This United States map that hangs on the wall of FPGM’s office. The blue dots are map tacks that represent all the locales where God has given us opportunity to openly and publicly proclaim the Gospel (either by preaching, one-on-one witnessing, or Gospel tract/Bible distribution). The yarn strings represent the two distinct bicycle routes I undertook to the proclaim the Gospel in 2003 and 2005. Only in Hickory, NC have we ever been harassed by the police.
Greetings in the name of the Most High God. “For lo, he that formeth the mountains, and createth the wind, and declareth unto man what is his thought, that maketh the morning darkness, and treadeth upon the high places of the earth, The LORD, The God of hosts, is his name (Amos 4:13).”
First, I want to express my deepest gratitude for all the encouraging emails and spiritual support we have received since last weekend’s arrest for the sake of the Gospel. The Hickory Police Department and the Jaycees have been flooded with emails and telephone calls, and certain wheels are now in motion. It is Wednesday, and the charges still have not been dropped; but, I am confident this will soon happen. Matthew and I have sequestered attorneys with the Christian Law Association, and the one we have personally been in contact with seems to be quite the firebrand. The CLA (www.christianlaw.org) is a solid organization that provides free legal defense for those facing difficulties for their Biblical faith. They helped me while setting up FPGM as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, and they helped us in 2006 with similar bullying that came from the HPD. A letter has gone out from our attorneys to the Hickory City Attorney, the Hickory Chief of Police, and the President of the Hickory Jaycees, demanding that they refrain from infringing upon our First Amendment rights this Friday night, or face a federal lawsuit. This letter cites several Constitutional Law cases and clearly explains that we were and are within our rights to pass out free Gospel tracts and share our faith down at Union Square. To read the letter in PDF format, CLICK HERE: Attorney Letter.pdf. You will find it very informative.
Again, I am amazed at the stirring in this community. Word has gotten around, and believers that I do not even know have emailed or telephoned: some to pray for us, some to express support, and some to helpfully offer sources for legal assistance. Thanks to all of you. I wish there was time and opportunity to answer each individual email, and please do not be offended if I am unable. Just know that we are very grateful and spiritually strengthened by the voices of believers that have arisen. I was greatly humbled to hear that this situation was announced on Sunday from pulpits in places as far away as Pennsylvania and New Mexico and in many locales here in North Carolina. Even some State political figures have been in contact to voice their support. Truly, there are some nervous officials down in Hickory these days. My friends, we will surely one day lose our freedoms to openly share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in this nation, BUT IT IS NOT THIS DAY! Glory to God! Glory to the Living God!
If you have not had an opportunity, please contact the Hickory Police Department and/or the Hickory Jaycees to voice your concern over this matter. Thus far, your phone calls and emails are making a difference and creating pressure for the guilty parties. The contact information is as follows:
Hickory Police Department
I have heard that Chief Adkins has actually returned some of your phone calls. This is a good thing and communicates something positive about his character. The Chief was not personally involved in this incident, but he needs to know about it and hear your concerns. The authority is in his hands to make things right. Apparently, he told some of you that he wanted to sit down and talk to me and Matthew so as to reach a resolution. We are willing, but as defendants facing criminal charges, our attorneys have instructed us not to have personal contact with the department.
It may prove important for you all to also contact the Mayor of the City of Hickory, Rudy Wright. He also needs to hear your concerns and be urged to quickly put an end to this matter. The mayor has been involved, but nothing has yet been done. Perhaps if he hears from you all, he will be forced to act.
