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The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

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Preacher in Candler, North Carolina speaks on seeking salvation amidst the end times in Prophecies Of Hope

Elliot Jackson
Richard Halversen, 79, leading Prophecies of Hope in Mount Pisgah Academy SDA Church in Candler, NC on Jan. 23.

He left his job at the paint factory in Brooklyn, New York early that fateful day.

“I got on a train going the opposite direction of my home. I don’t know why, but God had a plan,” said Richard Halversen, sitting in one of the pews in Mount Pisgah Academy Seventh-day Adventist Church in Candler, NC 

Halversen, 79, was born just outside of Coney Island. He used to get in fights. His brother was a gang leader, complete with a black leather jacket and switchblade. His high school’s principal told Halversen he “would not amount to anything.” He would have never graduated, if not for his teachers who pushed him ahead, he says. He had only been to church a few times. 

“I get off on 46th street and Broadway. As I was walking, being pushed along with people, I could hear a voice speaking and it was coming out of a radio repair store. It was a loud voice of a preacher and I grabbed hold of the chain link fence in front of the store and held on. I began listening,” Halversen said. “They began speaking about a new creation in Christ and just letting go. I had gotten in all kinds of trouble as a kid. I wasn’t happy. The preacher said ‘just the way I was, God would forgive me and love me.’ I was about 19 years old and I said ‘Lord, I’ve changed my mind.’”

Roughly 60 years later, Halversen preaches for attendees of Prophecies of Hope, a discovery into the keys of unlocking the prophecies foretold in the books of Daniel and Revelation, as stated by the event’s flier. On the flier, four links are listed to register for the in-person event. No website for Prophecies of Hope is included. On the front cover are the four beasts of Daniel 7, including a lion with eagle wings, a bear, a winged leopard with four heads and a beast with 10 horns. 

According to Halversen, they reference the empires of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome. Behind them are images of a burning forest, an American flag, a tank and a globe amongst other things. Beginning on Jan. 18, at 7 p.m, Prophecies of Hope’s first message was shared with the attendees of the first Candler, NC event. Amongst the several topics of discussion listed on the flier are “Plagues Upon The Land,” “Creation or Evolution” and “The Last Warning Message To Candler & The Rest Of The World.” 

“In Christianity, sometimes you can’t prove certain things, but to me, it’s always true God is alive. He changes people’s lives,” Halversen said. 

Halversen lives with his wife in Sebastian, Florida, about an hour south of Orlando. He has three children, all of whom are practicing Christians. One daughter is a minister in the state of Washington. Halversen’s second daughter teaches at a Christian school in Knoxville, Tennessee His son shares his story regarding past struggles of opioid addiction in his ministry and in a book titled “Darkness Shall Not Overcome.”

“A preacher’s son, hooked. You can be rich, poor or middle class. All of our friends or family have seen it. It breaks up relationships, homes and families, but God can give you victory,” Halversen said. 

According to Halversen, he has been preaching since he was 27. Before then, he did youth work in Jacksonville, Florida after college. He has traveled to nearly every state minus California, Maine and New Hampshire. He has traveled across the world, from Zimbabwe, to Korea to Finland. There, he says, he has saved people. 

“I’ve had the privilege of traveling to a lot of places and I thank God for it, because it’s a joy to me. It’s an education. We go to these different countries and I’m usually there for six weeks, some places. One afternoon I spent in the Olympic-sized pool in Zimbabwe, Africa with about 12 other pastors and we baptized thousands of souls,” said Halversen. 

What brings Halversen out to Candler, you might wonder? To preach, naturally. Why Candler? According to the church’s pastor, Jonathan Michael, Halversen’s son had previously shared a series titled “Unchained,” to the attendees of Mount Pisgah Academy SDA Church, designed to help people with their addictions. Later, he did a week-long series by the same name of his book. Through his son, Halversen was introduced to Candler. 

“We partnered with his dad to also do the prophecy angle, just as another presentation to the community and our church family,” Michael said. 

Michael grew up in the southeastern part of West Virginia. He went to college in Tennessee and moved to Candler in September 2009. The summer after his junior year in high school, he worked at a summer camp where he performed as Jesus Christ in the Friday night play. He wears a brown suit, a blue dress shirt and white undershirt that peaks from underneath. On his wrist is a tie dye bracelet reading: “two nations, one god,” referencing the Russo-Ukrainian War and his support for the local Slavic community. For his Eagle Scout project, he built an electronically lit sign for his Adventist church in Lewisburg, West Virginia. 

“I joke that I almost blew up my hometown. I was going to run a line cable. We had them come out and mark all the things and the guy was coming down with the ditch witch and literally cut right through a gas line. Psssssssst, and if there was a little spark, it would’ve been fun. Luckily it didn’t happen,” Michael said. 

