Saturday, April 24, 2010
LITTLE ROCK The North Little Rock billboard is 14 feet tall and 48 feet wide and five letters long: J-E-S-U-S.
The sign, green and white and made of vinyl, towers over Interstate 30’s southbound travelers.
A central Arkansas businessman pays Lamar Outdoor Advertising a sizable sum to lift up and illuminate it in the name of Jesus.
Billboard rentals in this heavily traveled corridor run about $1,500 per month, Lamar sales manager David Fraiser said. “Quite a bit of traffic goes through there, yes sir,” Fraiser said. More than 80,000 vehicles per day, he added.
The man who rents the space insisted on anonymity, saying he just wanted the billboard to point to Jesus.
The sign first appeared in the Little Rock area about five years ago. Identical billboards have dotted the St. Louis skyline for morethan a decade.
Bryan and Vicki Brand put up the first green and white Jesus sign in Missouri’s St. Louis County in the late 1990s.
“Back then ... alcohol, tobacco and gambling were the big three”billboard advertisers, Bryan Brand said.
The Brands decided they’d use roadway advertising to promote something loftier than malt liquor and Marlboros.
They’ve been churning out Jesus billboards, banners, yard signs, window stickers and tracts ever since.
“Our mission is to boldly publish the name of Jesus with dignity and simplicity,” said Brand, 65, an ordained minister and retired investment adviser.
He has his own Web site, www.jesusnameproject.org. During the past decade, fellow Christians have put up identical billboards in Illinois, Arkansas and Iowa, too.
The signs don’t quote Scripture verses or hype Web sites. They don’t tout a particular denomination or creed.
They’re painted green and white to evoke the official government road signs that line freeways.
The five-letter word on the billboard, Brand says, is no ordinary word.
“There is power in the name of Jesus,” he said. “Everything everyone everywhere ever needs is only Jesus.”
Religion, Pages 14 on 04/24/2010