KC church prays and uses social media to locate stolen van

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Positive social media plus prayer equaled the return of a stolen church van Sunday, just in time for the congregation to celebrate during the service.

Church members at Redemption Ministries in Kansas City used an old gray van to carry people to and from service on Sundays and to bring the youth to and from events. Thursday morning, Pastor Thuston Packnett realized the van was gone. “The van was stolen, and obviously that was an important part of our ministry.”

Packnett doesn’t know who would steal the van or why. But he, his church members, and his son took to social media to get it back. Packnett said his son “took those pictures and put it on Facebook. There were just hundreds and hundreds of people that got on board. Church vans matter.”

Packnett’s son, Elder Thuston Packnett II, created the hashtag #churchvansmatter, hoping it would draw positive attention to the dark situation. Packnett II said, “There are so many things on social media that are negative, but it's things like this that show a different side. It's good. It's fun. It's a way to communicate and it works.”

Pastor Packnett said, “Because of that, we were able to get a call right at service time this morning.”

A call came in Sunday morning from a woman who saw the hashtag online then spotted the van at an abandoned house.

“From the phone number on the van, she called me. We called police and made the arrangements to get it,” Packnett Sr. said.

By the time service wrapped up Sunday morning, the van was back where it belongs in the church parking lot. It was vandalized and not useable yet but church members say at least it's home, and they had more than just the weekly message to celebrate.

“It's kind of surreal that it happened today that we were able to get our van back. So we thank God for that. It's an old van, but it's our van so we really appreciate having it,” the pastor said.

Whoever took the van popped out all the locks, destroyed the steering column, and overturned a seat. The church won't get the van back from the repair shop in time for its Thanksgiving plans but hopes to move forward with other planned community events once the van is ready.