Driving from Mt. Pleasant to Iowa City, have you ever noticed the three crosses on the east side of Highway 218? They’re hard to miss. The crosses are located one mile north of the Highland School turnoff, at mile marker 76. Hwy 218 is the Avenue of the Saints, you know. I usually make the sign of the cross when I see these crosses (although I’m not Catholic), a little reminder to drive safely and be grateful for all my blessings.
About a year ago, the crosses disappeared—I presumed a victim of vandalism—someone not appreciating the symbolism of the crosses. And I sorely missed them—my journey to Iowa City, or perhaps Cedar Rapids or Waterloo, lacked the boost of spirituality. Then, this spring, the crosses reappeared. Overjoyed at the return of my old friends, I crossed myself again, and made up my mind that I would search out the story behind the crosses.
I located the people who erected these crosses—they also own the land the crosses are located on, a bucolic, pastoral setting, complete with a pond. They are wonderful people, full of compassion and desire to be of service to their fellow man. However, I’m going to leave their names out of this story, not because of confidentiality, but because they insist that the story is not about them. The story is a witness for those who encounter the crosses, their reaction to it, and spreading the story of the Resurrection.
The crosses have been there off and on since 1996. They were originally erected for Easter, then taken down. The next year they were put up for Lent. Since the holes were already in the ground, it was an easier procedure. The next year, the crosses were going to be left up through Pentecost. But one thing after another prevented the people from taking the crosses down. There was bad weather and other things going on. So they just decide to leave the crosses up.
And they are glad they did. There has been no end to the reaction and comments they have received about the crosses. One passerby asked why there were three crosses, which was an opportunity to relate the story as found in Luke 23. Another person asked why wasn’t Jesus displayed on the middle cross? Another person related that he had heard the voice of God while passing by.
Many people travel Highway 218 on their way to the University of Iowa Hospital or Mercy Hospital in Iowa City, either as patients or to visit a patient. The crosses are an opportunity to pray for healing.
A mother, whose daughter had cancer, and traveled by many times on the way to Iowa City for treatment and surgery, pleaded with the people to leave the crosses up. They were such an inspiration for her daughter who was so ill.
Ironically, or maybe not so ironically, while one of the erectors of the crosses was in the hospital having knee surgery, the middle cross fell down. Then the other two followed suit. (It wasn’t vandalism after all.) The people were just going to leave the crosses down. However, so many people asked about the crosses, and expressed the desire that the crosses should be there, they put the trio back up for all to see and be inspired by.
As I was lying in the due-soaked grass at sunrise, taking pictures of the crosses, the 23rd Psalm came to me. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures” (I was definitely doing that). “He leadeth me beside the still waters” (my feet were nearly in the pond). Amazing.
What is your reaction to the crosses? What is your testimony?