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Larry Norman, Coffee Shop Evangelist

How a chance meeting with a selfless Christian star changed my life.

Larry Norman was more than the "father of Christian rock" to me. He was a guy with a guitar slung on his back, who had a big heart for the lost — including a young Jewish girl who didn't even know she needed to find her Messiah.

My first encounter with Larry was in the early '70s, with the Jesus Movement in its glory. I was walking down 47th Street and Broadway, in midtown Manhattan, on my lunch hour, when I noticed him. He was conspicuous because of his extremely blond, long hair. He was also wearing a sticker on his shirt; one that I had seen affixed to people's clothing for days. I was curious to read the message on the sticker. Not only that, but he looked fine, and I was the adventurous type. But my interest was mixed with caution — I was also a street-smart New Yorker — so I didn't want to ask him about it directly. If he was some sort of fanatic, I did not want to get entangled in a discussion that was not of my choosing.

I decided the best solution would be to find a pretense for getting close enough to read the sticker myself. All this happened within seconds, so I stopped him with the first thing that came to mind: "Excuse me, I was wondering, would you mind telling me … is your hair really that color, or do you dye it?"

Larry smiled and assured me that his hair was not dyed. Meanwhile, I was able to read the words printed on the sticker: "Smile. God loves you."

Such a statement would not have caught my interest, except that I had recently read a cover article in Time magazine about the California "Jesus People." Larry didn't look like a New Yorker; but he did seem to fit the quintessential description of a "Jesus Person."

"Are you one of the 'Jesus People'?" I asked.

"I suppose so," he responded. ...

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