Thursday, April 24, 2014
ORLANDO, Fla. - Tony DeLLomo is on a mission from God. In a hard-to-miss motor home covered with biblical passages, "Jesus is God" signs and an offer of a free Bible, DeLLomo has been spreading the Gospel by parking in high-traffic spots throughout central Florida.
"It's all to glorify God," DeLLomo said while wearing a sleeveless, white hooded sweatshirt with "Jesus is King" in red letters.
A Philadelphia native, DeLLomo, 65, has been on the road for more than 10 years, sharing his message from coast to coast. He and his Labrador retriever, Lady, arrived in Orlando, Fla., more than a month ago after stops along the East Coast.
DeLLomo had been parked on a patch of grass off Turkey Lake Road near Interstate 4 in south Orange County, but a code-enforcement officer told him to leave last week. He then moved to a spot near the Orlando Premium Outlets on Vineland Avenue, at Downtown Disney and at various Super Walmart stores.
"I work for God from when I wake up until I go to bed," DeLLomo said.
While he was at a Walmart this week, several motorists stopped to take pictures, but nobody spoke to him. Not to worry, DeLLomo said: The motor home says it all.
"It kind of tells people what God has to say, that Jesus saves," DeLLomo said. On the side of his motor home, another passage puts it bluntly: "The day of the Lord cometh He shall destroy the sinners."
DeLLomo's style isn't confrontational, though, and he isn't concerned with saving souls. There's nothing anyone can do to be saved, as DeLLomo sees it, because "God saves who He wants." He also says all churches are "spiritually dead" and that the Bible is the only true authority.
DeLLomo's views and methods do have a precedent in Christianity, said Todd Brenneman, a University of Central Florida religion instructor.
Sixteenth-century theologian John Calvin preached predestination, the belief that God elects those who will be given eternal life. And Brenneman said DeLLomo's soft-sell approach, which is different from hellfire-and-brimstone street preachers, is a trend among some evangelists.
But driving cross-country in a motor home is an extreme form of spreading the word, Brenneman said. "He is kind of taking it to another level."
A longtime union painter, DeLLomo considered himself a Catholic for much of his life. He attended Mass, DeLLomo said, but he gambled, smoked and drank to excess.
That changed almost 15 years ago, when he bought a Bible at an auction, began reading it and decided he didn't want to sin anymore, he recalled.
After he retired, DeLLomo hit the road, stopping at state fairs, music festivals, NASCAR races and just about anywhere lots of people gather. He is married, and his wife, Liz, lives in New Jersey. He visits her several times a year.
To finance his holy journey, DeLLomo receives money from a pension, a lawsuit settlement from an injury, veteran's benefits from his service in the Army and a monthly Social Security check.
He lives a meager life -- running errands on his bicycle, showering at Planet Fitness (he's a member) and sleeping in the motor home behind an Olive Garden in south Orange County. He'll stay there until he's asked to leave.
DeLLomo takes evictions in stride because, he said, it's the Lord telling him to move on. And DeLLomo said he doesn't know how long he'll stay in central Florida because that, too, is in God's hands.
DeLLomo didn't argue when Kurt Fasnacht, the chief inspector for Orange County Code Enforcement, asked him to leave the county-owned land near Interstate 4.
"He was a nice guy," recalled Fasnacht, adding that DeLLomo's removal stemmed from a complaint.
"The majority of people think I'm crazy, " DeLLomo said. "My kids think I'm crazy."
But DeLLomo said he isn't concerned about what people think. "It's what God thinks."