Pastor walks cross across Texas for more than two years as part of ministry

ABOVE: Carrying the symbolic cross of Christ, Hope struggles to balance the cross that he can only carry about 100 yards before stopping for a few seconds of rest.
  • STEPHEN HOPE'S JOURNEY HIGHLIGHTSMay 2008 - Cross built at Cole Park in Corpus Christi.

    May 2008 - Walk begins on Westheimer Street in Houston.

    December 2008 - Completed 500 miles.

    January 2009 - Walking the Cross starting six miles south ...

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  • STEPHEN HOPE'S JOURNEY HIGHLIGHTSMay 2008 - Cross built at Cole Park in Corpus Christi.

    May 2008 - Walk begins on Westheimer Street in Houston.

    December 2008 - Completed 500 miles.

    January 2009 - Walking the Cross starting six miles south of Victoria on U.S. Highway 77.

    December 2010 - Completed 1,230 miles.

    More information can be found at www.walkingthecross.com.

Stephen Hope gives literal meaning to the Bible verse, "Take up your cross and follow me." For about two-and-a-half years, the evangelical Christian has been trekking through Texas with a 60-pound wooden cross on his back, and a mission to spread the gospel of Jesus.

"This is a visual form of the gospel about the death and resurrection of the Jesus," Hope, a native of Corpus Christi, said. "It's the most important message there is."

When semi-trucks drove and honked loudly at Hope as he walked the large cross along U.S. Highway 59 Tuesday, he politely raised one arm in the air and waved.

Every day, Hope said he'll talk to about 20 people, who will inquire about the cross, or approach him for prayer requests and God talk.

"A trucker stopped the other day and ran back to me. He took the cross from my arms, and gave me a water. He asked if he could carry the cross for a while," Hope said. "He told me he missed his family, and I began to minister to him and pray for him right there. He broke down in tears, and we just held each other on the side of the road."

Hope's mission to spread the message of Jesus through visual evangelizing was received through a prophetic word, he said.

That word essentially told him he needed build a large cross and walk it across Texas. Soon after, Hope conceptualized his ministry, "W.H.A.T.? Walking Hope Across Texas."

"I started in Houston about two-and-one-half years ago, and I've probably covered about 1,230 miles by now," he said.

After landing in Brownsville in 2008, Hope said God directed him to begin walking the Chisholm Trail, which begins in Hope Park near the Rio Grande River. And because Hope shared a name with the trail's starting point, he knew he was on the right track.

At the start of each day, Hope drives his truck a few miles farther down the trail, then gets out of his car and walks about six miles. Inevitably, at the end of the day, he'll hitchhike back to his truck, where he'll sleep and prepare for days following.

Other than his truck payment, car insurance, gas fees and miscellaneous expenses, Hope is a resident of the Texas highways.

"Sometimes people give donations, but otherwise, this is my job," Hope said. "But I never worry about any of that. All my needs are met."

And because people will often leave supplies and food for him during his travels, Hope said he never goes hungry.

"People bring me water as I travel, and food. I can't complain," Hope said. "Sometimes I have too many people giving me supplies, and I have to tell them I can't accept it."

Hope confessed he wasn't always a believer in Christ. He found religion in 1999, and lived life as a "carnal Christian" until 2002. In his former life, Hope was a drinker and someone who occasionally dabbled in drugs. But in 2002, Hope said the Lord finally showed him how to submit to His will, guiding him to the people who would eventually prophesy the message of the cross.

"When God saved me, I knew it was Him, and I knew I needed to follow Jesus," he said. "When you submit to Jesus, your transformation should continue to get better and better."

In the following year, Hope entered ministry full time, eventually becoming an ordained pastor.

When asked how long he will continue to follow Jesus with a cross on his back, Hope responded, "until the Lord tells me to stop."

"What this is teaching me is there are a lot of hurting people out there, and not a lot of people they trust to tell their failures to," he said. "I want to reach those people."