They walked more than 24 miles along the roads of Surry County on Easter weekend, through the cold, the wind, and yesterday’s warm weather with the sun beating down on their skin, bearing symbolic eight-foot crosses.
The group walked to multiple schools in the county during the three-day prayer walk, stopping to pray at each location. Larry Stover, Fountain of Life’s youth pastor, organized the non-denominational Via Dolorosa prayer walk, which he said “commemorated the path that Christ took to Calvary.”
Via Dolorosa is Latin for “way of suffering” and is said to represent the path in Jerusalem that Jesus walked and carried his cross to the crucifixion.
“We are bearing crosses for Christ’s love. I am very passionate about this and it is for the community, no matter what your denomination is. Everyone is unified in the body of Christ.”
Stover said the group only had one negative reaction during the entire walk, and most people who drove by were giving them “thumbs up,” smiling, and waving.
Yesterday, the participants walked in Elkin and Dobson in the morning, met at Fountain of Life Church in Mount Airy for lunch, then travelled by bus to Mount Airy Middle School, where they prayed and walked from the middle school to Millennium Charter Academy, Mount Airy High School, and on to North Surry High School, where they ended their day in prayer.
As many as 32 walkers at one time participated during yesterday’s leg, which was the highest number for the entire event. Members of Fountain of Life Church in Mount Airy, the Lion’s Den in Mount Airy, and New Covenant Church in Elkin took part in the walk.
East Surry High School junior Anna Hendrix said the group took a “major stand for Jesus” by “showing the world” their Christian faith.
“Just walking with a cross is barely the tip of the iceberg when you think about what Jesus went through. We may have tired feet, sore muscles and sunburns, but that is nothing compared with what Jesus experienced. This is a major thing and it is symbolic to me of the sacrifices Jesus made for us,” said Hendrix, who walked and carried a cross for the entire 24-mile journey.
Patsy Robertson is a member of The Lion’s Den, a Christian coffeehouse and gathering spot located on West Pine Street in Mount Airy. She said this was her first time participating in a prayer walk, and she was the oldest member of the group.
“It meant everything to me. It is sad to know what Jesus went through, which was so much more than what we went through while we walked. We had a good time. People were waving, blowing their horns, and one lady even took both of her hands off her steering wheel she was so excited about waving at us.”
Robertson said she felt sad that “Jesus and God have been taken out of schools” and was touched by the prayers they “sent up” at each school on their journey.
Randy Williams, pastor of Fountain of Life Church, said the walk, for him personally, is a way to publicly show his faith. He said he feels lucky to “live in an area where you can profess your faith.”
“It’s not about one church or even about religion. Christianity is not about our differences — it’s about joining together and seeing what we have in common,” said Williams.
“We all may have different styles of worship, but if we come together in the body of Christ, we can achieve so much. We are praying for our schools — students, staff, teachers, and the entire school systems.”
Isabella Hamilton, a 13-year-old Mount Airy Middle School student, said the walk “shows young people that our generation is rising up for the Lord,” which she said was inspired by something Anna Hendrix told the Fountain of Life youth group.
“Anna told us that many people are stepping up from our generation — we are showing that we aren’t afraid to speak out and say we love God.”
Anna Hendrix backed up Hamilton’s sentiments and said she told the youth group that it “feels like the younger generations are rising up and leading their peers back to Jesus” and said she is not embarrassed to show her Christian faith.
“It really felt great to pray for my school [East Surry High School]. I know what the students and teachers go through and have to face each day. Praying in front of the schools was a lot more powerful than when we pray before bed, it really meant a lot to us,” said Hendrix, eyes bright and a huge smile on her face as she spoke about her faith and her plans for the future. She said she hoped to attend a Christian college and major in music with a minor in church music.
Hendrix said that her faith is a part of her entire life: she helps with the music played during Wednesday night’s youth group at Fountain of Life and performing as a lead singer in a Christian band called Not Shaken. She is the daughter of youth pastor Larry Stover.
At the end of the prayer in front of Mount Airy Middle School, Pastor Williams said that he “hopes everyone will take up the cross daily” even though they are not carrying a literal cross in their daily lives.
“Just because you don’t physically have a cross you shouldn’t stop professing your faith. God is the answer.”
Friday, the groups prayed at Pilot Mountain Middle School and East Surry High School, walking to the middle school from Fountain of Life in Mount Airy.
This morning, the groups will gather one mile from each church to carry the crosses into worship service. Fountain of Life has a special Easter service planned for 10 a.m. which will begin with the crosses carried into the sanctuary.
Stover said he hopes more churches will sign up to participate in next year’s walk on Easter weekend. For more information about the walk or to sign up to participate next year, contact Larry Stover at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 336-909-5466.
Contact Jessica Johnson at email@example.com or 719-1933.