On July 28, 2007 I was arrested for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the town of St. Cloud, Minnesota, in the good old U.S.A. and was released from Stearns County Jail on July 30th. I had arrived in the United States a month and a half earlier, as the LORD had sent my family and I to preach the Word. St. Cloud was one of our high priority preaching spots, in which we preached about twice a week, as other brothers in the LORD had been doing months before my arrival to the U.S.A. Most of our preaching was located on the corner of St. Germain and 5th Avenue. There were many people in need of the Savior at this particular place, as it is just across the street from the most well-known bars and clubs in town. Also just down the street was a masonic lodge. As I mentioned earlier, there had been preachers there for several months, and during that time there had been quite a few confrontations. As always, when preaching, there are confrontations and adversaries.
For a great door and effectual is opened unto me, and there are many adversaries.
I Corinthians 16:9
However, this was not the usual rejection of the Gospel from the people (as we see in Thailand) – this was from the police. My dear readers, I hope that this letter will help you see and know (if you don’t already) what state the U.S.A is in.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.
II Timothy 4:3.
This was a common occurrence we encountered while preaching the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ in St. Cloud; the police would park their car in front of us with the lights on, walk up to us and tell us that we could not continue preaching. When we asked them what law prevented us to preach they would usually leave soon after. Sometimes a police officer would come up to us and thank us for preaching, saying that it was much needed in that area. After seeing some of this obvious confusion on their side, Brother Brian contacted and met with the Chief of Police in St. Cloud – Chief Richard Wilson. The Chief was kind, and after Brian carefully explained what we would be doing he said that we had every right to preach the gospel and also warmly welcomed it. Praise the LORD! We just continued preaching as before. When the police would try to stop us, we would explain that we had permission from the Chief; they would leave and we would continue.
On Saturday the 28th there were more of us than usual as we went out again with great boldness lifting up our voices to make known the mystery of the Gospel. Again we went to the corner of St. Germain and 5th Avenue. After praying, Brother Lance started the preaching. Within minutes we could see the police coming. There were about four or five patrol cars and plenty of officers. Without saying a word to us they immediately stopped Lance and began to cuff his hands behind his back. Upon seeing that they planned to stop the preaching by force, I approached one of the officers who seemed to be leading the assault, to inform him of our intentions. I started by opening the Scriptures to Matthew 10:27.
What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye upon the housetops.
The officer responded by closing my Bible and stating that we could not preach. I told him that we would continue preaching not out of rebellion toward him but out of obedience toward God. I then showed him Acts 5:29.
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
He shook his head and said, “No! No! No! I do not have to listen to this!”
And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables
II Timothy 4:4
I responded to him by saying, “I just want you to understand what I am doing when I step around you and continue preaching.” And with that clarified, I stepped around the officer, and started preaching. There were people gathering now to see what was going on, many of which were the homeless that we had ministered to in the area. It was a wonderful opportunity to preach, but short-lived, I must add. The police took my Bible and then pulled my hands behind my back as I continued preaching Jesus Christ to all who would hear. They quickly put me in one of their patrol cars, and I waited. I knew that the officer would come back and tell me that if I promised to stop preaching he would let me go home. I prayed to the LORD and asked what I should do. His answer was clear. The first verse that came to my mind was Colossians 1:23.
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; Be not moved away from the hope of the gospel.
I was greatly comforted knowing that God wanted me to continue preaching no matter what the consequences. The officer soon came back and told me that if I promised to stop preaching he would let me go home, but if I decided to preach I would have to go to jail. My answer was that it was not my desire to go home tonight; I came here to preach! I told him in all honesty that if I got out of the car I was going to preach, if I stayed in the car I was going to preach all the way to the jail. I’d preach as long as I was in jail, and as soon as I was free I would come to this same place to preach as before. The Word which by the gospel is preached will not cease to go forth. Needless to say he was not happy with my decision. Angrily he slammed his door and looking at me in his rear view mirror said that I was irrational and foolish for not listening to him. So I preached unto him Christ all the way to the jail. By the time we arrived he could not look me in the eye anymore. He asked me, “Why didn’t you listen to me? I didn’t want to arrest you. There are other things I would rather be doing.” I told him that there was nothing I would rather be doing, and that there was nowhere I would rather be going than to jail because that was where God wanted me.
