A man and his tractor rode into Madisonville on Wednesday evening on I-69. Behind his tractor is a wagon that reads, "Pulling for Jesus: 1,000 miles for 1,000 souls."
Evangelist Bill Lowery, 76, and his engine-red 76-year-old Farmall tractor are on a journey. His ministry, "Christ is the Answer," is opening an 11-acre training camp for tent evangelists in Wildwood, Florida.
"I've done tent evangelism my whole life," he said. "In fact, we have 14 big tents and teams around the world."
The '43 Farmall was donated to Lowery's ministry in his hometown of Decatur, Illinois. It was given to help mow the grass of the acreage in Florida.
"My brother, who has a church in Decatur came over and asked, 'How are you going to get this down to Florida,' so I said, 'I don't know, maybe I'll put a wagon on it, mount a pulpit and a cross and drive it down to Florida. Preach all the way there to maybe wake a few of these sleepy Christians up that seem to me to have their head in the sand.' "
On his way to Madisonville, Lowery found out that he could not drive his tractor, which travels at
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e20 miles per hour, down I-69. While driving his tractor, Lowery is followed by a chase vehicle with members of his ministry team.
"I didn't realize when I pulled in I was on Interstate 69 with this rig, and the cops pulled me over right at the exit in Hanson," he said. "I came all the way from Henderson on 69, 'Oh my word' is what the cop said."
After finding out he couldn't take the interstate, Lowery and his team adjusted their route and are taking U.S. 41 southbound.
This weekend, Lowery and his ministry team plan to stop in Nashville.
"We're just gonna roll all over town with the wagon. The goal is to energize as many people as possible to be bold, open and active in their daily public activities," he said. "We want to encourage them to speak out the good news of God's amazing grace and love for everyone, standing up for God-given principles. Without Christ, there is no hope; with him, all things are possible."
En route to Madisonville, Lowery's Farmall threw its fan belt and had to be replaced, which caused them to miss out on an evangelism opportunity at Hanson's Walmart parking lot.
"We got delayed getting here; we didn't get in till about sundown," he said. So Lowery and his group participated at Grace Warehouse's Wednesday night activities.
"The plan when we get into a town is to immediately start going around to parking lots. Jesus is our example, and he spent every day just on the highways and byways out in public," said Lowery. "He went to them; he didn't just wait for them to come to him. He went out to people in the fields, towns and villages that were hurting -- that's what we're doing with this tractor pull."
Because of the age of the tractor, Lowery said that as they travel, they are keeping a close eye on how it's handling the journey.
"We're just keeping the oil and the water levels checked," he said. "We had to put a new fan belt on; in fact, I think that was the original fan belt -- it was old. We got it from a guy, an 85-year-old farmer, and he'd been through it, took the gas tank off and cleaned all that out and coated it. And now, it just purrs like a kitten."