TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Glad Tidings Assembly of God is known for its memorable messages on its sign along Kolb Road on Tucson’s Eastside.
One example is in the church’s Facebook cover photo: ‘JESUS WANTS FULL CUSTODY NOT JUST WEEKEND VISITS.”
“We wanted to extend a positive message to the community, maybe some humor in it,” said lead pastor Steve Hilton. “But just get ‘em thinking about some different things of life. Hopefully point em towards God.”
Hilton says it’s even led people to stop in and join his church.
But last month the usually light-hearted messages became a plea to protect the church’s cross-shaped fountain. The sign simply read ‘PLEASE STOP VANDALIZING OUR FOUNTAIN.’
“We noticed some vandalism at the base of our cross, which is copper. And someone peeling part of the side of the base away,” Hilton said, explaining that after no issues for 20 years, copper has been peeled away three times this year before those at the church decided to change the sign.
“We’re just trying to raise a level of community awareness, that there’s some things that are happening here,” Hilton said. “I know it happens to a lot of people.”
Security cameras caught the late-night activity. Hilton says the church has dealt with vandalism in the past but never to this symbol of faith.
One night after Hilton spoke with KGUN 9 in late May, he sent an email saying the cross had been targeted a fourth time, including an attempt to cut the base to steal the cross.
Hilton said that forced him to take it down completely before someone else did.
“It makes me feel sad in some regards, because I realize that it’s a reflection on our society,” Hilton said before that fourth incident. “I realize some of the problems that are taking place, it’s going to be solved only if those that have positions of power want to take a proactive approach to solving them.”
With the cross’s removal also comes a new message on the sign: “JESUS STILL HEALS, DELIVERS, FORGIVES, REDEEMS.”
Ryan Fish is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9 and comes to the Sonoran Desert from California’s Central Coast after working as a reporter, sports anchor and weather forecaster in Santa Barbara. Ryan grew up in the Chicago suburbs, frequently visiting family in Tucson. Share your story ideas and important issues with Ryan by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.