ROCKINGHAM — The men at Place of Grace have a routine.
They wake up at 7 a.m. each day for chores and then at 7:45 a.m., five days a week, they stand out front of the shelter with signs reading “Honk for Jesus!” “Jesus is life” and “Stop here for prayer” — a reminder of the divine as people drive to work or drop their kids off at school.
On an average day they get more than 100 people honking in an hour, but Friday was a slow morning since schools are closed for Christmas.
“On school mornings, we be getting it,” said Wayne DeBerry, 50, a resident of Place of Grace and the caretaker.
Nine of the 13 men currently staying at Place of Grace were out on the street Friday morning. The “street ministry” was started about three months ago by Place of Grace founder pastor Gary Richardson, DeBerry said.
Several drivers, who likely travel that stretch of road every morning, honked their horns for the whole stretch of the Godly gauntlet, others gave a short toot once they realized what the signs say and some were content to wave or continue talking on the phone.
Truck drivers are some of their best customers.
One regular passerby’s horn doesn’t work, so he flashes his lights the whole way through, according to Tony Wilson, 58, who was holding one of the “Honk for Jesus” signs.
Wilson said they’ve inspired at least one person to join the cause, a 10-year-old girl who would pass the men every day on her way to school with her mother. DeBerry said she made her own sign — which was much more colorful than that of the men’s signs — reading “Jesus saves.” She stood out there with them for three days in November, and she and her mother still honk every time they drive by.
“This little girl really touched my heart when she and her mother stopped and her mother told me that the little girl wanted to join us with our sign ministry and said we inspired her little girl,” DeBerry said in a text.
Wilson recognizes about half the cars that drive by. One was an older woman whom they see often — but who always gives a late toot as she passes by as if she’s not expecting them to be there.
“We get a lot of regulars,” Wilson said.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org.