BALD KNOB, Ark. – In January, the new administration overturned the Mexico City policy that had been created in 2018 by the previous president. The policy, sometimes dubbed the ‘global gag rule,’ was a U.S. government policy that blocked federal funding “for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that provided abortion counseling or referrals, advocated to decriminalize abortion, or expanded abortion services.”
The news struck at the heart of many. Abortions, already the subject of heated debates by many, could now be legally funded in other countries by our money. For one local youth pastor, this struck the heart and more.
Jamie McAnelly, youth pastor at Central Baptist Church in Bald Knob, talks to his students regularly about issues that are of concern to him. “So, when the policy was struck down, we started doing some research,” McAnelly said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there have been 50+ million abortions worldwide and the number continues to increase. With that in mind, McAnelly thought about what they could do to tangibly present that number to their community. He felt compelled to ask his students, ‘What can we do to let people know how big of a number it is?’
“One of our students, his family owns the lumber yard here in Bald Knob,” McAnelly said. “So I texted him and said ‘How hard would it be to make a little wooden cross?’ And he said, ‘Man that would be easy.’ Well, do you think we could build 5,000 of these? I asked him and he was like, ‘Are you crazy?’”
A little later, the student asked his dad about the crosses. A few days later, the student called McAnelly back and told him they had about half of the wood for the crosses cut out and would get the other half done the next day.
‘Are you kidding me?’ McAnelly said he exclaimed. “So then it was on at that point. We’re doing this.”
A few days later the wood was loaded up and brought to McAnelly. His family finished cutting the wood to the length needed for each cross. Then came the assembling. They took them from McAnelly’s house to the church and spent six hours one Sunday afternoon putting each cross together. Once all of them were assembled, the painting began.
“The painting just went on and on and on,” McAnelly said. “We painted that first day, when we assembled all of them, we painted 612. And that seems like a lot in six hours but that’s nothing when you’re thinking 5,000.”
Each workday that followed they began to chip away at the 5,000 – one day 120 were painted, then the next time 775. Little by little, they painted the crosses. A few of the students began to get weary as weeks dragged on and the crosses still weren’t finished.
“I got such a conviction from God through Hebrews where it says to ‘run the race with endurance.’ and I kept thinking about that, ‘running the race, running the race’,” McAnelly said. “And I told my kids, ‘you know, we’re going to get these crosses done eventually, but that’s not going to be the end of abortion. This is going to be a fight.’”
With some help from men involved in Life and Victory, a drug addiction rehab ministry run by Brett Jones in Bald Knob, the crosses were finally fully completed.
On March 20th, a little over three months since the idea came to mind, McAnelly and 18 of his youth group had a workday where they set up each cross in the churchyard. There were 5,000 crosses put on the grounds – each one represented 10,000 abortions. They represent the 50 million abortions that are done worldwide. Banners were set up at either end of the display to explain what the crosses were for and why.
“After we put up the crosses, I said, ‘okay, we’ve had a good, long hard day’s work. Let’s pray about this, and then what I want you to do is to split up and just stroll through these crosses and reflect because we’ve worked hard and it’s been a long process. Let’s not forget the goal we set out, why we’re doing this, and what each cross stands for.”
The message that McAnelly hopes people see is that although there are only 5,000 crosses set up, there was one person who died for each of those 50 million babies – Jesus Christ.
While the crosses haven’t been set up long, many thank you’s were given as they were setting things up that Saturday and have also been expressed through social media. A note was even left, that Sunday, on the door of the church that read, ‘Thank you church for doing this!’
“While there are many crosses [out there], there is only one cross for many,” McAnelly said.