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Faith: Cross walk across America sign of hope, peace

 


Religion columnist

“Leave the comforts of ‘sofa happiness,’ and, with Jesus’s help, put on some ‘walking shoes’ and make a mark on history.”

These were the words that Pope Francis told more than a million and a half youth during last weekend’s World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.

There are good things happening in this world if you take time to leave your comfort zone, as Pope Francis suggests. Good things are happening on the other side of the world, and sometimes in our own towns.

I recently met a humble yet determined man, Mitch Manning, who is on a mission. He is carrying a 12-foot cross as he walks across America from the East Coast to the West Coast. The 27-year-old recent college graduate began his journey in Carthage, Tennessee, last October, and will end it in San Diego, California, hopefully in November. When I visited with Manning as he passed through Hobbs, he had already been through six states and worn through many pairs of tennis shoes and through 13 pairs of tires. His wooden cross has tires at the end of it so he can tilt the cross, and roll it as he rests the heavier part of the cross on his shoulders. On the end of the cross with the wheels, Manning ties his tent and other belongings.

“I wanted to do something to tell people about Jesus, but I am not good at talking to people, and so I thought I would do this, and this could be an example,” said Manning, who walks an average of 15 miles a day, sometimes camping out in open fields, or accepting the hospitality of strangers who pay for occasional hotel rooms for him.

“When I am walking, it’s not like ‘Look at me, look what I’m doing for the Lord!’ It’s more like, ‘Look what the Lord did for us!’” Manning said.

It has not been an easy trek for Manning. He has weathered many elements, walked through swamps, and, when he was walking through Seminole, Texas, last month, his wooden cross was stolen when he left it at a park. Thanks to a good samaritan cabinet maker, Manning soon had a new handmade cross.

I had the opportunity to visit with Manning when my friend, Jesse Rodriguez, invited Manning over to his brother Bobby’s house, where their family was gathered for a barbecue in Hobbs.

Manning had a calling eight years ago to walk with a cross from coast to coast. He graduated from college last year but decided to take a year off to embark on his “Cross Walk America,” as his Facebook page reads.

“Jesus said ‘take up your cross and follow me,’ so that is a verse I think of as I walk,” Manning said.

When I talked to Mitch earlier this week via Facebook, he was near Mayfield by Las Cruces.

Helena Rodriguez is a freelance writer, a former journalist and a high school English teacher. Contact her at [email protected]

 
 

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