Sam Bethea, aka the “Jesus Saves guy,” has been a fixture in the center city business district of Charlotte, North Carolina, since 2014, proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ to all who pass by. Not only does he spend his days on the streets sharing the Gospel, Bethea says that he has shown up for every demonstration in what locals call Uptown since he began his ministry six years ago.
“With the protesters, you know, I welcome them,” Bethea says. “For me, it’s a bigger platform than what I normally have being everyday in Uptown. So, I’m out here with the same simple message—Good News: Jesus Saves and Jesus loves you.”
And while the street preacher is no stranger to criticism, he wasn’t prepared for protesters to attack him the night of Aug. 24.
As usual, Bethea was among the crowd, telling people, “Jesus saves. Jesus loves you,” when a group protesting the Republican National Convention approached him and accused him of distracting from their cause.
Moments later, a video showed some members of the group yelling profanities at Bethea and dousing him in flour, glitter and silly string.
Despite the attack, Bethea continued on, telling WSOC-TV, “God called me to the streets.”
Before surrendering his life to Christ in 1997, Bethea roamed the streets of Charlotte for entirely different reasons.
“I come from a broken home,” he told WBTV’s Sarah Blake Morgan last year. “Single mother, working all the time—I stayed out in the streets, in the hood.
“For 10 years of my life, [I was] in and out of the county jail 29 times,” Bethea said. “From arson to fighting, disorderly conduct … I had a couple of gun charges.”
But that all changed when he found Jesus.
“It’s simple for me: it’s the love of Christ, you know? The Lord saved me from that street life, and I’m so grateful and that’s what He called me to do. Come back to the street and tell the real story.”
Bethea now devotes his life to full-time ministry and even volunteers at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte.
“For over seven years, Sam has faithfully served at the Library ministering to our guests who are seeking a relationship with Jesus or are in need of prayer,” says Anne Marie Armistead, manager of the Library’s volunteer ministry. “His love for the Lord and his passion for the lost is an inspiration to us all!”