Mayor Rudy Wright
Tel: (828) 466-1044
Now, here is an important message for all Bible-believers living in the Hickory area who may be reading this. Please pass this information on to all like-minded Christians at your churches and in your community: WE WANT TO SEE AS MANY CHRISTIANS AS POSSIBLE COME DOWN TO UNION SQUARE IN DOWNTOWN HICKORY ON FRIDAY NIGHT DURING THE HICKORY ALIVE CELEBRATION. I understand that this is the 4th of July, and many of you may be out of town. However, what better way is there to celebrate our nation’s independence than to gather as freedom-loving individual Christians in a public square and share our faith by passing out Gospel tracts to the lost? I have heard rumors that the Mayor has cancelled the Hickory Alive on Friday night for fear of this. I cannot independently confirm these rumors, so we are going down there to witness nonetheless. Should we find the festivities cancelled, then we would like to use the occasion as Christians to gather in the public square to pray as a corporate body for our nation, our city and government officials, our persecuted brethren around the world, and for boldness as Christians to share the Truth of Jesus Christ. We may also have a time of worship and public testimony. Bishnu, my Nepali national partner, will be sharing about the freedoms he has in Nepal (a Hindu/Buddhist nation that is dominated politically by Maoist Communists) that seem to be absent here in America. If the Hickory Alive Celebration is on, I invite all to use the opportunity, following our time of corporate prayer and testimony, as individual Christians to pass out Gospel tracts to the masses that will be gathered. Last weekend, many individuals were grateful for the Gospel tracts they received. It should be no different this time. THE INVITATION IS FOR ALL TO MEET IN THE WHITE PLAZA AREA (an easy-to-find open area) AT THE EAST END OF UNION SQUARE ADJACENT TO 2ND STREET NW AT 7:30pm. Again, don’t let news of Hickory Alive’s cancellation stop you from coming. This will be a good time for the believers of this community to gather for prayer and public testimony in celebration of our nation’s independence. If there are no people with whom we can then witness, we will saturate the downtown with Gospel tracts (i.e. pay-phone booths, benches, storefronts, etc.). Listen, we are in no way suggesting a rally or a public disturbance. We are simply seeking a peaceful gathering of individual Bible-believing Christians as a statement against the freedoms being taken away from us and as an opportunity to corporately call out to the Lord in prayer for our nation and other persecuted brethren. We have no desire to break any civil laws, and the right to peaceful assembly and individual evangelism is clearly protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. If the police feel differently as they did last Friday night, they cannot possibly arrest us all. Let’s show the City of Hickory that Bible-believing Christians are a force to be reckoned with in this area. PLEASE JOIN US AT 7:30 AT THE EAST END OF UNION SQUARE IN DOWNTOWN HICKORY. MY EMAIL NEWSLETTER LIST IS LIMITED, SO KINDLY PASS THIS INFORMATION ON TO YOUR CHURCHES AND ALL YOUR CHRISTIAN FRIENDS WHO LIVE IN THIS AREA.
For those of you who live nowhere reasonably close to Hickory, North Carolina, please commit, wherever you may be at 7:30 Eastern Standard Time on Friday, July 4th, to pray for us, for this nation, for our government officials, and for boldness to share your faith. In the end, may the Lord have the victory. As John the Baptist said in reference to Jesus Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
Before signing off, let me also say something else. My reporting of this matter in no way serves to communicate that all law enforcement officials in America are corrupt Gestapo-like thugs. I recognize and affirm that there are many God-fearing, respectful, and above-reproach law officers all over America who would never attempt to hinder a Christian from sharing his/her faith. These deserve our prayers, our gratitude, and our support as do our troops serving our country in Afghanistan and Iraq these days. The Lord has given me and FPGM incredible opportunities to share the Gospel on the streets in numerous cities, towns, and communities all around America. There have been some encounters with law enforcement officials from time to time, but never in the same vein as what transpired in my own hometown last Friday night. I remember asking a policewoman in Portsmouth, New Hampshire one time if we could hold up a large sign and preach to masses of teenagers loitering about in the public square. Her reply was succinct: “You have First Amendment rights, do you not?” I then expressed that I wanted to make sure we were not in violation of any city sign ordinance. She replied: “I believe the United States Constitution trumps any city ordinance.” She then took a Gospel tract. There have also been police officers in places like New York City, Boston, Raleigh, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, etc. who never once bothered us while preaching, distributing tracts, or holding up Gospel signs. On Coney Island, we recently preached open-air with a microphone and a huge paintboard. The police were standing right beside of us and said not a word. I can also remember countless witnessing encounters with law enforcement officials who were respectful of the Gospel and took a tract. There was a security guard in Chattanooga, Tennessee one time who Jamie and I were able to share with. He turned out to be a believer, took the tract, was convicted about sharing his faith, and later was able to be a part of leading someone to Christ at his workplace. This young man is on my email list and may be reading this even now. God bless you, my friend. Thank you for your service.
