Interstate 65 in Alabama follows 366 miles of the beautiful Alabama countryside linking 6 of the state’s largest cities. Many of the state’s landmarks can be viewed as it is traveled. Interstate 65 is memorialized as the Hero’s Highway in honor of CIA officer Johnny Michael Spann who died during the September 11 attacks.
I-65 North at Gardendale First Baptist Church
If you get a chance to travel 65 North near Gardendale, you have probably noticed a large, shining, and beautiful cross towering reverently off the side near the campus of Gardendale’s First Baptist Church. The cross was erected on March 3, 2010. It is another beautiful Alabama landmark to look for.
Sixteen years ago, First Baptist purchased land next to the interstate for the new campus. In discussing the new campus, Dr. Kevin Hamm, Pastor of Gardendale’s First Baptist Church, felt also moved to erect a large cross, to share the love of God with the hundreds of travelers who drive up and down the interstate.
To achieve this vision, Dr. Hamm first contacted the transportation department to see how and if it could be accomplished. Speaking with a supervisor on the phone, he described how he wanted the cross to be displayed, the dimensions, and the purpose behind the giant cross. After explaining his vision, he waited after a long pause before hearing a soft laugh from the other end of the phone. He was surprised to discover the transportation worker had attended the church service when Dr. Hamm shared the idea with his congregation. The cross was approved and ready for placement.
All of the safety measures required by transportation and building inspectors were adhered to, and the cross was erected on March 3, 2010.
The cross is big, but the message is bigger
The cross stands 125 feet tall and is visible day and night. It is easily spotted even in stormy weather. According to transportation regulations, it is 150 feet from the highway. It is encased in 12 ft by 12 ft concrete and bolted with huge steel bolts.
It was designed to be the focal point, recognizable, and seen from even long distances. People not only from Alabama but also travelers passing through our great state have been inspired by the large Cross keeping watch.
Inspirational testimonies via Letters, Email, and Text
Letters, emails, and texts that give testimony to how much the giant cross has inspired and found a way to reach the weariest travelers as they head to their destinations arrive almost daily.
Weddings have been held at the foot of the cross as well as engagements.
One trucker wrote and asked if it would be ok to pull his truck next to the cross to pray. He was told he was welcome.
On her way to UAB for cancer treatments, one woman wrote in moving detail about how seeing the cross on her journey showed her that God was always with her.
Many calls mention that it almost feels as if you are driving into the cross while driving southward. As if the cross draws you towards it.
The letters are just a tiny part of how the large cross envisioned by Dr. Hamm has changed lives. So many people have found the cross to be more than just steel and concrete. It is looked for, talked about, shared on social media, and pointed out to visitors. It has become a landmark and reminder for those traveling on I-65. A bright spot on a dreary day, a hopeful presentation of the gospel that can call to any heart that is willing to listen.
A simple reminder of Jesus’s Love
Originally it was discussed whether an inscription should be carved into the cross. But Dr. Hamm states, “Simple is Better’ and the cross stands unblemished.
This simple cross-standing like a beacon gives each person the opportunity to understand the message and the love behind it. As travelers, this cross is a reminder to us all that we do not travel alone and that there is hope and love for those who pursue the message of the cross.
We at the North Jefferson Post are thankful this is a landmark for our hometown.
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