Sunday, April 01, 2007

Tribune Coup: Brother Ron and the “Godmobile”

Everybody has seen the “Godmobile” on Wisconsin Avenue.

But just who is the crank who has been driving that around?

This past Thursday we all got the answer from the Marquette Tribune.

The Tribune published a long and fairly sympathetic account of Brother Ron, the fellow who owns and drives the Godmobile.
The 63-year-old Vietnam veteran said he became a preacher of “God’s Word” after he was saved by God decades ago.

“I was at a bar one night and became surrounded by enemies,” he said. “A woman had made a false accusation, a case of mistaken identity, but these people were drunk and stoned and were going to kill me anyway.”

Ron said he prayed to God and was able to walk out of the bar safely.

“I got into my truck and felt safe and secure,” he said. “I had the gospel on the radio and I felt like the message was for me.”

From that point on, Ron said he gave up being a semi-truck driver and has dedicated the last 25 years to serving the Lord and passing on the Good Word. When asked what religion he followed, Ron replied, “Jesus-only.”

At first Ron tried a more traditional approach to spreading God’s word. He was clean-shaven, wore nice clothes and passed out fliers inviting people to come to church. But according to Ron, people reacted in ungodly ways.

“People spit on me, threw things at me,” he said.

Ron said the criminal element of the streets and the lack of street preachers inspired him to step up his visibility on the street and use his car as a purveyor of God’s message.

“I felt that if the devil could play his music loud, why couldn’t I also share some good news?” he said.

Ron grew up in Milwaukee and wants to help the people here.

“God said, ‘Start where your miracle happened,’” he said.

People believe they are animals and they take away the value of life, which makes it easier for them to start killing one another, he said.
As interesting as the story is, perhaps even more interesting is the way in which the reporter, Joesph Boesen, got the story. His account is posted on the Tribune’s Editors’ Blog.
I knew that I wanted to talk to Bro Ron because it seems like everybody knew him but did not know his story.

I began by calling Jim Stingl, a columnist of the Journal Sentinel. I knew that he had written a few stories about Ron so I thought he might have a good idea of how to approach Ron. He was very cooperative and gave me Ron’s home number and address. From there I waited until I got ahold of Ron, calling but not leaving a message because I didn’t want to spook him. I went to the McDonald’s on 24th and Wisconsin, knowing that he used it as his unofficial office, but the manager said he was no longer allowed there because of customer complaints. I called the next day, got ahold of his wife, who told me to call later that night. I called at 7 p.m. and Ron picked up. After about 20 minutes of haggling I finally got him to agree to an interview the next day at 1:00. He said he would be at 1508 N. Farwell Ave. helping a “lady friend” of his with his mission.

I was initially nervous because I was unsure of what to expect, but I resolved to take the interview in stride and give Bro Ron the benefit of the doubt. It seemed to work out.

I met him the next day and the rest is what you see.
Yes it is.

The story is not only a coup for the Tribune, but for reporter Boesen. Tim Horneman, Campus News Editor, told the Marquette Warrior that “from my perspective, Joe is a great asset to the Tribune. He’s tackled controversial issues and controversial people with no fear (his first story this year was reporting on a Neo-Nazi rally in Madison), and he has a great ability to get sources to open up to him.”

The result of the story is that we feel a bit more favorable toward Brother Ron. He’s had a hard life. He’s not the most sophisticated fellow, theologically. His methods of evangelism may not be the most effective. But he’s a good guy. And very far from being merely a crank.

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2 Comments:

Blogger e Rowdy said...

Do You know where I may be able to find where Brother Ron may be on Google Streetview? I'm trying to find his car anywhere it may be on there.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aw. I feel so proud to know brother ron as my friend. He's a great man with a heart of gold & only means well.

6:55 AM  

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