ST. LOUIS (BP)–Tim Jones walks and prays.
He lets the sandwich board strapped over his body tell the message: No more bars.
“My idea is just to walk, pray and praise the Lord every which way I go,” Jones said.
He’s just one guy with a passion, but people are taking notice and his God-inspired vision may end up shaping the future of St. Louis. Jones is asking the city to not put any bars or taverns in the proposed Ballpark Village next to Busch Stadium in downtown St. Louis.
“I’m saying enough is enough,” Jones said. “There are already 34 bars within a three-block radius of the stadium.”
Jones became burdened with the idea one evening while watching the local news. The first report told of a highway worker being killed by a drunk driver, the next about plans to develop Ballpark Village as an entertainment district with bars and restaurants.
Jones, a father of five and member of Cross Keys Baptist Church in Florissant, Mo., said he realized there’s no place downtown suitable for families to spend the day.
He also points to a number of troubling incidents, such as the arrest of the Cardinals’ own manager on a charge of driving under the influence and the fact that pitcher Josh Hancock was drinking the night he died in a car crash after a game.
“We have to find a way to stop enabling that to happen,” Jones said.
He felt led to prayerwalk around the new Busch Stadium, near the future Ballpark Village development. He started in January and every weekday since then he has walked around the stadium seven times.
One trek around is about a half-mile, so it takes Jones about an hour each day to make seven laps. He’s worn out a pair of shoes and worked up blisters on his feet. As he walks, he prays for the area and the people passing by. Occasionally, they ask what he’s doing and he gets a chance to share.
His message is laser-focused on creating one area that is family friendly. He doesn’t suggest shutting down any existing businesses, nor does he preach about the dangers of drinking.
“I’m not talking about what has happened in the past. I want to talk about what the future needs to be,” he said.
Jones, 44, is familiar with the heartache of alcoholism. He grew up in bars with a mother who was into the party scene. He served 20 years in the U.S. Army and became an alcoholic.
Set free from the addiction by Jesus Christ, Jones feels a burden for his community. Since the prayerwalking started, he organized the campaign under the name “One Voice.”
“All it took was one voice,” Jones said. “I truly believe prayer is the answer. I also believe it is Christians’ responsibility to do something about the moral wrongness of society.”
A Christ-like — and legal — approach is essential, Jones said. He doesn’t get emotional; he simply shares the facts about his campaign. He must work the No More Bars effort around his job and family life as well as Bible college classes. He and his wife care for foster children and he’s an active deacon at Cross Keys.
“His whole approach has been servant-minded from the beginning,” said Jeff Wells, Cross Keys’ pastor.
The No More Bars campaign started so quietly that few members knew about it at first, Wells said. But Jones’ example has been inspiring.
“He went about this as a response to what God laid on his heart, without a lot of fanfare and without a lot of planning,” Wells said. “He had the nerve to trust God and do all of this.”
It’s an uphill battle in St. Louis, home of Anheuser-Busch. The stadium around which Jones walks is named for the brewery’s founder and drinking is ingrained in the city’s culture.
Yet the idea is taking root. Jones said that whenever he talks to people, they see the sense of his proposal. While walking and praying, he has encountered many people who have been personally affected by drinking, such as a police officer whose partner was permanently disabled when struck by a drunk driver.
Creating an alcohol-free area also would help achieve the city’s goal of bringing more people into downtown, Jones said.
His crusade has attracted attention. He’s been interviewed on local television and radio stations.
Wells said he has enjoyed watching Jones become excited and grow with the campaign.
“Tim is just glowing in the things God is doing in him and through him,” the pastor said.
Jones said he hopes to bring people together to raise awareness of the issue while honoring God in every aspect.
“We’re calling all Christians to make a stand and show the city and the Cardinals organization this is a one-voice thing,” Jones said. “I don’t know the whole outcome, but I do know God will have His glory.”
Susan Mires is a contributing writer to The Pathway (mbcpathway.com), newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Tim Jones’ campaign is on the Internet at www.gotothetruth.com under the “One Voice” tab.