Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Crosses Along the Highway

I am one of those strange people who enjoy hours of uninterrupted driving (as long as traffic is moving) because it usually gives me a long stretch of time where I can think. Obviously, while driving I have to stay focused on the road and what is going on around me. The result is a unique interplay between a series of immediate observations, related to the world that is quickly moving past me outside the vehicle, and whatever idea I am trying to focus on. It makes for some interesting connections! Last week, I spent a lot of time driving and I was particularly encouraged by the repeated site of three crosses along the road at irregular intervals. I have seen these kinds of crosses before but I became particularly aware of them on this trip because of the frequency with which I encountered them. I was encouraged because it was a repeated incentive for me to connect whatever I was thinking about at the moment to the most important truth I know, namely that Jesus Christ died for my sins.

Each cluster was comprised of a larger gold cross, flanked by two slightly smaller blue crosses, always placed so that they are easily seen from the road. A little bit of internet research revealed, the crosses were the work of Pastor Bernard Coffindaffer of Craigsville West Virginia. Bernard Coffindaffer was a WWII veteran of the U.S. Marines who served in the Pacific at Iwo Jima and Nagasaki. After the military, he earned a business degree and went on to become a successful businessman.

When he was 42 years old, Coffindaffer converted to Christianity and eventually became a Methodist minister. While still running his business he served several small churches in West Virginia. After encountering health issues pastor Coffindaffer decided to sell his company and focus his remaining energy on ministry work. A couple of years later he had a vision that convinced him that God wanted him to plant crosses. He had earned a good deal of money from his business and in 1984 he used his own funds to start the Crosses Across America project.

He set up an office in his home, hired a secretary, and employed seven work crews to travel across the country erecting the crosses on land donated for the displays. From 1984 until his death in 1993, pastor Coffindaffer spent over $3,000,000 of his own money and erected 1,864 clusters of crosses in 29 states, the District of Columbia, and the countries of Zambia and the Philippines. Dedication services were held at each site that included scripture reading and prayers. Pastor Coffindaffer explained the meaning behind the crosses saying, “They're up for only one sole reason, and that's this- to remind people that Jesus was crucified on a cross at Calvary for our sins, and that He Is soon coming again.” If there is a single message we all need to be reminded of constantly, it is that one.

I do not know much about pastor Coffindaffer or his theology but I appreciate the simple yet profound reminder that the crosses he planted have offered me in my travels.