By Kimberly Barker firstname.lastname@example.org
After losing the Douthat Baptish Church to a suspected arson fire on Sept. 8, property owner Sinni Singh plans to build a new sanctuary.
Singh is the owner and chairwoman of Flint Rock Products in Commerce and said she owns hundreds of acres of land near Picher.
“I own around 800-acres — some I lease and some I own,” Singh said. “For years, the church has been on our land.”
Her religion is following the pathway of God and does not consider herself to belong to a certain denomination. Singh and Ronald Richardson, her husband, believed their bodies are vessels to serve the Lord.
“My husband and I always felt that this church building was meant to be on our land for a purpose and we’re supposed to open it and we would be guided,” Singh said. “We always ask for guidance from God. We didn’t know when we were supposed to open it, but my husband and I knew we will be opening it.”
Singh visited the abandoned Douthat Church in 2014 and said she felt called to reincorporate it back into the community. Her plans were to renovate the original building and use it for a new church.
“When I was here two years ago, I visited the church and felt like I needed to do something,” Singh said. “I visited the church in August (2016) and one of the doors was broken and somebody had pulled all of wiring and copper pipes out.”
The evening before the Douthat Baptist Church was burned to the ground, Singh had announced her plans to renovate the building into a new sanctuary called Divine Lighthouse.
“I announced to my staff that I am feeling the guidance that I am supposed to open this and make it into either a church, community center or something we can be of service,” Singh said. “Our company will be paying for it. We’re not going to use government money or ask money from the people so we can provide a place for everyone.”
“People are very family-oriented here (in Oklahoma),” she added. “I wanted to do something for the community where we can go pray together and have meals. I didn’t know how I would be guided to open it back up. It’s a church and has God’s energy there. If it would end up being a school that teaches children, it will have God’s energy. The name Divine Lighthouse came from the idea of bringing light to the whole town.”
The church will be named after Singh’s granddaughter, Divine. Lighthouse represents all of the religions and the light it emits. After receiving a call that the church had burned down, Singh was in shock but did not lose hope for her dream.
“We received my daughter’s bassinet the next day,” Singh said. “Then, my executive assistant/manager Jackie Chandler gave me this bracelet that says ‘Gods Got This.’ I’ve read all different religions because there’s so much wisdom in every religion. Fire is cleansing and in a lot of ceremonies, people use fire and water. The morning after the fire, it had rained. It was cleansing and that was God’s way of telling me to build it from the ground up.”
The Flint Rock staff were surprised of the news but remained supportive of Singh’s vision. They were excited about her plans to rebuild from the ashes and continue God’s work.
“What we do in our tribe (Creek, Choctaw), we basically have three ways to do things for good: One is by water that we’re able to cleanse by water,” Flint Rock Products’ consulting accountant Henry Harjo said. “The other aspect is to feed the community. A long time ago, community was the most important thing and to have that close relationship. Feeding the community is a way to make an expression. Even with the devastation that happened, still feed the community. Going forward is a regeneration and bringing back anew. The history is there and the feeling is there.”
“I want Ms. Sinni to fulfill her dreams and help people,” said Jackie Chandler, Flint Rock assistant and office manager. “This is what we’re here for- to help people, whether it’s children or the community. It will be nice to go to a place where you feel loved and feel safe. No one will be singled out because of their religion.”
The date of the construction of the new church has not yet been set but will be open to all religions and faiths. The new church will follow its name and resemble a lighthouse.
“It will be built from the ground up,” Singh said. “I think God will send me people who will guide me on how to begin. It will definitely be delayed since it had burned down.
“That’s why the name is Divine Lighthouse because it will be God’s house,” she added. “It will a place based on love, kindness and honor. If someone asks me what denomination, it will be love.”
Singh’s granddaughter Divine will be born in November, which gave her the idea to incorporate education within the church. The church will intertwine educational subjects like religion, math, science and Native American teachings.
“One of the things I felt after the fire is that part of the church will have school, education,” Singh. “Now, anywhere you go, Sunday school is different and regular school is different. I want to have a school that will have the subjects, but it won’t be a school with regular curriculum. I hope to have math, science, Native American history and talk about God. I want children to discuss the different religions they experience. We will talk about God and how we live in kindness. I think it will be a lot bigger than what I had originally planned.”
With Divine Lighthouse, Singh hopes to bridge the gap between religion and education. She is seeking guidance from individuals who are brought into her life by God.
“Having the energy of the church there, I believe it has very pure energy,”Singh said. “We will rebuild the new church there. A few of the people I’ve talked to know the Douthat Baptist Church and have been there or had family that was there. I think people who have good memories there will get more involved. I’m meeting people and asking God to guide me on how to start.”
Regardless of the loss of an original structure, the suspected arsons did not break Singh’s spirit.
“Burning that church, they wanted to break me, but nothing can break me when I walk with the faith of God,” Singh said. “It made me more strong.”
If anyone has any additional information or tips on the church fire, please contact the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office at 918-542-2806 or Quapaw Tribe Fire/EMS at 918-675-4200.
Kimberly W. Barker is a staff writer for the Miami News-Record. She can be emailed at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @MiamiNews_hound.