The campaign had raised more than $25,000 as of Saturday evening.

Church leaders were optimistic about rebuilding and were ready to help their communities start healing.

“It started off a dark moment in our lives, but with the rebuilding process you’re going to see some things … that are going to be very bright for our churches,” Mount Pleasant Baptist Church Pastor Gerald Toussaint said.

In the meantime, congregants have been attending services in churches nearby.

“Now, my concern is when do we get back to normal,” Harry Richard, pastor of Greater Union Baptist Church, told CNN affiliate KLFY. “When do we put our church family back in their home?”

CNN’s Christina Maxouris, Samira Said and Josh Campbell contributed to this report.