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(Rick Hickman / American Press)

(Rick Hickman / American Press)

Traveling evangelist makes stop in Lake Charles

Last Modified: Friday, February 08, 2013 9:08 PM

By Bobby Dower / American Press

David Banton said he had it all ­— a thriving state-wide company that allowed him to buy four houses in 10 years, each bigger than the previous one, and an income that afforded him a new car every three or four months.

Still, he was empty.

‘‘People I lived around would have thought I was happy by where I lived, what I drove, how I lived,’’ he says, ‘‘but I was the same David that sat in the woods with a shotgun wondering if I wanted to keep living or not.

‘‘I was never content or satisfied with having nice things. I could see I was trying to fill a void in my life with things — we all do that — we’re seeking joy, true joy and lasting peace and it eludes us.’’

Banton compared his search to that of a drug addict, who craves to have a bigger high. He says he has found fulfillment more than three years ago, answering a call from God to travel and witness to people.

‘‘On Resurrection Sunday, 2010, I set out on a journey I could have never imagined, and that’s to go and share the Jesus that I almost passed over pursing the American dream,’’ he says. ‘‘This passion to share Christ and follow Christ is motivated by love, and I don’t think I could have understood that 15 years ago, not the way I do now.

For the past 34 months, he’s been venturing out in his bright yellow-and-black pickup truck that has a large cross planted in its bed and pulls a 12-foot trailer. He visits four cities in the same state in a month. He’s in Lake Charles this week after stints in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Lafayette.

Baptized at 16, Banton said he spent the next 20 years without showing any evidence that he was saved. He says a brain hematoma in 2006 and a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2009 turned him around.

‘‘That changed on November 9th, 2009, when I met the person of Christ,’’ he says. ‘‘It was a reality that he existed, it wasn’t just an idea.

‘‘I can look back now and see all of this happened for my good. I needed to be humbled. I was self-sufficient, OK in business and I didn’t have a need, so there was no reason to seek God. But I was missing him.

‘‘God was at work. By God’s grace I am saved and through his grace and his mercy and his love, God never left me.’’

He said he felt the call to begin sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

‘‘I thought I had seven to eight months to prepare,’’ Banton says. ‘‘He told me to go on Resurrection Sunday. ... I said, ‘Lord, that’s pressure, that’s in five weeks and two days.’ So that’s how much time was involved in preparing to go.’’

On his first sortie, he visited six states before returning home to Colonial Heights, Va. Louisiana is his ninth state in this journey. He hopes to make Washington state by August and return home to Virginia by December.

His bright truck with the large cross in the back is his calling card.

‘‘It draws people to me,’’ Banton says. ‘‘I don’t have to chase people, if you will.

‘‘The idea is to share this Jesus that I almost passed over, to let people know that Jesus is real and to compel them to come to Christ. I don’t want people to miss it.

‘‘... when you see the vehicle, you can imagine that it takes a whole lot of courage just to do that, and to be ready and to give an answer for the hope that is within you. It’s incredible and it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to help change somebody like me, and I have the honor to follow Christ. I don’t know any other greater honor I could have set out to achieve.’’

Banton, who has been visiting Cornerstone University on Broad Street this week, plans to leave for Houston on Monday.

Banton writes a weekly blog for his website

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