OAK GROVE – From west to east, Missouri Baptists from across the state prayer walked and carried a cross along U.S. Highway 50 the week leading up to Easter.
Seventy-five people registered to carry the cross, and dozens of unregistered volunteers helped get the cross from the Kansas border to the Illinois border April 13-22, an average of a little more than 25 miles a day. On the final day – Good Friday – more than 150 showed up to take the cross from Wildwood to Tower Grove. Dodging rainy weather and the occasional distracted driver, participants prayer walked and carried the cross on foot all 276 miles of the journey.
Almost. Due to very narrow – and sometimes no – shoulders on the route, the walkers had to pack the cross into a chase vehicle and “prayer drive” 15-20 miles of the trip.
“We probably even walked some of the route we shouldn’t have,” said Randy Messer, pastor of First Baptist Church, Oak Grove. “But for the most part, cars were very good to move over.”
At the end of each night’s journey, they stopped for a prayer rally.
They had to stop for lightning on Good Friday, when a bolt struck 500 yards away, and they had to move that night’s prayer rally into the Tower Grove Baptist Church’s basement when tornado sirens sounded.
The cross weighed 80 pounds–wheel and padding included.
“Some people have told us that Jesus didn’t have a wheel, so neither should we,” Messer said. “Well, we’re not Jesus. Only Christ can die on the cross and we can’t pretend. Finally we just named the wheel Simon, because Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus carry His cross.”
Messer was one of the driving forces behind the walk and walked most of the trip, sometimes carrying the cross, sometimes just prayer walking behind.
“The whole way, I prayed that God would break my heart for lost souls and that He would send laborers,” Messer said.
Messer got at least two opportunities to be that laborer on the journey – and see the harvest. One woman at a hotel asked what they were doing, and he was able to lead her to Christ. Another man from the West Coast stopped alongside the road between Jefferson City and California and offered to pay $50 for an opportunity to carry the cross.
“I told him he didn’t need to pay anything, but that he could carry it a mile if he wanted to,” he said. “He came from a background that he felt like he had to pay his way by works or by money. I got to share with him the true meaning of the Gospel: Because Jesus died for us, we can freely and by faith receive Him. He said, ‘I believe’ and prayed to receive Jesus while carrying the cross.”
Messer said the man also attended the prayer rally that evening at Concord Baptist Church in Jefferson City.
BRIAN KOONCE/staff writer