A pastor from Fayetteville, N.C., said he feels drawn to Aiken to spread his message – “Save America First: Evangelize the World.”
Pastor George Lucas Jr., originally from New York, dedicated 22 years to the military, and now he is dedicating his life to spreading the word of God.
Lucas’ mission all comes down to verse John 3:16 “the flagship verse of the Bible,” Lucas said.
The verse as stated in the “New Living Translation of the Bible” reads, “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
Lucas has traveled from Vermont to Texas to deliver this message that America can be saved through the hands of Jesus Christ and by John 3:16.
Now, his current mission is to circulate that message throughout South Carolina through putting up billboards and selling T-shirts and other merchandise.
The state has a “jaded history” due to instances like those surrounding the Civil War, he said.
“The Lord has chosen South Carolina (and Aiken) to help spread this message,” he said.
Aiken came on his radar because of his wife, Augusta native Wilhelmenina Jennings-Lucas.
Her father is from Aiken and has ties with Mount Canaan Church.
“He’s one of the most dynamite Christian men I’ve ever met,” Lucas said.
Two billboards have already been erected – one by the University Parkway Church of God Church and the other by Johnson Motor in Graniteville.
“I want to spark something in South Carolina,” Lucas said.
The 78-year-old has been a U.S. Army veteran for nearly 22 years and an ordained minister for more than 40 years. He said that when he heard the John 3:16 verse on Feb. 25, 1968, something in him changed.
The next day, he asked God to “save his soul.”
“(This verse) became the most important verse in my whole life,” he said.
The day he got saved, he made a promise.
“If the Lord ever gave me an opportunity to go to Washington, D.C., and lift up his name, I would do so,” he vowed.
That opportunity happened in 1987. At the time, he was preaching at the Race Road Baptist Church in Farmville, Virginia. A woman came down to speak for the church’s Woman’s Day service. Little did Lucas know that this woman was connected to the White House.
A few days after she presented, she called Lucas to ask him to come to the White House.
“I thought she was joking,” Lucas said.
On Sept. 30. 1987, Lucas sat in the Old Executive Office Building auditorium. Then-President Ronald Reagan was speaking on behalf of Judge Robert Bork and his nomination to the Supreme Court, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch newspaper in 1987.
The day might have been for Bork, but it was Lucas who left an impression.
“I told President Ronald Reagan that we needed revival in our country and that brought on pandemonium at the White House,” Lucas said.
Bork even later confessed to Lucas that “when he raised his hand (to speak), he scared the (heck) out of Reagan.”
However, Lucas won over Reagan and his staff.
“He was grinning like a Chester cat,” Lucas said.
The preacher was even asked to come up in front of the room to give “a brief, emotional speech,” the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
This moment lit his “Save America First” cause, Lucas said.
However, the spark died down for many years. It reignited in 2009 when a man named Jim Cooke came into his life.
Cooke was the program director at the WFNC-AM radio station in Fayetteville, N.C. Lucas was 75 with his sights set on the “old soldiers’ home” in Washington, D.C. Something in him, though, caused him to call Cooke.
From that phone call, Lucas appeared on the station on a monthly basis.
“The Lord kept me there, of course,” he said.
In 2010, the American Atheists organization posted a billboard in New Jersey that sent out an anti-Christmas message.
“You KNOW it’s a myth; This Season, Celebrate REASON!” it read according to the April 2011 Boiling Springs magazine.
David Silverman, the organization’s president, said the spot was perfect because commuters were going to see it on their way to do Christmas shopping in New York City.
Silverman and his group’s message fueled Lucas’ fire.
“None was more outraged than 77-year-old pastor Lucas … (who) could not and would simply stand by and do nothing,” the article stated.
On Jan. 14, 2011, Lucas’ first billboard went up on I-95 in Fayetteville.
To fund these billboards, Lucas sells white T-shirts. The shirts sport either a picture of the Earth in the center or just the “Save America First” organization’s logo written across the center.
He also sells buttons, hats and plates, according to his website.
“I like to be called a patriot, because I love my country,” he said. “I believe in America.”
Lucas was born in Manhattan, the oldest of 10 children. He went on to fight in the Korean and Vietnam wars, earning a Bronze Star on June 3, 1970.
In addition to his ministry work, he has at least 40 years of experience in broadcasting.
About four years ago, he married Wilhelmenina.
At first, Lucas was skeptical of meeting someone so late in life, but, when they met, his mind was changed.
On Christmas Day, he asked her 91-year-old father for her hand in marriage. Now the two travel to spread the John 3:16 message.
For more information, visit www.saf-etw.com or 910-778-3683.