On the road to salvation

Doug McGimpsey (left) Gary Ford (center) and pastor Art Evans each played a role in the crosses being erected in Broadview. There are three crosses on the roadside, including one 30 feet high and two others 24 feet tall. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Tova Fruchtman: CNJ staff writer

During a car ride home, Trenton Jones told his father he thought Broadview was a pretty good place to live.
His father Stan Jones agreed, and asked Trenton why he thought so.

“Any place that has three crosses in their town, must be a pretty good place,” said Trenton, now 9 years old.

Just before reaching Broadview on Highway 209 three crosses stand in a field. In front of them is a barrel that serves as a mailbox with the words “Jesus is Lord” printed on it. It was in this box that Leroy Bailey, who died of cancer a year ago, received a letter in September of 2002 from the Jones family thanking him for building the crosses, his daughter-in-law LaRhonda Bailey said.

As the son of a pastor, Leroy spent most of childhood moving from town to town. When his father retired, the family didn’t have anywhere to call home. In his later years he came up with an idea to have a place where preachers and missionaries could live at a moderate cost once they retired, his daughter-in-law said.

Leroy built the three crosses as a beacon. Behind them are hook-ups for four trailers, and Leroy hoped that missionaries and preachers would settle there, on the land the family owns and leases to the Church of the Nazarene, she said.

LaRhonda said Leroy’s dream of a place for ministers and missionaries to settle has not been successful because ministers usually want to live near their family, but the crosses he built have had an even greater impact.

“Daddy had cancer for about 15 years, and we kinda think (the project is) what kept him alive,” his daughter-in-law said. “Daddy spent every waking hour dreaming on it. I don’t think he realized that he would have that impact when he first had this dream. Knowing that his life is touching people still today, that’s good to us. We’re glad he left it.”

LaRhonda’s husband is a trucker, and he said the last leg of his late-night drives home are made easy when he sees the glow of the crosses — lit every night by strands of Christmas lights.

Leroy is not the only one to put a cross on the highway.
On the drive from Texas to Clovis it’s hard to miss the large cross on Highway 60/70/84. The cross was recently joined by a billboard that reads:

“Jesus gave his life, suffered and died for your sins, what have you done for him lately?”

The man who owns the sign and the cross said he did not want to be recognized for putting it up.

Others put crosses on the highway for the purpose of recognizing people. Perhaps they are not as big, but these small memorial crosses mark places where loved ones died.

Bob Kurtz, district technical support engineer at the New Mexico Department of Transportation, said there is no permit necessary for placing a cross along the highway, but when people call he asks them to put them along the fence line so there is no obstruction to traffic or those mowing the grass on the shoulder.

The Texas Panhandle is home to the largest cross in the western hemisphere, according to the man who built it, Steve Thomas.

The cross, built in 1995, stands 19 stories high and the area, off the highway in Groom, Texas, includes statues of Jesus’ walk to Cavalry, a gift shop and a 20,000-square-foot visitor center that is under construction.

Thomas said he had been blessed in his life, as a successful businessman with a son, Zach Thomas, and son-in-law, Jason Taylor, who are professional football players with the Miami Dolphins. He decided to build the cross to give back to the community.

“One day I’m going to stand at the judgment seat of Christ, and he’s going to ask me, ‘what have you done for my kingdom?’ People don’t understand that blessings go two ways. You do great things for the Lord, and he does great things for you,” Thomas said.