By MIA BASS & ASHLEY BERKERY
You can’t drive through Homewood regularly and not know John Brown. He is the “Jesus Man” who parks his maroon and grey van on the grass on Lakeshore Parkway in front of Sam’s and Walmart in Wildwood.
“The grass is my carpet, the streets are my walls and the wind is my air conditioner,” he said.
Brown, 71, said he has never missed a Saturday in the past 10 years of preaching on the street in Homewood. You can’t miss his 100 signs, including one that reads “Honk if you know Jesus, pull over if you don’t,” or him speaking on the microphone over inspirational music. He’s on Lakeshore each weekend from 12 to 9 p.m., regardless of the weather. In the summer heat, he blocks the sun with his sombrero.
Brown was born in Jamaica and moved to the United States in 1963. His Haitian wife led him to Alabama, but he said it was God that led him to Lakeshore. “God sent me here,” he said. “It is holy ground.”
Brown has been ministering for 45 years, the last ten of which have been at Lakeshore. He is the proud father of nine, grandfather to eight and great-grandfather to four.
While many in the community admire the work Brown does, he has faced a fair share of opposition from those who drive by and even some who stop to speak with him. Racial and religious slurs are common for Brown’s Saturdays. “It’s not about just Christianity,” Brown said, “It’s about salvation.”
When followers of Islam and other faiths have stopped to talk to Brown, he reminds them of his message. “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to my Father except through me,’” he tells them.
Brown attends different churches on Sundays. “I go anywhere with an open door,” he said.
He said his faith kept him strong when his blood sugar dropped last summer. When friends and family encouraged him to go to a doctor, he insisted he would not miss a Saturday preaching.
“It’s about holy boldness—it comes from fasting and prayer.”