By Terri Cowart Frazier
Standing more than 10 stories tall, the newest addition to the Crosses Across America was raised March 21 in Florence, and a production team from CBS Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood was on-site filming the event, which is scheduled to air beginning at 8 a.m. April 5—Easter morning.
The 110-foot tall, 64-foot wide arms, 18-ton lighted cross was installed to the right of the new location of Berry’s Seafood Restaurant at 2942 Highway 49 South, Sara Abraham said.
Abraham is a Vicksburg resident who serves as the executive director of Crosses Across America Inc., the nonprofit organization dedicated to erecting crosses around the country.
Abraham said she was contacted by CBS a few months ago because they were planning to do a follow up to a PBS documentary entitled, “Point Man For God,” a story on businessman turned evangelist, Bernard Coffindaffer, who started the Crosses Across America organization in 1984.
After learning about the massive cross that was to be raised in Florence, Abraham said CBS decided to wait and feature the raising of the cross for its follow up edition.
Coffindaffer was a self-made millionaire from West Virginia. He dedicated the later part of his life and his fortune to erecting clusters of crosses across the country, symbolizing the cross of Christ flanked by the crosses of the two thieves, Abraham said. After Coffindaffer died, unfortunately so did the project until Abraham decided to take on the ministry.
Abraham said she saw a story in the Vicksburg Post about the Crosses Across America along with a picture of its founder.
“He reminded me of my father,” she said.
Abraham said she cut the story out of the paper and kept it tucked inside of her Bible. One morning in the fall of 1998, the article fell out as Sarah was doing her morning devotions. “When I reached to pick it up, the Lord spoke to me in my spirit,” Abraham said. “You are to continue my crosses.”
After praying and talking with her husband, Abraham said she decided to carry on Coffindaffer’s ministry, and in 1999 she formed a new nonprofit, Crosses Across America Inc., which now includes more than 1,400 volunteers.
To date, Abraham said crosses have been placed on more than 2,000 sites in the U.S., Nova Scotia, Zambia, and the Philippines.
The cross, erected in Rankin County, is a “new adventure,” Abraham said.
“We have always done three crosses and the logistics of putting up a cross this size is huge. This is the largest cross we have erected,” she said.
The public was invited to witness the raising of the cross by a 275-ton crane on March 21. “It would be fabulous to have a huge crowd on site during the filming of the CBS segment, so we can show the rest of America how proud Mississippians are of their faith in God and the symbols that accompany that faith,” Abraham said.
Lewis Miller of Riverside Construction Company in Vicksburg constructed the cross and Carroll Berry, the owner of Berry’s Seafood, financed the project.
Abraham said most of the materials and labor for the massive project were donated or offered at discounted rates. “Any time you get a chance to serve the Lord, you should take the chance,” said Miller, who donated his time for free.
MDOT estimates 28 million cars travel pass this site in a year’s time. “The whole purpose of this project is not only to reach the unsaved, but to remind those that are saved to remember what Christ did for them,” Abraham said.
The official dedication of the cross is scheduled at 11 a.m. April 3 and dignitaries and church leaders will be present for this ceremony. The event is free and open to the public.