YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A popular spiritual event in downtown Youngstown began with an emotional scene Friday morning.
They arrived one group at a time, symbolically carrying crosses like those from the crucifixion from all four sides of Youngstown to the Covelli Centre. At the site will be Saturday’s annual Men’s Rally in the Valley, which is expected to bring as many as 5,000 to 6,000 men to the area.
Each group lifted their cross and propped it against an outside wall. Cheers welcomed the last group, carrying the largest of the four crosses.
The last group included staff and students of the Ohio Valley Teen Challenge, a faith-based addiction recovery program in Youngstown. Its program director is a former addict himself.
“My life was in shambles, a complete wreck,” he said. “I cried out, went to the Ohio Valley Teen Challenge. God heard by prayers, and through the prayers of friends, families and loved ones, I was able to rebuild my life.”
Teen Challenge offers a 12-month program helping students overcome both their addictions and what may have led to their dependence on drugs.
“A lot of these men have come from broken homes, through addiction, prison, legal systems. They’ve had secular rehab. They’ve tried everything to get help and rebuild their lives, and they come to use just broken vessels,” said Squibbs.
As the last of the crosses was set in place during Friday’s event, it was time for pictures and a final prayer circle. Leaders reminded all of those involved that none of them were perfect.
The idea for this cross walking began five years ago when volunteers carried a simple two-by-four cross.
Then, the first and largest of these carved crosses was made and carried 18 miles from a church in Hermitage to Youngstown. According to scholars of the Bible, the walk between the biblical cities of Jericho and Jerusalem was the same distance.
Men’s Rally in the Valley Organizer Skip Siefert said after the first event finished in 2010, they knew that they needed to expand.
“This has been a good rally, but it won’t be a great rally until we go back home and as men, make changes in our personal lives, our communities, our neighborhoods and so and so forth, so a few of us decided, ‘Well, let’s walk the walk,'” he said. “Let’s walk to it next year and raise awareness of it.”
Groups from the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley and the Valley Christian School also participated in Friday’s carrying of the crosses.
Saturday, the day-long event includes keynote speaker and former Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz. The free event will be from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, go to www.mensrally.org.