The man on the bridge
For several days, people have been asking, "Who's that man on the bridge with the sign?"
Putting a name with the face, he is Capt. Ben Marler, a longtime Destin fisherman and always a "fisher of men." Since Easter he has been at the Destin Bridge (Marler Bridge, by the way, named for his grandfather) almost every day — sometimes even twice a day. He usually stays about an hour and a half at a time, holding up one of his homemade signs.
"I've realized for a long time that most folks don't seem to take time on Good Friday to remember the horrible sacrifice Jesus made for us," Marler told The Log. "So I made a sign that said 'Jesus loves us and proved it'. As I held it up, I was having a time holding back tears for so many drove by me like a flash, seemingly not caring at all."
On Easter morning, however, Marler made a different sign — Jesus Is Alive For You.
"The tears were free flowing, for so many folks were responding to it," he said. "From this beginning I realized that lots of folks never darken a church door, but do love Jesus. So I made one that says, 'Honk if you love Jesus', and was it ever a blessing for me."
And it was, apparently, also a blessing to those driving by. They would beep and wave, showing their support and appreciation, and those walking by would stop to talk.
"As an evangelist, if that's what God made me, my sagging spirit was truly being lifted like a rocket from Cape Canaveral," Marler said. "It didn't take me long to realize the Lord was in this, for He's hurt that few seem to care how much He truly loves them."
Marler is always elated with the response he gets, but admits that not everyone is happy to see the name of Jesus.
"Some have been hurt by Christians and churches," he said. "They are making the mistake of confusing religion with Jesus and how much He loves each one of us individually."
Although Marler said it is sometimes hard on his "old man's body," his pain and suffering and discomfort is nothing to what Jesus endured on the cross.
"What's really exciting is I believe Jesus is showing me something," Marler said. "He wants to have a huge crusade for souls in Destin. The ball park area would be a great place to hold it, for we are talking about many thousands of people from all over the world descending on Destin to know Jesus personally and to receive His healing in body, soul and spirit. If we will lift up Jesus, without any religion whatsoever, we'll be blessed beyond anyone's imagination."
Marler's grandparents, along with other early servants of Jesus like Clement Taylor, prayed over this little fishing village called Destin many times.
"God has remembered their prayers," Marler said. "It's time now for them to be answered for the glory and honor of Jesus and Him alone. I am of the firm conviction it's my duty and privilege to not only lift Him and His Holy Name up daily, but to be an encourager to others who don't do it."