CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) - A thief got away with two church buses in Chattanooga.

Determined members have found one already, but with hundreds of kids to transport, they're asking for the public's help in finding the second stolen bus.

Temple Baptist Church is off Rossville Boulevard. It has a large youth program and its AWANA brings in hundreds of kids every Wednesday. With growing concerns for Chattanooga's crime and gangs, their goal is to include inner city kids who are only able to attend if they're picked up by the church buses.

"Even our kids, when we told them one of our buses got stolen, they were just heartbroken," AWANA Commander Nick Sun said.

Two Temple Baptist Church buses were stolen from the parking lot different nights last week. Ignition damage in a third bus showed the thief tried to take off in it too.

"It's very important to me with all the crime that we have in our city. As a child, I was picked up on a bus and I know how it changed my life, and this church wants to change lives throughout the city," church member Mike Wooden said.

Wooden found one bus at a nearby scrap yard. The church's name was spray painted off the side. Now he's looking high and low for its twin.  

"Through neighborhoods, looking in people's fences, behind houses," Wooden said.

"With any blessing, the devil works hard to put out that light in such a dark, dark community," Sun said.

They use the buses to transport around 150 kids to the church from high crime areas, like East Lake Courts, Alton Park and neighborhoods surrounding Rossville Boulevard.

"These kids may only have one shot a week or maybe once in a lifetime just to come to church and hear about Jesus," Sun said.

They also feed the kids a home cooked meal every Wednesday at AWANA.

"We ran into some kids that was probably the only meal they might eat that whole week," Sun said.

They're asking the public to be on the lookout for the missing bus. They have a message for the thief.

"If the gentleman is watching, hey bring the bus back. I'll shake your hand," Wooden said.

"We exist for people that do things like that. God's a forgiving God, and he'll forgive them. We just would like to have our bus back so we can continue picking up our kids," Pastor Shad Smith said.

Church officials say they did file reports with the Chattanooga Police Department, which helped them reclaim the one bus from the scrap yard.
If you spot the bus that's still missing, call CPD or Temple Baptist Church. In the meantime, they're making multiple trips in an effort to transport as many kids as possible.