VALRICO — In a giant portrait artfully crafted with spray paint, a young man breaks free from chains and moves toward a chasm.
Bridging the divide in this graffiti creation is a cross, and waiting on the other side is a lion — the biblical Lion of Judah.
The Christian mural, 7 feet by 32 feet, is in Valrico. But it's not in a church or parochial school.
It's in a barbecue restaurant.
Jaymer Holcombe, owner of Jaymer-Que in the Albertsons shopping plaza at the corner of Bloomingdale Avenue and Lithia-Pinecrest Road, celebrates the fourth anniversary of his establishment this weekend with an expansion that gives him a new 60-seat dining room.
But it's the dining room's decorative touch that holds special meaning for Holcombe, a born-again Christian. And he hopes it will resonate with customers even though he knows it could turn away some patrons.
"I'm taking a visible stand for Christ, but I'm not doing it to bring glory to myself," Holcombe said. "I'm doing it because it's what we as Christians should do, to take a stand, to make a difference and show Christ to be in our lives."
The decision to take over a vacant spot adjacent to the restaurant left Holcombe staring at a bare wall. He got the idea to commission an artist for a mural after seeing a 2008 video produced by the ministry of legendary evangelist Billy Graham.
In Bridge To Life (youtube.com/watch?v=q1m9BCIFh64), viewers see graffiti artists working on a mural while a spoken word poet delivers a message about Christian salvation. Holcombe drew so much inspiration from the effort he wrote to one of the artists, Fasm, to see if he would be willing to create a similar mural for the restaurant.
Based in Modesto, Calif., Fasm, agreed to come to Florida and do the piece for far less than Holcombe imagined. Holcombe sees Fasm's decision as part of God's work and plans to cover the cost of his services, including travel and lodging, through donations.
A member of the Gospel Graffiti group, Fasm first started illegally tagging buildings and other structures in 1991. He began doing religious and legal graffiti work in 1996 after his girlfriend (now his wife) got pregnant.
"I realized trying to run my life wasn't working," said Fasm, who has received numerous requests for his work after appearing in Bridge To Life. "So I decided to let God run it."
He arrived in Valrico on Nov. 27, painted the mural in a daylong session Nov. 28 and returned to California on Sunday.
Holcombe couldn't be happier with the finished product and the impact it may have.
"If it changes just one person's life, what else can I ask for?" Holcombe said.
Reach Ernest Hooper at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 226-3406.