Meet My Friend, Brother Jesse
by Lynn Ridenhour
Brother Jesse is the holiest man I’ve ever known.
I lived just up the street from Brother Jesse. And called him the
"holy cowboy." Brother Jesse was an old-time rodeo rider
turned preacher. Years ago the Lord saved him in an old-fashion tent revival—sawdust
trail & all. The day the Lord saved Brother Jesse, he took off his shoes,
wrote out a check, stuck it in his shoes, laid his shoes on the altar, &
walked away with God. He had just given his ranch, his soul, &
everything he owned to the Lord. Barefooted, he now had God in his heart. And
the world on his shoulders. He became one of the most powerful preachers I’ve
ever heard. God followed this man’s sermons around.
Brother Jesse used those old country clichés when he preached. I can
still see him, walking back & forth from side to side, animated &
intense, his brown suit accenting his bowlegs as he moved out from behind the
pulpit. "Some people have such big cars, you have to put hinges on
‘em to go over a hill." Brother Jesse is the only preacher I know
who ever used the phrase "ten axle greases down the road."
Brother Jesse was an ornery old cuss, or used to be. Before he knew the
Lord he would ride his horse in on a Christian tent revival, pull the tent
down on God’s people, rope the preacher from behind the pulpit, and drag him
out down the middle aisle with dirt flying in all directions, causing all
kinds of ruckus. Brother Jesse despised Christians. Then it happened, he met
the God he despised. And never looked back.
I never knew the rodeo Jesse, the scoundrel. The man I knew was
the humblest man I ever met. I remember, the men of our church loved him
so much they built him & his family a brand new home and gave it to him.
Brother Jesse was deeply touched & deeply loved by everyone—always doing
small favors for families in the community. Saving old suits and passing them
out to the needy, visiting the sick that nobody cared to visit. Going from
house to house to see what he could do for families.
Brother Jesse was so overwhelmed by the men’s kindness, he wouldn’t
move in. "The Lord doesn’t want me to live in a house like that,"
he kept saying. His wife & children moved in while Brother Jesse
continued living down the road in a little shack in the woods. Finally,
Brother Jimmy, our pastor, knocked on Brother Jesse’s door.
"Brother, you have to move in with your family," said our pastor.
"If you don’t you’re going to hurt these men’s feelings."
Brother Jesse moved out of his shack and into his new home. I’ve been a
guest in his home. It’s nice; nothing fancy. A place where you can
feel God’s love.
I loved being around this man. The stories he told! And the prayers
he prayed. It was as though he and God were on speaking terms, old
friends who didn't have to say much but who knew what the other was
thinking. Brother Jesse would pray about anything anywhere anytime. One
time he was pulled over by a policeman for speeding. The policeman approached
his car, Brother Jesse rolled down his window.
"Sir, were you aware you were speeding?"
"O, no. I’ve sinned," said Brother Jesse as he opened his door
to kneel down beside the road with the cop standing nearby & oncoming cars
whisking by. Oblivious to his situation around him while getting right
with God, he felt a tap on his shoulder, "that’s alright, sir,"
said the policeman as he folded up his ticket book and drove away in his squad
car, leaving the man of God alongside the roadway on his knees praying aloud
doing business with his God.
One Sunday evening Brother Jesse was preaching when he made the
announcement, "I want all of you to pack your supper in a brown bag when
you come to prayer meeting Wednesday night. We’re going to have a funeral.
One of you is going to die."
And sure enough, they buried one of their members that Wednesday evening.
I remember him telling the story of going to this one church. The Lord had
revealed that evening’s song service to Brother Jesse. "Here, these are
the songs you’ve picked out to sing tonight," he said as he handed the
pastor the small sheet of paper. The Lord had revealed even the page numbers.
"God does that sometimes when he wants to show a sinner He’s
He told the story of seeing God. Brother Jesse was an evangelist. In one of
his meetings he walks in the church with a rolled up blanket under his arms.
"I’m not leaving this building until I see God," he announced to
the congregation. Brother Jesse never left the church for thirty-two days
& nights, sleeping & praying at the altar. He wanted to see God. While
lying prostate on his face one night about three in the morning, he heard the
church door open; then footsteps slowly approaching. Brother Jesse sat up,
turned with his eyes closed and put up his hands, "go back," he was
waving, "go back!" He got scared.
God poured out His Spirit in that community and a spirit of revival stayed
with those people for two and a half years.
Brother Jesse went where no other man would go. He mainly ministered in the
Deep South. He tells of going to preach in this community way back in the
hills of the Carolinas. So far back he had to park his car and walk for
miles to get there. When he arrives the first thing he does is pay the light
bill to get the lights turned on in the church house. Then he walks up &
down side walks inviting people to come hear him preach. We’re talking
roughnecks. Lumber Jacks & mountain people. Nobody has time for religion
in a town like that. Brother Jesse was having trouble drawing a crowd, getting
anyone to show up for that matter.
One morning while walking down the sidewalk, doing his usual inviting,
he noticed a funeral taking place down the street. He could see the casket
from where he was standing. The Lord spoke, "if you go pray for that man
I’ll raise him up." Brother Jesse walked down the street, walked
up to the casket, laid his hands on the dead man, and began to pray. Folks
were standing all around. Soon the lifeless body sat up.
And Brother Jesse had a crowd to preach to that night.