The road to redemption
July 24, 2009
Parkites this week might have seen a man pulling a 12-foot wooden cross through town.
"I’m going from Texas to Washington state," 39-year-old James Strickland said in an interview on the shoulder of eastbound U.S. 40. "I’m James Strickland. I’m a heavy equipment operator."
Strickland said a few months ago his spirits hit rock bottom as he looked for work in Texas. He missed his 4-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter in Aberdeen, Wash., and became depressed.
"About two weeks into my walk, I woke up one morning and I just finally had this peace in me, and I’ve been walking ever since," Strickland said.
A book he was reading about King David inspired him to walk with the cross more than 2,300 miles to see his children.
"I was in a pretty deep pit and the book said, ‘Pick up your cross and carry it daily,’" Strickland said. "And I know that doesn’t mean literally, but the Lord said do it."
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Strickland expects to be on the road for several months.
"It’s been awesome," he said, admitting he didn’t know what to expect when his journey began near Dallas. "I was a little embarrassed at first, but the Lord took that away within 50 yards. Now it’s an honor."
Strickland camped Tuesday near Jordanelle reservoir.
"It’s an awesome view up here man," said Strickland eyeing the lake and mountains.
The cross, which has three wheels at its base, was built from sturdy wooden beams.
"This next set of tires will be my fourth," he explained.
He was so noticeable on U.S. 40 that a Utah Highway Patrol trooper stopped to question Strickland Tuesday afternoon.
"He said, ‘What is this? What are you doing?’" Strickland said.
The trooper sent the cross bearer on his way despite Strickland being wanted in Washington for a felony robbery conviction several years ago.
"He said, ‘God bless you,’" Strickland said.
He isn’t concerned about getting arrested because the authorities won’t extradite him to the Northwest, he said.
"The Lord has changed my life and I am walking back to turn myself in," Strickland said, adding that he has served his sentence.
He said the Highway Patrol handcuffed him Thursday night on Interstate 15 until a trooper verified Strickland wouldn’t be extradited. He was then released.
On Wednesday, Strickland pulled his cross into Park City on Kearns Boulevard.
"I think I saw him over on State Road 224 by the (St. Mary’s) Catholic Church. It looked like he was crossing the highway," Park City Police Department Capt. Phil Kirk said. "I saw this guy with a cross and I thought, what is that all about."
No callers in Park City reported Strickland to police dispatchers, Kirk said.
Meanwhile, reactions from passersby have been mixed since his trek began in May, Strickland said.
"I never thought I would be doing something like this. The statement is pretty extreme and I think that’s what the Lord is calling us to do, is just be bold," he said. "I’ve been laughed at, scorned, ridiculed, but I get joy in all of that."
Still, many have offered support in the form of food, water and places to stay.
"I don’t push anything on anybody. If people want to talk about the Lord, I could go all day," Strickland said.
Strapped to the cross, which can weigh more than 100 pounds, are clothing, a sleeping bag, backpack, tent and water container.
"I think the Lord is looking for extreme Christians right now," Strickland said. "He wants people to be bold for him. Paul talks about being bold for Christ, and that’s what I’m doing."