Two groups that stand on street corners in Brooksville and Spring Hill holding religious signs have no connection with one another, but they share a common message for motorists passing by: Jesus loves them.
"With all the bad news in the world, we want to (spread) the good and joyful news of our Savior Jesus Christ," said Jonathon Studer, 58, who heads the Spring Hill ministry. "We want to bring Jesus' hope and joy to sad and broken hearts everywhere."
The signs that accomplish this for Studer's group say things like "Jesus loves you," "Now is the time/He is the way/Jesus saves," "Jesus forgives sins" and "God bless America."
Studer, who works in customer service at Walmart, began the ministry about six years ago, first going from house to house.
"Then God said, 'Do the signs,' " he said.
Every Wednesday for the past two years, he and a team of about nine people from Christ the King Full Gospel Worship Center have held their signs along Northcliffe Boulevard, Spring Hill Drive, Mariner Boulevard and U.S. 19.
The sign holders range in age from 2 to 80.
Pastor Allen Sabo at Christ the King said his church supports Studer's ministry as one way to promote the Gospel message.
"People are holding up all kinds of signs these days to promote what they have to offer," Sabo said. "I think it's time to hold up a sign that promotes the name above all names, Jesus. Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.' "
Some of the signs admonish passersby to "Honk if you love Jesus" and "Stop and pray with us."
Studer said many people comply. The record is 815 honks in one day.
"People sometimes walk up to us on the sidewalk and ask for prayer. Sometimes they roll down their windows and ask for prayers," he said.
People have also stopped to give the sign holders water and even doughnuts.
Studer was moved when one little boy rolled down his window to proclaim that he loves Jesus. He was encouraged when two women joined their church after seeing the signs and because they were able to offer help to a homeless man.
"We just share from our hearts," Studer said. "The miracle of it is the positive responses. When you can see the look on the faces and the joy, it is worth millions."
In Brooksville, a group that holds signs on Saturdays at the corner of U.S. 41 and the State Road 50 bypass is led by Lavon and Vicky Eady.
Mrs. Eady is an associate pastor at Bread of Life Pentecostal Church of God and a traveling evangelist. But on weekends when she is in town, she holds signs.
"My husband feels that his ministry is a street ministry," Eady, 36, explained. "For about 25 years, he had a gospel trailer with a cross and Scriptures on it. He feels because of what the Bible says to go out to the hedges, highways, byways and marketplaces and compel them to go in, that that's where he needs to be, out on the street."
Eady said they have had as many as 15 people come out to hold up signs that say things like "Repent, Jesus is coming," "Prayer changes things," and "God loves you." The couple's sons, Charles, 13, and Isaac, 9, are part of the group, as are other family members and church members.
"We witness. We wave at people. If they stop, we talk with them," Eady said. "We just do it to glorify God. We feel it's something the Lord told us to do."
Some people have stopped to give the group Bibles to hand out.
"We've handed out Bibles and Gospel tracts," Eady said.
One of the signs they use says "Blow the horn if you're saved."
"We have some that blow the horns," Eady said. "We have some that cuss us because they don't agree with us."
Their response is to pray for them, Eady said.
A positive response came from a man they met who had seen their signs years before.
"He'd seen us several years before on our gospel trailer, and he said it was a witness to him when he was going through a crisis in his life about five years later," Eady said. "He'd prayed, 'Lord if those signs (I saw) are true, if you love me, become real to me.' And he said he'd accepted the Lord that night into his life and his life changed.
"He was thanking us for being out there and being a witness."