Walking minister strolls through town

Published 12:00 am Sunday, January 6, 2008

NATCHEZ — James Bowman is on a mission from God — a very, very long mission.

For the last three years Bowman has literally been walking back and forth across America preaching the word of God and helping anyone he can.

“This is what God wants me to do,” he said.

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Bowman estimates since he started his wandering mission he has literally walked 24,000 and worn out more than 30 pairs of shoes.

He is a sort of metaphysical Jack Kerouac.

Bowman said the drug related murders of both of his parents before he reached 20, greatly impacted his life.

“They were both alcoholics and drug addicts,” he said. “I started drinking beer, then smoking marijuana, then pills and it just went from there.”

Bowman said he spent more than 20 years addicted to heroin.

To support his habit he stole cars and burglarized homes.

Bowman said he eventually became so disgusted with his life that he tried to eventually overdose.

“I had enough heroin to kill 10 people,” he said.

Bowman said he shot-up a much larger usual dose and laid down on his blanket at a homeless camp in the desert ready to die.

“Something stuck me in the head though,” he said.

The culprit was a business card belonging to a pastor.

Bowman said he and another homeless man joked that perhaps it was a message from God.

Bowman put his head down, ready to die.

“Then someone was picking me up an carrying me to a car,” he said.

Bowman said the pastor — the same one from the business card — brought him to a motel in kept him in a tub of cold water for the entire night.

The next day Bowman said was brought to the church and prayed-over for the entire day.

“When they brought me, I was more dead than alive,” he said.

That night, Bowman gave his life over to God.

That was in 2002 and by 2005 Bowman was minister of his own church.

Bowman said when the church unexpectedly burned down, he was ready to rebuild.

“We had the slab poured,” he said. But the night before construction was to begin, Bowman said God told him to start walking.

“That was it,” he said.

Bowman said he gave away all of his possessions and hit the road.

“I go where God tells me to go,” he said. “I don’t have a plan.”

And for the last three years the 51-year-old has just been walking around telling his story and telling others about God.

“I have spoken in 677 churches and 83 universities,” he said.

Bowman said he only travels with a duffel bag.

He keeps a few changes of clothes and as many Bibles as he can carry.

“If I see someone who needs something, I give it to them if I have it,” he said. “When God is ready for me to get another one he’ll send it.”

And while a life of walking on an unknown path, sounds at the least troublesome, Bowman said he is not concerned.

“I leave the worry up to God,” he said.

In his three years of walking, Bowman has had some pretty amazing experiences.

He described one such situation in Vermont.

“I was walking and God told me what house he wanted me to go to,” he said.

Bowman said once he arrived at the house, the woman who lived there told him that she had not seen her son in seven years.

Bowman said God gave him the son’s phone number, in Alaska.

“She picked up the phone and called him,” she said.

Bowman acknowledges that the story and more like it are hard to believe but does not questions God’s plan.

On Thursday Bowman walked in to Natchez, over the bridge, and spent the night outside.

He said in the morning he called a friend in Kentucky and just a bit latter Dale Little called him on the phone.

Little is the president of the Adams County Baptist Union.

“He seems genuine,” Little said. “He wants to do God’s work.”

Tonight, Bowman will be speaking to the congregation at Highland Baptist Church at 6. But he won’t be in town much longer after that. Bowman said God told him to start walking down U.S. 84 on Monday.