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Ministry revives to plant crosses across U.S.

 


Ministry revives to plant crosses across U.S.
 

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

This group of crosses near Vicksburg, Miss., is one of 2,000 clusters built between 1984 and 1993.
March 11, 2005         

By John Gordon*

VICKSBURG, Miss. (UMNS)—Beginning in 1984, Bernard Coffindaffer spent all the money he had – around $3 million – erecting thousands of crosses throughout the United States as a roadside testimony. 

Now a Mississippi-based ministry hopes to pick up where the late businessman and United Methodist lay minister left off, and plant crosses along every interstate.

“I just think it’s a marvelous project,” said United Methodist Peggy Griffin, executive assistant for Crosses Across America, an all-volunteer, nondenominational ministry dedicated to scattering the Christian symbol nationwide.

The goal is to reach non-Christians and to remind Christians that “there is hope in Jesus Christ.”

Griffin’s job includes tracking the nearly 2,000 three-cross clusters that Coffindaffer’s crews built in 29 states and the Philippines. Many have fallen into disrepair since they went up between 1984 and 1993, when Coffindaffer ran out of money and died.

“I would hate to think that this man spent as much time, effort and money to get these crosses erected,” Griffin said, “only to have them just be allowed to stand and rot from neglect or whatever.”

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
Courtesy of Crosses Across America
Bernard Coffindaffer hoped to "make one person stop and think" by erecting crosses along interstates.
Crosses Across America plans to erect crosses every 50 miles along the nation’s more than 40,000 miles of interstate highways.

“It’s a very expensive project. The logistics of it are mind-boggling,” said Sara Abraham, executive director and founder of Crosses Across America. 

The group plans to launch a fund-raising drive during 2005. Abraham estimates materials alone will cost between $5 million and $7 million. “People are praying for this project all around the country today and around the world,” she said.

Coffindaffer made his fortune in the oil and coal industries in West Virginia. After two heart operations, he sold his businesses and began preaching at United Methodist churches and building crosses. His goal was simple: to “make one person stop and think.”

According to letters Abraham has collected, many lives have been touched by the roadside symbols. Travelers sometimes stop and pray at the crosses. “There are a lot of stories,” she said.

For instance, a Maryland man wrote: “I pass these crosses every day on my way to work, and they have become an important part of my daily devotion.”

Each cluster includes three crosses. The tallest stands 25 feet high, and the two flanking crosses are 22 feet tall.

One such cluster rises out of a farm east of Vicksburg. Owner David Aldridge says the image offers drivers along Interstate 20 a refuge “from everyday life and the things they go through—the troubles, the problems.” Even Aldridge notices them each time he pulls into his farm. “And it does make you think,” he said.

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by John Gordon

Peggy Griffin volunteers for
Crosses Across America.
Church groups are repairing some of the original crosses in Mississippi, cutting weeds, straightening poles and providing a fresh coat of paint.

The original crosses were made of California Douglas fir, but Abraham is investigating using a more durable Fiberglas material for new ones.

The group wants to recruit volunteers in every state to find locations, work with landowners and maintain crosses after they are erected. So far, there is no shortage of helpers.

“There are so many people out there who are willing,” Griffin said. “I never cease to be amazed.”

Abraham started Crosses Across America after reading a newspaper article about the end of Coffindaffer’s ministry after his death.  She placed the article in her Bible. Five years later, when it fell out, she felt led to continue his passion. She is now a full-time volunteer and is confident the group will raise enough money to fund the effort.

“No one will ever know the far-reaching impact of these crosses,” she said. “What you do is you put them out there and you pray that every single person that sees them is ministered to by them.”

*Gordon is a freelance producer and writer in Marshall, Texas.

News media contact: Fran Coode Walsh, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5458 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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