Once we were inside the jail they started booking me. I was told to stand against the wall as they frisked me and took everything I had. I informed the officers that I was arrested for preaching the gospel. Then I asked for the name and badge number of the arresting officer, so I could contact him when I got out. He had quickly left after dropping me off, however, the other officers gave me his information. Meanwhile, I heard someone preaching in the same elevator that I came up in. It was Lance, and it seemed he was having the same experiences as myself. He was using the Word of God and definitely winning the battle. Soon Lance was in the same room as me and we were both smiling as always. They started to frisk him and took me to get finger-printed. I had to change into orange prison clothes, and then I was led to the cell I would be staying in.
The cellblock I was in consisted of one big day room and the outer wall was lined with little two-person cells. I believe there were four cellblocks in the whole jail. Lock-down at night was from 10:30 P.M. – 8:00 A.M. and in the afternoon from 3:00 P.M – 5:00 P.M. Lock-down meant we were locked in our cells; the rest of the time we were free to hang out in the day room or enjoy the activities of the day. I’m guessing there were 50 prisoners in my cellblock. It was great! Like summer camp! And plenty of people to preach to that couldn’t go anywhere. Praise the LORD!
When I was first put into the day room on the night I was arrested it was about 15 minutes until lock-down. I had to stop at the guards’ desk to get my bedding and sign some papers. Suddenly, this big Mexican guy yelled at me from behind. He knew I was new, and I guess he was trying to intimidate me. Little did he know – that is all a preacher needs when he is high on the LORD! I put my bedding in my cell and then walked straight to his table. He was surrounded by his Mexican bros. I offered my hand for him to shake and said, “I am a preacher of the gospel! As long as I am in here you are going to hear a lot about Jesus!” He smiled and shook my hand. Then a buzzer went off with an announcement – “LOCK DOWN.” I asked “The Mexican” if I could get a Bible because mine had been taken. He pointed to this giant, ripped muscle-guy in the corner. So I went over to him and asked for a Bible.
He said “Sure, no problem; I have two anyway.” I got the Bible from him, went back to my cell, and the door locked behind me.
There was one other guy in the cell with me. He was a big African American, and his name was Keith. I started sharing the Scriptures with him right away, and he was joyously receiving it. After talking for quite a while, I finally said, “I am ready to get some sleep, but before I do I’m going to pray.” I asked Keith if there was anything he needed prayer for. He said that he did and would greatly appreciate it if I would pray for him. He told me his prayer requests, and I climbed into the top bunk and began to pray. When I had finished praying, I laid down on my bunk. I heard Keith stirring below. Then I saw him stand up beside my bed.
There were tears streaming down his face, and he said “Henry, I don’t want to offend you, but I thank God that you were arrested tonight so I could meet you and hear what you have taught me.” Praise the LORD!
The next day was Sunday. Soon after they had unlocked the cell doors, and we were allowed into the day room, they announced that whoever wanted to go to church had to sign up at the guard desk. Ever since I got in jail I had been praying that the LORD would open up opportunities to preach as much as possible. So, I signed up to go to church believing this would be an opportunity. I also signed up “The Mexican” and when I told him to get ready because he was going to church, he told all of his Mexican bros that they were going to church and signed them up too. We all went to church about 9:00 A.M. There were quite a few people attending, as prisoners from all four cellblocks went to the same church service. It was a Catholic service with two priests and about ten volunteers. Naturally I was excited to preach the gospel to them. During the service one guy next to me could tell that I was not familiar with this kind of worship, so he was trying to help me out by telling me what I was supposed to do. One thing he told me was that when the priest came by me if I crossed my arms a certain way the priest would give me a special blessing. I told him that I was a born-again child of God, so I could ask God directly through Jesus Christ and God would bless me. Soon the priest came by and said something in another tongue, and I didn’t respond so he said, “Peace be unto you.”
I said, “Thank you.”
He said, “God bless you.”
I responded, “He does!”
Their vain traditions of men did not go on much longer, and the main part of the service was finally over. The two priests left, and one of the volunteers announced that the prisoners could go, but they were going to have a Bible study / prayer meeting with whoever wanted to stay. That was exciting! I quickly went to the exit and stopped all the prisoners leaving saying, “You have to stay for the Bible study. This is why you came to church today!” About half of them came back including “The Mexican” and there were the Catholic volunteers so it was a nice size group. One of the Catholics started by asking if there were any prayer requests. “The Mexican” was the first to raise his hand. He wanted prayer for his daughter who was only fourteen years old and had recently gotten pregnant out of wedlock. Before anyone could respond I seized the moment and said, “I’ll pray for this request,” and started praying.
When I had finished, one of the Catholics looked at me and said, “That was a beautiful prayer.”
