JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (BP)–To say that he carries his cross is an understatement. The fact is he dangles several small, wooden crosses over his walker, distributing them — along with a hearty smile and the Good News — to all who are fortunate enough to cross paths with him.
Woodrow Connors, 92, a deacon at North Jacksonville Baptist Church for 40 years, has made more than 20,000 of these reminders of Christ to give away. He said people tend to be astonished that their gift, often accompanied by a Gospel tract, comes without a price.
“The Gospel is free,” he told the Florida Baptist Witness. “Jesus didn’t charge anything. How can I?”
The crosses open doors for ministry, with Connors noting, “Wherever I go, I carry a sack.”
In a visit to a children’s hospital once, kids and parents draped them on their beds; Connors also is fond of leaving crosses at restaurants and hotels.
He was introduced to the idea of making crosses by the late Dan Crawford, a member of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Jacksonville, during a meeting of the “Jax Woodworkers Club.” Connors, a founding member of the club, had invited Crawford to be part of the group and later drew the blueprint for his idea.
Years of friendship and cross making ensued.
A batch of 300 crosses initially was assembled and then distributed by a retreat group in Jerusalem. Before losing a battle with leukemia, Crawford left 6,000 to 7,000 crosses to the world.
Connors subsequently had to quit making the crosses when he sold his home with its woodshop. Fellow members of his church and others have now chipped in to manufacture the crosses assembly-line style to ensure Connor and Crawford’s vision lives on.
The church has given several thousand crosses to Franklin Graham, who has used them in evangelistic efforts in Asia. Longtime deacon Wesley Moseley, who is affiliated with Amazing Grace Ministries, sends crosses, literature and clothes oversees to India, South America, the Philippines and other far-away destinations, while Karl Russell, a member of Jacksonville’s Southside Assembly of God, has taken crosses to the Ukraine and Romania.
Before he meets Jesus, Connors said he intends to see other cross-making hubs started at churches around the country to carry on the mission.
Building bridges to other cultures is another goal for Connors, who envisions churches of all cultures and ethnicities sponsoring woodworking clubs.
Commemorating Connors’ memories is a scrapbook of thank you letters, family photos, and pictures of his woodworkings.
Besides replica crosses, his creations include toolboxes, stools, coffee tables, and clocks. Building has been in his family for three generations.
“I love to make things,” said Connors, a retired contractor who built church buildings across the country with his brother.
Connors said he accepted Christ when he was 12 years old at the former Woodstock Park Baptist Church in Jacksonville. The same preacher who baptized him, married him to his wife, Miriam, over a decade later. They have been married 68 years and have two sons and a daughter.
Doug Waters recently completed an internship with the Florida Baptist Witness, online at www.floridabaptistwitness.com. For a copy of the cross blueprint, send a large, self-addressed, stamped envelope to Woodrow D. Connors, 2020 Park St., Apt. 1008, Jacksonville, FL 32204. For information on procuring the crosses, contact North Jacksonville Baptist Church at (904) 757-3000.