MIAMI (CBS4) – Members of a South Florida church damaged by fire held a special worship service outside on Christmas night.

“I didn’t expect so many people to come, but my grandma had faith that everybody would come,” Christian Cruz said.

Cruz’s grandmother is the pastor of Ministerio Pentecostales Avivamiento de Cristo at 1745 W Flagler Street in Little Havana.

On Christmas Eve, a fire behind the storefront church left the sanctuary with a lot of smoke and water damage.

Firefighters responded to find flames and heavy smoke.

No on was hurt, according to fire officials. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

“The smoke got stuck to the carpet and the walls and there’s no way they can stay in there,” friend and fellow minister Benjamin Escorcia said.

Escorcia helped deliver remarks in English at the service under the stars.

“Even though the fire destroyed some of the church, it did not destroy the faith of the congregation,” he said to a group of several dozen people gathered in the church parking lot.

He was joined by Pastor Marlene Cruz. She thanked the community for coming together and stressed the importance of their faith.

“We don’t have insurance, just the insurance of God,” Ms. Cruz told CBS 4’s Lauren Pastrana Tuesday night.

“It’s devastating. She was just crying,” Christian Cruz said of his grandmother. “The day she found out she was on the sidewalk crying not knowing what she was going to do next. But God taught her to stay strong and to keep on going no matter what.”

Cruz, 18, said he grew up at the church. He said his grandmother was part of it before he was even born.

On Christmas, the congregation came together to sing and pray.

Many brought their own chairs. One man used a generator to power his truck in order to illuminate the service with his headlights.

“They want to testify about their faith,” Escorcia said. “Nothing can stop their faith because they believe in God and they know God will continue to help them.”

While their church may be off limits, their spirits are still strong.

Church members are asking for donations to make the necessary repairs to the sanctuary. Until they can raise enough funds,, they’ll hold services outside.

The next service is planned for Thursday.


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