Barber sets important example

Published 7:50 pm Monday, November 1, 2010

It seems that so often, the columns I write on Monday for publication on Tuesday wind up being about the subjects of my Faith & Family page that published on Saturday.

That may be because those stories are among the freshest in my mind. But, it’s also because those people and events are often the most inspiring and meaningful that I cover.

Last week, I had the chance to talk to Chris Barber. Before I shook his hand at the corner of Main Street and Constance Road Thursday, I knew him only as the guy my co-workers and others in Suffolk had seen at various street corners, holding up the Bible and waving.

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When co-workers reported to me Thursday they saw him, I was apprehensive. The street-side ministries I’ve seen elsewhere generally aren’t as friendly as I found Barber to be.

For example, one group that is frequently at a certain intersection in Norfolk on Sundays uses bullhorns to yell at drivers and sets out signs telling people they will go to hell if they don’t turn from their wicked ways. Truthful, yes — but not very graceful.

After standing nearby and observing him for a few minutes, however, I knew Barber was different. His signs include only Bible verses and sayings such as “repent and believe.” He doesn’t yell, but instead just waves and smiles.

“The Lord has shown me how you’ve got to be gracious,” he said to me.

As I stood watching Barber, a handful of people drove by and honked, smiled or waved. Most people ignored him. A couple, however, turned up the volume on hip-hop songs as high as it would go. Barber said some people have even given him the finger or yelled at him.

But that’s OK — for Barber, that’s merely God’s way of showing him who needs his message of love the most.

Jesus Christ told his disciples to go into all the world and preach the Gospel (Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-20). There are many Christians in the world, but few of us literally take heed of these words of Christ. It’s not practical for every single Christian to go abroad and witness to thousands, but if every one of us merely did what we can in our own areas, like Barber, it’s a sure bet that the world would be changed. We can all take his example.