According to Michael, the Mount Pisgah Academy SDA Church started in 1914, with a desire to help educate people in the area following the Civil War. Early on, it had a nursing program and has continued a prioritization of education. Today, the church provides a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade Christian school alongside a 9th through 12th grade boarding school, where attendees can acquire a fully accredited Christian education. Sabbath school for all ages takes place from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Worship services take place on Saturday mornings from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. The church provides similar programs to scouting, dubbed the “Adventurers” and the “Pathfinders.” At the same time of the Prophecies of Hope events, attendees’ children attended the church’s free children’s programs. 

“We offer free children’s programs. They learn something spiritual through nature this week. They’ve learned something about ants and tonight the Western North Carolina Nature Center brought actual spiders, I think,” Michael said. “I haven’t heard what their take home message was, but there was some application of spiritual things. Every night they have a different critter. They teach something through them.” 

On the night of “Creation or Evolution,” on Jan. 24, Phil Thomas attended the event alongside his wife. His three children, one five-years-old and two four-years-old, learned about spiders and God next door. Thomas has spent nearly 30 years with the church and volunteers as a cook. He currently enjoys cooking Indian cuisine, he says. He spent four months in the Dominican Republic and is a Type II Diabetic. He wears a Woolrich jacket atop a green hoodie with blue jeans. He watches Halversen debate the reality of evolution and the Big Bang Theory through Fossil-branded glasses. According to Halversen, he absolutely refuses to believe his ancestors hung from tails. 

“I was one way, but God changed me,” Thomas said. “I found peace in the church.” 

Two nights prior to “Creation or Evolution” was “The Last Warning Message to Candler & The Rest Of The World” on Jan. 22. UNC Asheville sophomore Ryder Mandaro, 20, attended the event alongside two other UNCA students. Mandaro grew up in the Asheville area. He learned of Prophecies of Hope through his brother, who initially received the flier. He attended the event out of pure curiosity and amusement, he says. 

“My brother got a pamphlet in the mail. He lives close to it. They just send it to people in the area,” Mandaro said. “It looked so absurd. It just looked silly.”

According to Mandaro, one side of his family is religious and the other not so. He went to a non-denominational, largely non-religious church, despite a presence of Christian undertones, he says. Although he himself has parted ways with the church, he claims to still see some value in it. 

“They did Christmas celebrations, that’s about it. My mom, who was not particularly into the religious part said ‘if you really want to go, you can,’ but it’s the classic thing of ‘do you want to wake up on a Sunday at seven in the morning,” Mandaro said. “One of the things I think is nice about religious groups is there’s a lot of community in it.” 

Mandaro says he believes in evolution, but not in the existence of an “end times.” During the event, Mandaro wrote jokes on a piece of paper and played a mobile game, MARVEL SNAP, on his phone. On the drive home he went through a Chick-Fil-A drive thru and ordered an eight-count chicken nugget meal with a lemonade to drink. Ski Mask the Slump God and City Morgue played through his car’s speakers on the way back to campus. 

“I think things are hard right now. There’s a lot of horrific stuff going on in the world. It might get worse. Might get better, but I don’t think it’s the end,” Mandaro said. “I think it’s really easy to be scared and look for answers, but I don’t know. I don’t believe it and I don’t feel like I need salvation. If shit hits the fan, I don’t care.” 

At the end of every event, Halversen gave thanks to the lord and everyone who came to the event. The song “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” by Helen H. Lemmel is sung with a piano accompaniment. A raffle is held, where the chance of winning is increased by the number of events participants have attended. Winning participants are given the choice between Strong’s Exhaustive Bible Concordance and a tableweight statue of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. 

According to Daniel 2, the head represents Babylon, the chest and arms Persia, the belly and thighs Greece, the legs and feet Rome. In Verses 1 to 13, King Nebeuchadnezzar dreams of the statue. In Verses 46 to 49, Daniel is promoted for correctly interpreting the meaning of King Nebeuchadnezzar’s dream. 

In Daniel 7, Daniel himself has visions of four beasts, representing the same empires. According to Halversen, the beasts reflect the pinnacle moments of world history and the establishment of the eternal kingdom of God, or the second coming of Christ. Halversen shook every attendee’s hand as they exited the church. He prayed with those who requested it. 

“We cannot be fixed with what’s going on and what’s wrong with our world today. The only way to get a fix is Christ. I live in Florida. More hurricanes in the last few years in the preceding years of global history. We’re seeing flooding. It’s horrible to think these mudslides are going to happen next. Hurricanes, earthquakes everyday. There’s so many of us losing our lives,” Halversen said. “Things are happening in this world so fast. I really believe it won’t be too long before Jesus comes. Who’s going to be saved? Who will be lost? The opportunity is ours. If we’re going to be lost, it’s a decision we have made.” 

Mandaro shared his thoughts on his experience at the event. Overall, he says, it was not what he had initially hoped for. 

“It wasn’t any serious advice. While we were there, it didn’t feel very community driven. For me, it felt like an obligation,” Mandaro said. 

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