I was invited to join this facebook group (isn't it crazy that facebook thing), "I honk at the jesus guy that runs around newark''. I have always been intriqued by this guy for two reasons; first my love for running and second my faith in Jesus. For those of you who frequent Newark, OH know exactly who I am talking about; he runs down 21st street carrying a sign praising the Lord.
Well I wanted to set the record straight for myself, get the real story, because there are quite a few different stories going around. What's the truth? There was an article in the Denison University paper about this man a few years ago. Interested? Read on...
Man takes faith to the street-literally
Baxter McCanna shares his story as a Christian, jogger
Issue date: 10/9/07 Section:
Decked out in a Columbus Blue Jackets t-shirt, running shorts and a blue hat with "Jesus" inscribed in red letters, Baxter McCanna runs down the sidewalk of West Main Street in Newark. He starts from his home , which is surrounded by a white picket fense, toys of his nine chidren and a beaten-up old Volkswagen van with the words, "Jesus love you," painted across the back.The 59-year-old man carries a sign to his chest while he runs - "Jesus died for you" - something he's done five days a week for the last two decades.If you have ever driven down Newark's West Main Street, you may have seen him running along the side of the road.For the past 20 years, he's been a community icon commonly known as 'Jesus Man'. Most people have seen McCanna at one time or another. From the women working at the Newark Library to the secretary in the mayor's office, they all know who he is.Even Denison's reference librarian, Kevin Furniss, has noticed McCanna running along Newark's roads."He's kind of shocking the first time you see him," Furniss said.But McCanna said he started running, because he needed a change in his life."After years of trying to follow Jesus I just gave up and quit," McCanna said. "I did everything I could do." He traveled to Africa with the Peace Corps, participated in suicide squad prevention, worked in drug clinics helping people who were on drugs. He went to college and worked as a teacher in math, physics and science. He even took spiritual trips and traveled around the country. But despite all this, he still wasn't happy. "I wasn't where I wanted to be, and everything I tried didn't work," stated McCanna. "I fell apart."He can remember the moment when he first decided to start running for Jesus. He says it was the fall of 1975 in Omaha, Neb.He was hitch-hiking across the country as a hippie with a long beard and pony tail. Everything he owned he carried with him.
That day, McCanna was sitting in a room when he heard a voice that said "choose now". He replied, "Okay, you win."From that day on, McCanna believes himself to be a changed person. He once told an old girlfriend, "When I want Jesus, I will take him."He did - all the way through the streets of Newark.McCanna said he started his mission standing on street corners in downtown Columbus, where he works, holding signs and passing out flyers. Eventually he started running to cover more distance. McCanna's brother Calvin, 64, also participates in running for Jesus. Initially, McCanna said he and his brother received strong negative reactions, but through persistence, people have become more accepting. "I haven't seen anyone throw anything at me in a while," said McCanna. Now, he gets the occasional high-five and is frequented by honking car horns.Sophomore Hayes Griffin from Heath said McCanna has been a staple in his town his entire life."I've literally seen him my entire life doing this," Griffin said. "People would talk about him all the time. He's like a community novelty."Even the weather isn't enough to stop the duo. "Snow storms, hails storms, he's out there running," said Furniss. "He's very intent on delivering his message."And whether or not you are a Christian, his message is rather inspiring. "People need hope," McCanna said. "A reason for another day, a reason to go to work, a reason to get out of bed, a reason to continue school, a reason to do anything. You've got to have hope. You have to have something to go for."