On a cold January 2015 evening, 13 men of all ages from St. Paul Lutheran Church in Gilman Illinois gathered in a wood shop. They were together to make small wooden prayer crosses. St. Paul does not have a formal men’s ministry so this was an opportunity to spend a few hours together, share stories, and whether they knew it then or not, to bless others through the work of their hands. God was there that evening as they made over 80 crosses of different shapes using a variety of woods. When the evening ended the crosses were spread out over a workbench and the men prayed over the crosses.
The goal was to have Pastor give out the crosses to members who were in the hospital or confined to their homes, but God had other plans. People picked up crosses from a table in the hall. People shared the crosses with their friends who were ill. Some quietly took a cross for themselves. The demand for the crosses was not expected by the men who made them. Within 6 weeks the 80 crosses were gone.
Stories were shared of the impact these crosses had. Some people spoke of keeping them in their purse or in their car. People sitting at the bedside of sick relatives spoke of holding their cross for hours on end. One older member who lives in a nursing home was quiet for a while as he looked at his new cross. He rubbed it and quietly spoke of how nice the wood was. He then looked up with moist eyes and told the Pastor, “I want to tell you, I want this in my casket when I die.” A number of crosses have been placed in caskets of the saints of St. Paul. Families have placed them in the hands of their loved ones as they are nearing death. People in pain have held a tight grasp on their cross as they suffer. One woman told the story, “My cross sits on the table beside my bed. I hold it every day during my prayer time. But more importantly, when I am lonely I hold the cross and know that the men who made this cross are with me. I am surrounded by the people of the congregation.”
Recently the men gathered again, 15 this time, 8 who were new to the project. Stories were told of the impact their work has had on others. That night 105 crosses were made and blessed. We are sure God will use the work of our hands once again.
Submitted by Rev. Pete Hinrich