Editor’s Note: Contributor Christine Moughamian is blogging each day of Lent about her progress becoming “one brave Christian.” Follow her experiment on Twitter @1bravechristian.
On my way to Carolina Beach State Park yesterday, I spotted a rainbow-colored bus in the Food Lion parking lot. When I realized it had “Jesus” painted all over, I decided to check it out.
Four weeks ago, I would have smiled and continued on.
That I actually made a U-turn to photograph “The Jesus Loves You Bus,” is proof my Lenten experiment has made me one “braver” Christian.
“Fueled by LOVE,” the school bus-turned mobile home is the traveling
ministry of Casimir Sowinski, a non-denominational minister based in Los Angeles. Sowinski was led to drive across the U.S. and spread his message after he overcame a personal hardship.
“I was injured at work,” he said, “and it took me a year to recover.”
During that time, he installed a shower and other living amenities in the bus. On May 1, 2011, he packed up his belongings and his travel companion, an American German Sheppard simply named “Hey Girl.”
“I left with only $60 and half a tank of gas,” he said. “The Lord’s been taking care of us ever since.”
Specifically, his ministry is supported by “love donations,” Sowinski said, “and we paint T-shirts, sell them on the website.”
He pointed to shop windows across the parking lot. “We washed those windows, oh, about a couple of hours ago. They haven’t asked us to leave yet.”
When I asked him who is “we,” he answered with a smile. “Just me and my girl.” Then he gave Hey Girl a gentle pat on the head.
I couldn’t help but stare at Sowinski’s message he wore tattooed all over his arms: “Jesus Loves You” written in seven different languages.
“You know,” Sowinski added, “in all these languages, Chinese, Vietnamese, Arabic, his name sounds the same, ‘Jesu,’ it’s so gentle.”
Of course, this Yogini wanted to know if Sowinski tattooed “the Lord’s name” in… Sanskrit.
“Yes,” he said, rubbing the ring of Sanskrit characters on his left arm. “But Sanskrit doesn’t download very well from the computer, it gets chopped up.”
Still, I photographed the Sanskrit ring, tattooed on his biceps between the cross on his shoulder and the large English and Hebrew letters on his forearm.
I shuddered at the thought of thousands of needles piercing his flesh. “This must have hurt a lot,” I said. “What gave you the courage to do it?”
“Jesus died for us,” he said. “He loved us so much that he died for us. Jesus had so much love, so much faith.”
His voice sounded softer; his eyes got teary.
Sowinski continued: “Except for that one moment, on the cross, when Jesus doubted and said: ‘Father, why have you forsaken me?’”
Sowinski paused for a moment, his gaze drifted off. “Do you know that it was the first time in history, the first time ever, that a father betrayed his son?”
I could only offer silent listening.
“The first time in history,” Sowinski said.
Hey Girl dropped her toy, pulled him out of his reverie. He picked up her chewed bone, gave it back to her, then strummed a few notes on his guitar. I put a few dollars in the “LOVE O METER,” a clear plastic bottle attached to the bus.
“How long are you going to drive the ‘Jesus Loves You Bus’ and where?” I asked him.
“For a year, all over the US, then back to California,” he said with no hesitation.
I was curious: “And then what?”
Sowinski looked up, his face brightening with a smile. “Then, I’ll work on a farm, I’ll plant crops and you know what they’ll read?” he said.
Before I could take a wild guess at his “crop circle,” he made a sweeping gesture that showed the tattoos on his right arm and said:
“Jesus Loves You.”