There is a large United States map that hangs on the wall of FPGM’s office (see above photo). The blue dots are map tacks that represent all the locales where God has given us opportunity to openly and publicly proclaim the Gospel (either by preaching, one-on-one witnessing, or Gospel tract/Bible distribution). The yarn strings represent the two distinct bicycle routes I undertook to the proclaim the Gospel in 2003 and 2005. Only in Hickory, NC have we ever been harassed by the police consistently. The words of Jesus Christ ring abundantly true in Mark 6:4: “But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.” And, my friends, last Friday is only the culmination of numerous incidents. Many of you remember the threats back in 2006 over the same thing. We have been bothered for witnessing to kids loitering in parking lots along Hwy. 70. One time, an officer told us that we could not stop to talk to the teenagers hanging out in front of storefronts on a public sidewalk in downtown Hickory. We were told that we had to keep moving. After Friday night, however, we have determined: NO MORE! None of this has ever happened in the hundreds of other cities, towns, and communities where we have shared the Gospel.
Now, let me also say that there are decent officers on the Hickory Police Force who never would have taken such action. It is unfortunate that the reputation of the entire department has to suffer over an incident such as this. I remember a Hickory police officer giving us permission to preach open-air at Oktoberfest in the “beer garden” last Fall. He said we could preach as long as the crowd did not get too riled up and pose a public disturbance. He was respectful and had a proper understanding of the law. In 2006, when the same threats were made about our distributing of Gospel literature in Union Square, a police supervisor stopped the madness and told his subordinates to leave us alone. For men such as these, we should be thankful. Notwithstanding, the Hickory Police Department has a bit of a negative reputation in this community outside of this incident as do the particular officers involved. This is not the first time thug-tactics have been complained about. The offending officers need to be held accountable. Let’s pray that the Chief does the right thing and that the decent, honest, and reputable officers of the force are not inhibited because of the outlandish actions of their coworkers.
Again, thanks for all the encouraging emails, telephone calls, and voices of support. As is to be expected, there has been negative feedback from so-called “Christians” as well. CLICK HERE: Negative Letter.pdf to see correspondence from a local who claims to be a Christian but had not the guts to even sign his name. You may find his words and understanding of the Gospel quite comical. Such accusations need no defense. Read for entertainment purposes only.
Well, it is time to be about the business of the day. PLEASE, IF YOU ARE ABLE, COME DOWN TO UNION SQUARE ON FRIDAY NIGHT AT 7:30 pm at the east end of the plaza near 2nd Street. Such a peaceful assembly will only prove efficacious if Christians come out in droves. If any one wants to come in from out of town, we will find accommodation for you. Just let me know ASAP.
One final note, the Hickory Police Chief has said to many that the video clips posted on the internet only reveal a limited slice of the whole incident. Those videos began and ended with my personal involvement, and I was arrested. As I see it, nothing that transpired before is relevant to my arrest. My friends with whom prior interaction took place were not handcuffed and forced to sit in jail. Nevertheless, there is another video clip taken from a cell phone that shows the offending officers pontificating their complete misunderstanding of the law to my friend, Kent Blalock, a little earlier in the evening. I don’t think Chief Adkins wants this video on the web. For now, I am refraining. As one attorney said, “Even if the statements about this incident are only half true, it is still a slam-dunk!”
DON’T FORGET: EMAIL OR TELEPHONE THE HICKORY POLICE DEPARTMENT AND THE HICKORY JAYCEES TO EXPRESS YOUR CONCERN IF YOU HAVE NOT DONE SO ALREADY. AND, EVERYONE GET IN TOUCH WITH THE MAYOR’S OFFICE AS WELL (CONTACT INFORMATION IS LISTED ABOVE). LET’S KEEP POURING THE PRESSURE ON. DROP THE CHARGES!
ALSO, SEE YOU FRIDAY NIGHT AT 7:30 IN UNION SQUARE!:
“I think myself happy, king Agrippa, because I shall answer for myself this day before thee touching all the things whereof I am accused of the Jews” (Acts 26:2).
For the Word of God and the Testimony of Jesus Christ,
P.S. My brother, Matthew, was also arrested and persecuted in this incident. Because I head up a ministry and have a long list of people on my e-newsletter list, virtually all the encouraging support has come for us through me. If you have an opportunity, please email Matthew directly (email@example.com) to voice your support and prayerful thoughts. He is a bold soldier of Christ and the epitome of one whose lifestyle is sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ, in his workplace and on the streets of his community. I truly counted it an honor last weekend to be incarcerated in a cell beside my own brother. It was he who had the boldness, despite his personal disgust over the whole incident, to try and witness to the officers themselves down in the city jail. And, they hated him for it.