PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. - Anyone who drives the stretch of U.S. Highway 1 in Port St. Lucie will soon notice something missing - the presence and the passion of a longtime street preacher.
He is out there each day and has been for years. With his wooded cross and his microphone, Smokey Barber, prays and preaches in Port St. Lucie. From his sidewalk pulpit at the intersection of U.S. 1 and Jennings Road, the self-described evangelist fights to get his voice - and his message - above the buzz of the bustling traffic.
"I saw the island and I figured this would be a good place to stand and I began to preach," he said.
Barber has a captive audience of passing drivers, but only until the light turns green. Sometimes his words get through; other times they do not.
"I was flipped off, cussed out, spit on, I had sodas thrown at me. I had a guy point a .357 Magnum at me," he said.
Now, Barber has a new challenge that means that his street-side preaching will be silenced, at least for now. It is not because he isn't welcome at the location, but because he is about to go under the knife in hopes of repairing a clogged artery in his neck.
"I know I can trust God and I know he has a plan for whatever he's got going on," he said. "I believe he's caught it in time. Hopefully, he'll bring me through it and I'll be back."
After all the roadside prayers Barber has offered up to strangers over the years, it seems he is in need now. He expects to be hospitalized for several days after next week's surgery before making a decision to be back out on U.S. 1.