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Friday, April 12, 2024

Traveling preacher moves onto Memorial Union courtyard

If you’ve been to the Memorial Union (MU) lately, you may have noticed that Monte is back. He stands in the courtyard reading from a small Bible, while his dog, Sarah, lies next to him.

Monte has been preaching across the country since the early ’80s, hoping to plant religious ideas in people’s minds.

  “I’m here to plant seeds when no one else is,” Monte said.

While most people peacefully pass by him on their way through the MU, Enhao Cheung, a fourth-year pharmaceutical chemistry major who has tabled with the Muslim Student Association (MSA), said that there have been a few unsavory encounters.

“Even though he is exercising his First Amendment right, it’s not right to use the F-word. I see some people who are very rude to the gentleman. One time I saw someone put up the middle finger at that guy’s face,” Cheung said.

According to Cheung, some people might feel compelled to react negatively to Monte because they are turned off by his overzealous approach.

However, the spread of information, including religion, is a part of campus life according to Janna M. Tolla, the senior assistant director at Building Services and Risk Management.

Religiously affiliated groups, like Cheung’s, often set up tables in the MU, though Cheung’s said the MSA isn’t looking to preach.

“If people have a misunderstanding of our religion, we’re not trying to convert people; we’re just here to give general information.”

The process that allows individuals to table in a public location are not that different from the process which allows Monte to preach.

“Campus is open and individuals have the ability and right to speak freely about their thoughts and opinions as long as they do not obstruct the flow of traffic or individuals,” Tolla said.

According to the Student Rights and Grievances under the UC Davis Principles of Community, the First Amendment protects the right to think, say or write ideas on campus, even ideas that are unpopular, derogatory or repugnant.

Under this rule, both tabling for a religious association and preaching religious ideas are forms of individual expression.

As such, Monte is allowed to be on campus as much as any student or citizen, even if some people may object to his ideas.

Though Monte said he always believed in the Christian God, he had something of an awakening while in college.

“One day I’m in between classes — I just realized I need to find something greater than myself. I wanted to find truth,” Monte said.

Monte said that he didn’t like the direction his life was heading in, and so he took the initiative to find the truth he was seeking. He had been taking various classes, but wasn’t satisfied with the results. Then one day, in 1977, Monte found his answer.

“I tried to find solutions in my own engineering mind. With velocity and all this other stuff coming at me, I’m not going to understand this and find answers. I’ve got to start saying that I’m part of the problem,” Monte said.

After his revelation, he said his beliefs had shifted, and just as abruptly, he changed his way of life.

“After that, I moved seeking Him, traveling around the country. I started simplifying my life. And living by faith. Though, I wasn’t totally into the Lord or the Bible yet, I just knew God was real and I wanted to seek Him,” Monte said. “I dropped out of college and I traveled, hitchhiking, all over the country, experiencing a lot of things.”

He had not started preaching at this point, but continued educating himself through his travels. He said that he did eventually begin to preach and spread his beliefs, though the thought of standing in front of strangers and sharing personal beliefs seemed daunting.

“I hated to stand up in front of people, I was self-conscious. God gave strength in me to do that.”

After time he was able to distance himself from his nerves and said he now feels much more comfortable speaking in front of people, even to the point of being able to sing hymns. He was able to recall the experience which made him more comfortable preaching in front of a crowd.

“Jesus loves me this I know/For the Bible tells me so/Little ones to him belong/We are weak/but He is strong,” Monte sang. “I started singing that song, my hands went up. I started getting louder. Standing in the middle of a college campus. Getting away from the inhibitions and wondering what people were going to think.”

As for his future plans, he said they are vague.

“Just praying, taking it day by day. I was thinking of going to Sacramento, today even. I was thinking about taking the bus,” Monte said.

Concerning all the years spent on the road, living simply and preaching, Monte said that his feelings about God and truth are still the same.

“Jesus, he’s my life. Like I said, back in ’77, I never regretted a moment since,” Monte said.

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