An unknown party spray-painted symbols on the sign at First Baptist Church in Park Rapids last week.
Pastor Joshua Hawn said his family was on vacation when they heard about the damage on Tuesday, Jan. 12. He thinks it took place late at night either Sunday or Monday, Jan. 10-11.
“I’m guessing night because people don’t generally do that during the day,” he said.
Hawn said the church secretary talked to the police, and they said they hadn’t seen any other vandalism like it. “So, it’s not like there was a string of them,” he said.
Painted on the sign were a black plus sign and a red letter A with a circle around it, which Hawn said is a symbol of anarchy. He doesn’t know what the plus-sign means.
“I looked it up online,” he said. “I was curious. Just, what did that mean? What message is someone trying to send? There wasn’t anything.”
Hawn said the police said the vandalism was likely the act of one person acting alone.
Asked about possible motives, he said, “I would say boredom. I didn’t take that attack personally. I don’t think it was anything that I preached or that our church did, or anything. … It must be someone who either walks by there quite a bit, or maybe it was a dare. I have no idea.”
He said it could have happened to any other church in town, except that First Baptist is out of the way and there are no lights near the sign.
“I don’t think there was any malicious intent,” he added. “We haven’t received any threats at the church.”
Hawn noted, with a laugh, that the church is a hotspot for the mobile app Pokémon GO. “We get cars in our parking lot all the time,” he said. “Last winter, one of the cars got stuck in the snowbank because they weren’t paying attention. They were trying to catch the Pokémon, and they got stuck in the snowbank, and I had to try to hook them up to my car and pull them out of the snowbank. So, we do get a lot of traffic out there.”
He and his wife cleaned the symbols off the sign with Goo Gone. “It’s as good as new,” he said. “No harm, no foul.”
Hawn admitted feeling frustrated that there is graffiti in Park Rapids. “It’s such a great town, you’d just like to think that sort of thing isn’t happening,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s indicative of any kind of larger trend. We were praying on it at our church on Wednesday, that whoever did it would just be sorry for their sin, and that they would come and find help in Jesus Christ.
“We don’t have maliciousness. We would probably laugh, if someone came in and said, ‘It was me.’ We’d say, ‘We took care of it, and we’d love to tell you about how you can know Jesus.’”