12/04/06 — Former military man takes on a new calling

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Former military man takes on a new calling

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on December 4, 2006 1:45 PM

Want to talk about nervous? Francis Nottingham was nervous.

Of course most people would be, too, if their new job involved standing on the side of Goldsboro's busiest street -- Berkeley Boulevard -- holding a colorful sign, wearing a big smile and waving to morning commuters.

"That first day, I was so afraid," Nottingham said. "I was so afraid because I was wondering about how people were going to react, what they would think."

He was worried people would think he was nuts or even worse, that they wouldn't pay attention to his message.

But, he said, he put his faith in God -- after all, that's who he is working for -- and went out with his two signs "Jesus Saves" and "God Loves You."

"I just want to lift up the name of Jesus. The Great Commission tells us we need to go out and tell people about God," Nottingham said.

But he never thought he would be standing on the side of a city street doing it.

For 20 years Nottingham served in the U.S. Air Force. For the last three, he has lived in Goldsboro with his wife while stationed at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base where he worked as an E-6 weapons expediter. But about a year ago, things began to change.

"The Lord spoke to me and was telling me 'I want you to retire,'" the former technical sergeant said. "I'm a minister, but being in the military, you always have something else you have to do."

So he made plans to leave the service and get a civilian job, at least until he realized he wasn't supposed to be doing that either.

"In essence He was telling me 'I need you to be free to do what I need you to do,'" Nottingham said.

So he listened.

"The Lord can be very persuasive," he said, smiling.

The only problem was, Nottingham didn't know exactly what he was supposed to do.

"I'm constantly trying to pray for people, for souls. You need to know that Jesus loves you," he said.

But, even though he's been a minister in the Abundant Life Ministries church for several years, he didn't know how best to spread that message -- until he remembered hearing about a person telling people about Jesus on the side of a Fayetteville street.

"And I said, 'OK, I'm free to do something like that,'" he said.

And so for the last two months, each Tuesday through Friday, Nottingham has left his Boyette Drive home to stand along Berkeley Boulevard in front of the Berkeley Mall from about 7:30 to 9 a.m.

On Fridays he has some help -- Barry Campbell from Caanan Baptist Church joins him -- but most of the time he is by himself, smiling, waving, doing the Lord's work until he is told to move on.

"I'm constantly listening. God doesn't have to tell me to get up every day. He told me once, and I'll do it until He tells me stop," Nottingham said. "I'd like to do this for the rest of my life, but that's up to God.

"It's a privilege for me to be able to perform this ministry for God and what better way to start off the day than knowing Jesus loves you.

"That's the main thing people need to know -- Jesus loves us. That's why even when I don't feel like it, you'll see me smiling."

And as for those worries about how people would react?

So far, Nottingham said, they are gone.

"People have been very encouraging. Mostly it's waves and honks, but people do stop. People have a way of showing they appreciate you. People will stop and say, 'You touched me because I was having a bad day and you reminded me about God.'" he said. "It's been a blessing for me."