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Man takes up his cross and follows Jesus cross-country


Chris Knight/The Patriot-News

Chuck Johnson crosses Route 422 with his cross on his way to a motel in North Londonderry Township, Pa., where he planned to spend the night before continuing his cross-country walk. Johnson’s walk – begun on March 1, 2000 – has taken him to all 48 contiguous states.

PALMYRA, Pa. — “Cross Carrier Chuck” was last seen making his way across central Pennsylvania on his seven-year trek across the country, carrying a 10-foot cross and surviving on the kindness of strangers while spreading the good word.

After a stop at Laudermilch’s Meats outside Annville, where shoppers bought lunch for Chuck Johnson, 45, and gave him about $40 in donations, Johnson headed west to the 40 Winks Motel, where he booked a $30 room and walked to Wal-Mart to buy soda.


‘Lit up’ by the Lord

“How long this journey will be, only the Lord will know,” said Johnson, who said he plans to write a book about his trek called I Carry the Cross, God Does All the Work.

“I can’t put a day on it,” he said, adding that he won’t just quit. “Do you want the Lord to quit you?”

Originally from Anaheim, Calif., he said he started his journey March 1, 2000, “carrying the cross to remind people they need Jesus in their life.”

He started carrying the cross on weekends in 1987 while working for the railroad, after being born again and “lit up” by the Lord, he said.

His original 86-pound oak cross has been replaced by a 12-pound version made of PVC fencing that has two wheels at the bottom.

“I am a messenger” proclaims his yellow T-shirt that someone gave him recently. He’s worn out thousands of socks and a lot of boots.

Johnson said he wasn’t worried that someone would steal his cross, which he left outside the store. “If they do, I would build a new one,” he said.

Once someone took his backpack, which included a thick booklet of press clippings he accumulated, he said. He’s also been heckled and given the finger by passersby.

“But most times, it’s not that way. A lot of people love Jesus. They’re happy I’m out there carrying the cross,” he said.

Veronica Palkovic of Fredericksburg, Pa., one of the customers who met Johnson at Laudermilch’s Meats, said Johnson seemed sincere. “We just knew it, just talking to him,” said Palkovic, who treated him to lunch.

If Johnson doesn’t get a free place to stay or have money for a room, he sleeps outside. During the winter he heads south.

Asked why he’s chosen to do this rather than get a job, Johnson said, “This is a job – you carry that cross 15 to 20 miles a day.

“I never ask anyone for anything. They have to be willing to help,” he said.

He doesn’t always walk and accepts rides when offered. “That cross has been tied to every vehicle known to mankind. It’s even been on the back of a Harley-Davidson,” he said.

“I try to find a route that has towns within 10 to 15 miles of each other,” he said.

“The Bible says, ‘Pick up the cross and follow me.’ I’m taking it literally.”

Barbara Miller writes for The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa.>