When Moses was eighty years old, he accepted a rather large project, at the calling of God, and despite some well-noted hesitancy (recounted in the Book of Exodus), Moses submitted to his assigned task and subsequently led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt
Retired Mississippi Department of Corrections parole and probation officer Deryl Saylors was eighty-one, back in 2019, when he heard from God. His revealed task: build a cross, a huge cross, along Mississippi Highway 45 near his Blackland home between Booneville and Baldwyn.
Saylors said he had a conversation with God.
“I basically told [God] he’d kept me until the age of eighty-one, still in good health. If He wanted me to do something that would help, I would do it,” Saylors said. That was in November of 2019.
In August of this year, the project that Saylors would quickly spearhead became clear.
“I saw this picture of a [large, roadside] cross. I showed it to [my wife] Brenda. I just had this feeling [that] maybe we need one here.” Saylors then told Brenda, “In the morning, I’m going to do everything I can to do [this].”
On August 18, on Facebook, Deryl Saylors announced his intentions. Since that day, a non-profit group has formed, and under Saylors’s chairmanship, has begun tax-deductible fundraising for “Building The Cross.”
The cross itself will be 120 feet tall and lighted. Similar crosses exist in Mississippi – in Batesville and Eupora, for example – but none are in the northeast area of the state. The cross bar will be 64 feet wide. Seating areas at the base of the cross are a part of the project as well.
The location of the cross is the southwest intersection of Highway 45 and Prentiss County Road 7000, on land owned by Booneville’s Bill and Marie Spain. The Spains have graciously donated the land to the effort, with Bill, a Building The Cross board member, saying it was “just an honor to be a part of the project.”
The cross will be erected by Mike Rozier Construction – the contractor responsible for other Mississippi crosses – and will cost approximately $150,000 to $160,000. The group is seeking to raise $200,000 to cover the total costs of construction and other peripheral expenses at the property. Rozier, for his part, is donating his own personal time, in design and management, at no cost to the non-profit group.
Saylors has assembled an eleven-member board to administer the work and fundraising, including Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar, Supervisor Matt Murphy, Bill Spain, Allison Worley, Dr. Cliff Cartwright, Lewis Tynes, Billy Williams, Pastor Ricky Bishop, Terry Cartwright and Clark Richey.
Sheriff Tolar expressed sentiments typical of the group. “I appreciate Deryl’s inviting me to be a part. It is something that will be special for everybody that passes up and down this road,” he said.
In the Baldwyn area, Clark Richey, Ricky Bishop and ex-officio board member Eric Nanney will serve as representatives of the non-profit organization.
“I think if we can universally pledge as churches and individuals to build this cross – and that means donations and prayer – we can spread the costs across a large group of people and organizations, without putting a huge burden on anyone. We can establish a permanent, ever-present reminder of Jesus Christ for not only the local residents of our county and area, but for so many thousands of others traveling on Highway 45,” Richey said.
“With 2020 being what it is and has been, I can’t think of anything more important than a reminder of Jesus and of His greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.”
To give immediately to the Building The Cross fund, donors may do so in person at any Farmers & Merchants Bank location, by using PayPal and sending payments directly to firstname.lastname@example.org, or by mailing a donation to “Building The Cross, Farmers & Merchants Bank, P.O. Box 275, Booneville, MS 38829.”
“It took Moses about forty years to get the Israelites to the promised land. Give now! We don’t want to take that long,” Richey joked.