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Walking testament for the word of Jesus Christ

The Rev. Barry P. Kubler describes Doris Palmer as a walking billboard for Jesus Christ _ an extrovert when it comes to the Gospel.

The description by the rector of St. Martin's Episcopal Church in Hudson is based on Kubler's personal contact with Palmer and, in particular, her walking ministry.

If you happen to be driving on State Road 50 between 6:30 and 9 a.m. weekdays, you probably have seen Palmer walking on the median between Brookridge and the Wal-Mart Supercenter.

What stands out are the T-shirts Palmer wears that proclaim her love of Jesus Christ. Samples include "Jesus Saves," "God Cares," "Jesus is Coming Soon," "God Wants Your Soul" and "It's Hell to be Caught Dead Without Jesus."

The 63-year-old married mother of three from Brooksville said she began walking in 1985 or 1986, as a way to get out of the house, when she lived in Seminole. After a while, she felt she had to do something that had "eternal value," and she asked the Lord what she could do to spread the Gospel as she walked.

"The T-shirt was the one thing he gave me," Palmer said.

Palmer was born in Connellsville, Pa., and grew up in Akron, Ohio. She said her walking ministry actually began with her grandfather, Edward Lietke, a German immigrant who came to America in 1872. After the death of his wife, Lietke would walk from house to house around the neighboring areas of the Appalachian Mountains reading his Bible. He also would get together with other German farmers in the area to study the Bible.

Sometime after Lietke died, Palmer's mother and father began picking up some of the pieces of Lietke's ministry _ although in a different manner.

They printed 100,000 mini-Bibles and began distributing the bright-red-covered messages to people they met in their travels to the grocery store, the barbershop and the flea market. They also placed the Bible in people's parked cars.

Palmer and her husband, John, moved to St. Petersburg in 1965, to Seminole in 1977 and finally to Brooksville last fall to get away from the congestion of a large city.

Palmer walked about five or six days a week when she lived in Seminole. Now, she walks five days.

But it was about six months after moving to Brooksville before she started walking here. The reason for the delay, Palmer said, was because she was going through spiritual warfare with the devil.

"There were sidewalks in Seminole, and the speed limit was about 10 miles an hour slower," she said. "It took that long to get up the nerve to go out on that highway.

"(Satan says), "Don't do it; you're going to get killed,'

" and that sort of stuff, Palmer said. "I was seeking the Lord and praying to him to find out what to do, and he said do it anyway."

Palmer said a few people have stopped to talk with her, some of whom have offered her money, which she uses to buy and decorate more T-shirts and sweat shirts. She said she has had no negative encounters with motorists.

Palmer is not the only member of her family who's into the walking ministry.

Her sister, Shirley Barnes, who lives with their mother, Emma Weimer, in Tallmadge, Ohio, also walks.

"I walk 2 miles a day, five days a week, wear T-shirts and give out tracts with messages and small Bibles," Barnes said.

Barnes began her ministry after an automobile accident on Nov. 7, 1977, when she believes God saved her life.

"He saved not only my life, but my soul," Barnes said.

Barnes, 61, said she also has mailed more than 15,000 tracts to people all over the country _ people she has read about or heard about and believe they need God in their lives to be saved.

In addition to attending church regularly in Hudson, Palmer is a member of Women's Aglow, a Christian group. She volunteers as a hostess during the monthly breakfast meetings and participates in the group's intercessory prayer classes and Bible study groups.

Although Kubler has only known Palmer for four months, he said, "If anyone focuses on Jesus Christ, it is Doris. She is unabashedly a disciple of Jesus Christ. She's a person who wears (her love for Jesus) externally and internally."

Kubler said Palmer, who is a regular attendee at Bible classes, is always willing to provide her personal perspective, wants to know more and is willing to learn.

"She doesn't feel she has stopped in her spiritual journey and recognizes it as a journey. She wants to share with people, not only in church but also everyday life."

Kubler said he is grateful for Palmer's presence and her willingness to live out her Christianity throughout the week.

Said Kubler: "She is not just a Sunday Christian."