WINTERSVILLE - They call Mike Smith the "cross guy," but he's anything but angry.
In fact, the distribution coordinator for the "Jesus Is Risen" cross campaign launched by the Weirton Ministerial Association in 2011 is delighted the effort has expanded this Lenten season into Wintersville neighborhoods.
On Saturdays during Lent, volunteers have been going door-to-door in targeted areas of the village with residents asked if they'd like one of the 2-foot plastic crosses that are blank on one side, but bearing the "Jesus Is Risen" message on the other.
EFFORT EXPANDS — Mike Smith of Weirton Covenant Church is the distribution coordinator for the “Jesus Is Risen” cross campaign launched by the Weirton Ministerial Association in 2011. This year the effort has expanded into Wintersville neighborhoods on Saturdays during Lent and will continue tomorrow from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. as volunteers go door-to-door in the Wintersville area from Crossroad Christian Church, 110 Springdale Ave., to the Bantam Ridge Road area. -- Janice Kiaski
The outreach continues from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday as volunteers concentrate on an area that extends from Crossroads Christian Church at 110 Springdale Ave. to the Bantam Ridge Road area, according to Smith, an elder at Weirton Covenant Church.
"The cross project was birthed during the Easter season of 2011 by Pastor James Foglio of Weirton Covenant Church and president of the Weirton Ministerial Association. The concept is simple but effective - to place a 2-foot cross with the words 'Jesus Is Risen' on it in as many yards as possible," said Smith.
"The crosses have been made available to the public now every year since," Smith said. "The first year, we saw 3,800 wooden lath crosses distributed. Now, with a lot of help and three citywide distribution efforts, more than 16,000 crosses have been distributed," he said of the crosses that are now plastic with black lettering.
Volunteers conducted citywide distributions in Weirton and then last year in Steubenville. This year, attention turns to Wintersville.
"Through the assistance of various pastors and their churches, through the efforts from the Weirton Ministerial Association and the Valley Pastors Network, we been able to join together with groups of people on the six Saturdays during Lent and go door-to-door making crosses available to whoever wishes to participate in the project," Smith said.
Volunteers will assemble Saturday at 10 a.m. at Word of Life Church, 565 Lovers Lane, Steubenville, before making their final push in Wintersville. Anyone who'd like to help is welcome to do so, Smith said.
Those receiving the crosses are instructed to place the cross in their yard on Good Friday with the white side showing, then flip it to the "Jesus Is Risen" side on Easter morning on their way to church, Smith explained.
The crosses are free but suggested $5 donations are accepted, according to Smith, who said $1 from each donation made for a cross goes to charity. For the Wintersville distribution, the charity is Urban Mission Ministries. On the Weirton side, it benefits an international mission called Causelife, "a movement of people dedicated to providing the most essential need to human life - water," according to promotional literature. "By raising awareness and implementing solutions, Causelife provides clean, safe water that changes lives and transforms communities."
Beyond the distribution, anyone interested in obtaining a cross can contact Smith at (304) 748-4422. Any donations are welcomed at P.O. Box 128 Weirton WV, 26062, with checks made payable to the Weirton Ministerial Association.
Smith said any Christian group or church interested in hosting a distribution can contact him in planning for next year's outreach. He also said he is available year-round to speak to churches and organizations about the cross campaign.
In addition to the cross distribution, the second-annual Easter Cross/Cause Life Walkathon will be held from 9 a.m. to noon April 19 at the Greater Weirton Event Center with all proceeds benefiting Causelife's efforts to provide clean water wells in countries around the world needing humanitarian aid.
"The walk is a 2-mile walk through downtown Weirton," Smith said, noting the individual who raises the most money will win a Sherwood DVR home entertainment system.
"The cross project concludes with an annual community sunrise service held at the Serbian-American Cultural Center located at 1000 Colliers Way in Weirton," Smith said. The service is from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. "All are invited to participate together in celebrating 'Jesus Is Risen,'" he said.
(Kiaski can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)