I said, “Yes, it is beautiful that we can pray to God the Almighty!”
Then the same man asked, “Who are you?”
I told them that I was a preacher from Bangkok, Thailand. Then one asked, “Well, why are you in here?”
I explained to them how I had been arrested for preaching the gospel on a nearby street. Another asked: “What were you preaching?” That was music to my ears! What was I preaching? Hmmm . . . lets see here . . . turn with me in your Bibles to . . . Praise the Lord! I preached the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ unto them! They had many questions so we talked about Jesus, faith, baptism, righteousness, etc.
After a while, one of the Catholic volunteers said almost the same thing that Keith said, “I don’t like to see you in jail, but I praise God that you were arrested so we could meet you.” Praise God for this effectual door that was opened to preach the gospel to all the prisoners and also the Catholics that were present.
Back in our cell block I noticed the majority of the prisoners were crowded around one table after lunch. They had a whole trading system set up, and “The Mexican” happened to be the head of it all. They were trading cards for brownies, sugar packs for popcorn, etc. I heard “The Mexican” telling everyone who was crowded around him, “Yeah, he was arrested for preaching . . . ” Some of the prisoners were laughing in disbelief, as most of them had not been at the morning service. Then “The Mexican” turned to my direction and yelled, “Hey Preacher! Come over here and tell them what you told us this morning!” Praise God for that Mexican! Now everybody in our cell block including the guards were listening as I walked over to the trading table and preached the gospel once again. The prisoners were hungry for the truth; therefore the rest of the day everyone was split up into groups of three to five talking about the Bible. Each group had questions and were constantly asking me to come to their table so they could ask what the Bible said about it. It was a great day, and that evening “The Mexican” wanted to play a game with me. It was about 15 minutes before lock-down when we noticed that all the prisoners in our cellblock were standing in a circle on one side of the day room.
One of them yelled out “Hey Preacher! We need you for this”. So we went over and joined them. They wanted to pray before we went into our cells. Praise the LORD! Here we were, about 50 prisoners holding hands in a circle, PRAYING, while the guards looked on in awe.
The next morning was Monday. I was scheduled to go to court at around 9:00 A.M. I was put in a cell next to the courthouse with all the other prisoners from all four cell blocks that were going to court that day as well. We were waiting in that cell for hours. We would be called out one by one to talk to the prosecuting attorney, then put back in, then called out to talk to a public defender, and put back in. And eventually we’d be called out to go before the judge. Earlier I had rejected the opportunity to have a public defender, as I believed my case would be simple. Everybody in the cell was complaining and cursing about their charges. So I stood up, and loudly enough to be heard by all, I asked if anyone would like prayer before going to the court room. Everyone was quiet after I said that, and one man named Key stood up and said that he would like prayer. After that, many others also requested prayer on their various situations.
Finally, I was called to talk with the prosecuting attorney. He asked me what I was going to plead. I said that if it was a crime to preach the gospel in St. Cloud then I was guilty. He looked at me and asked, “What happened again?” I told him how I had permission from Chief Richard Wilson to preach, and how I had been arrested. I also told him that as soon as I got out of jail I would be preaching on the same corner in the same way. He told me that maybe I should plead not guilty and fight it in court. I did not have time for that, nor did I know if I was still going to be in Minnesota on whatever date they scheduled me for court. So I told him that I was going to plead guilty anyway. He told me that they could fine me for $1,000 and up to 90 days in jail.
I said, “If that’s what it costs to preach the gospel, it’s worth it.”
He said, “Well I can try to reduce your fine to $50, and since you already stayed in jail two nights, I will ask for credit for time served. Would that be okay?”
I had already told him the $1,000 and 90 days in jail were okay, so of course I was fine with that. And after further discussion he said that he would try to drop the fine completely, but he said I would still have to pay for court fees, which would be around $180. Soon after, I was called in to go before the judge. It was exciting standing there before the judge in my orange prison suit and handcuffs. The judge asked, “What is your plea?”
I said, “Guilty.” And immediately the judge proceeded to sentencing me. The prosecuting attorney interrupted the judge stating that he had already talked with me about this and was only asking for credit for time served.
The judge questioned: “No fine?”
The attorney said: “No fines, just credit for time served.”
So the judge continued sentencing me to three days in jail and gave me credit for time served. But he also added something about me being on probation for one year. Again, the prosecuting attorney interrupted and said “No, I’m not even asking for that, just the three days.” So the judge had it taken out of my sentence. Then he looked at me and proceeded to waive all court fees. Praise the LORD!
The king’ heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.