LAKE WYLIE -- In the shadow of a little hill, by a busy crossroads, stands a cross. The cross stands about a dozen feet tall, simple but sturdy wood, with lights strung along its arms and trunk and top like nerves that bring life to the body.
It is below the hundred-year-old former school that used to be the Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, in front of the gleaming almost-new church building.
Cars whizzed by at noon Friday at this busy intersection of S.C. 49, S.C. 274 and S.C. 557. The flags of York County and South Carolina, framing an even higher American flag, separate the cross from the road.
I walked up to that cross Friday and gulped with joy. Because I had just minutes before talked to the woman whose idea it was to build this cross.
Never miss a local story.
Pat Griffin, that 69-year-old lady, wanted to build it for soldiers who are in Afghanistan. She wants to raise money to send those soldiers goodies. And she and the people of this church called Good Samaritan named it, "Cross of Peace."
More than 110 soldiers of the Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers based at armories in Rock Hill and Fort Mill are in Afghanistan today. They have been gone for more than six months. Not a single one belongs to Good Samaritan United Methodist Church. Pat Griffin doesn't know any of them.
Still, a cross stands today, for them.
"Each soldier is gone, and he might be lonely," Griffin said. "What I know is that if you don't have hope, you don't have anything. What's that old song? 'Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.'"
The pastor at the church, a retired Navy Chief Petty Officer submariner named the Rev. Stephen Gaither, said the church is making no political statement for or against the current wars. The statement this band of people, a little more than 100 of them in the flock, is peace, said Gaither. Peace for self, community, all.
"It is the Cross of Peace because Jesus is the Prince of Peace," said Gaither, this preacher and retired sailor, in one of the best statements I have ever heard from anyone about anything.
Griffin started this money raising and cross raising on a small scale last year, and it grew this year with a cross made and installed by a Sunday school class and volunteers. She called the unit's family group and asked to help somehow. The church membership already collected shoes, clothes, blankets and more for Afghan kids.
Now more stuff needs to go and more money is needed to ship more packages to soldiers and those children. It is that simple, what the Good Samaritans need, who built this Cross of Peace.
This cross is simple. It is beautiful, and it is both for soldiers and for peace. There might not be a more eloquent statement of love for soldiers, and country, and a wish for peace, anywhere than this simple cross of wood and light.
One can love country and soldiers, and at the same time want peace in this world, underneath that simple cross.
Tonight at 7:30, after the "Good Sam Band" plays and an Iraq War veteran with a Bronze Star for valor from this 178th unit named Joe Medlin speaks for a minute -- yes, the same guy who tried to save two people who were shot at the Moss Justice Center parking lot in York six years ago -- this group will walk out into the darkness toward the intersection.
Then a switch will be thrown and a cross will light up. And just maybe, the light of the Cross of Peace will reach York County soldiers in Afghanistan. I'm betting that light makes the night bright, and those soldiers know where it came from.
WANT TO GO?
What: The lighting of Good Samaritan United Methodist Church Cross of Peace for area soldiers in Afghanistan. Free and open to the public
When: Tonight at 7:30
Where: The southeast corner of the intersection of S.C. 557, S.C. 274 and S.C. 49, Lake Wylie
Who: Speaking will be First Sgt. Joe Medlin, Battalion Command Sgt. Major (Acting), Army National Guard 178th Combat Engineers; members of the 178th Family Readiness Group
All donations go to mailing costs for care packages. Donations will be accepted at the church, by mail at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church, Soldier and Family Holiday Fund, P.O. Box 5082, Lake Wylie, S.C. 29710; or call (803) 831-8557.
On the Web: www.good samaritanumc.org