CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - If uptown Charlotte had a soundtrack, it would sound like a chorus of car horns and construction. But the album wouldn't be complete without its soloist, Sam Bethea.
He's known as the "Jesus saves guy." Day after day, Bethea's booming voice can be heard bouncing between the buildings at the intersection of Trade and Tryon Streets.
Some stop and chat, while others walk on by without giving Sam a second glance. But that hardly bothers a man who feels like he's living out a calling.
"My story isn't my story, it's the Lord's story. This wasn't me pulling myself up by the bootstraps. This was a sinner headed one way and the Lord Jesus Christ coming and intervening to turn and change my life around," Bethea said.
The 46-year-old wasn't always so bright and cheery. He came from a broken home and found himself getting into trouble as a teenager.
"I stayed out in the streets, in the hood. That's where all the fun was, that's where the girls was, that's where the weed was," he said.
The man who now preaches the gospel for all to hear was in fact once a criminal.
"I spent 10 years of my life in and out of the county jail 29 times. Everything from arson to fighting to disorderly conduct. I had a couple of gun charges," Bethea said.
But then in 1997, Sam found his faith. For a long time after, he says he felt a pull towards the mission field and three years ago he decided to quit his job to preach full time, not on foreign soil but in his own backyard.
"I was really fearful, I didn't understand it. I just knew God put it on my heart to come out here and share the good news," he said.
Bethea admits the job can be tough.
"When I offer bibles or gospel tracks, 95% of them reject it or ignore it or walk on by," Bethea said. "You get more naysayers. More people that are negative and want to cuss and fight you. It's the real world."
But he says it's all about planting a seed.
"When I open up my mouth and declare the good news of Jesus Christ as audible as I can, it goes in the ear gate and now it's in the soul," he said.
Sam knows some call him crazy. And he admits they may be right. But he's not about to let man get in the way of his higher calling.
"I am crazy. But I'm crazy for Jesus," Bethea said.
While Sam has been preaching loudly in uptown for three years, he says he's never once lost his voice.