By foot, it is an 18-mile trek from Augusta National Golf Club to North Augusta’s Cornerstone Community Church.
Yes, it’s far. “But it’s probably not as tiring as Jesus went through,” said Shelby Calliham, 16, of Edgefield, S.C.
She’s one of about 15 youths who set out from the intersection of Washington Road and Alexander Drive on Good Friday. They walked past the golf course, through crowds of Masters patrons, carrying a 10-foot cross. If all goes according to plan, they’ll arrive at their church on Edgefield Road just in time for today’s 8 a.m. sunrise service.
With every mile, the group is raising money for Speed the Light, an Assemblies of God ministry that equips missionaries with transportation and communications tools for evangelism in more than 180 countries.
“We want to remind people what Easter is about,” said Seth DuVal, the church’s youth pastor. “We’re not here to throw the Bible down people’s throats but, you know, Easter really isn’t about the Easter eggs and bunnies.”
The group’s members range in age from 11 to 23. Most are from North Augusta, Aiken or Edgefield.
“Especially being kids, it catches people’s attention,” DuVal said. “They stop and notice us.”
When Calliham first told her parents she wanted to participate they said, “You’re going to walk all that? You won’t even clean up your room. It’s 18 miles!” she said with a laugh.
The group walked east along Washington Road to Lake Olmstead, Broad Street and the 13th Street bridge before ending Friday’s walk at Kmart on Martintown Road. They stayed the night at a church member’s house, and were dropped off at the same place to resume their trek Saturday. They traveled up U.S. Highway 25 for another seven miles, stopping two miles short of the church, where they planned to return early this morning for a final trek.
This Easter is the second time the church’s youths have participated in a cross walk. Last year, the group made a 20-mile trek from the Augusta Mall to their church. They stopped at gas stations when they needed bathrooms, water or rest, and talked and prayed together for hours, DuVal said.
“A lot of them are doing it again this year,” he said. “They love it.”
On Friday, while passing Augusta National, drivers often stared at the group clad in matching purple T-shirts. Only a few honked or clapped. The youths would occasionally shout, “God bless!” or, “Jesus loves you!” and every now and then, a driver or pedestrian would return the sentiment.
Several of the youths took turns carrying the tall, thin wooden cross. It’s the same cross that stands in the youth room of the church during the week, and the one the church takes to Mexico for mission trip revivals.
“It’s not heavy at first, but it will be,” DuVal cautioned.
Even when they tired, the group pressed on, just as Calliham hoped.
“Maybe somebody is having a bad day, and they see the cross and it reminds them of what Jesus has done,” she said. “They’ll see the cross and know it’s Easter.”