Written & Photo By: Jamie Cottrell
I’m sure all Temple students have encountered a preacher on campus at least once. They are often equipped with a portable microphone, signs and other props preaching the word of God. Most frequently referred to as “the Bell Tower Preachers” by Temple University students, the overall mood of the environment when they are posted at the Bell Tower is tense as their words are usually viciously challenged by students brave enough to speak out. I have recently become fixated on these people. Who are they and why are they choosing to do this? Over the span of a week I patiently waited for their return and to my surprise, there were no bell tower preachers. However, as I was passing by the Howard Gittis Student Center one afternoon I couldn’t help but to overhear the all too familiar sound of a strong voice echoing over a small portable speaker. That’s when I met David Braun.
After patiently waiting for the man to finish his spiel, I accepted one of his hand outs before asking for an interview. He was an older man, about 65 years of age and he graciously accepted the offer for an interview. He was surprised that I even asked. He told me that his name was David and he was with the Open Air Campaigners, an Evangelist ministry devout to preaching the gospel to “lost people” and “mobilizing the body of Christ” primarily through open-air campaigns, according to their website.
“We’re not just singling out Temple,” Braun said. “We go to a lot of different places, places where we can just preach and help people.”
Although both parties are Evangelists, Braun claims to have no ties with the notorious “belltower preachers.”
He grew up as a member of a Dutch reform church, although admitted that as a teenager he did not embody his faith. It was not until he was 26 years old that a fellow National Guardsman confronted him about Christianity. It was at this point that Braun found himself to be deserving of Hell and reluctant to put his life of drugs and alcohol behind him. Braun described his lifestyle at this time as “immoral” and admits to have enjoyed it. By the age of 28, Braun claims he was “at a dead-end street” full of depression, ultimately left unhappy. That following Easter, he went to church and began his role as a born-again Christian. After earning a degree in religious education at Tennessee Temple University, Dave found Open Air Campaigners. Since then, “God has given me everything I need,” Braun said.
To my surprise, Dave was more than just another preacher on the side of the road, he was understanding and kind. Braun is no more than a man who was once lost and found his way and in return is devoting his life to help others do the same.
Although, yes, it is not pleasant to have people voice their opinions over loud speakers at you, take into account that they are not always doing so with ill intent. More simply, they hope to reach that lost soul and help guide them to an understanding that they aren’t alone.
“They say things like ‘Jesus freak.’” Dave revealed. “It hurts, but I can understand it because when I was that age I probably would say the same thing.”
So before lashing out in disapproval, think of Braun and let them continue to do what gives their lives meaning despite the difference in opinion. People share emotions and different passions and nobody should feel less for that reason.