After getting past an IRS investigation, pornography scandal, and attacks in various forms, a Texas-based group was finally able to raise its 77-foot cross alongside Interstate 10 in Kerrville, Texas last week.
Max Greiner, Jr., the founder of Texas-based The Coming King Foundation (TCKF), said the nine-year journey to build the multi-million-dollar Sculpture Prayer Garden, where The Empty Cross is located, was fraught with obstacles. But the group persevered and finally saw the giant cross raised.
"We believe this garden will be used by God to reach the unchurched. The people that just go down the highway and the byways will see this cross and the other sculptures and will be drawn in by the Holy Spirit to a quality, family art exhibit and garden and in the process see the gospel ," said Greiner to The Christian Post on Thursday.
The idea for the prayer garden was conceived in 2001 after a preacher prophesized that Greiner and his wife would "restore the tabernacle." Greiner said he did not take the prophecy seriously, but eight months later a stranger from Texas emailed him a detailed description of the prayer garden, including the 77-foot cross on Interstate 10. Greiner, a respected artist known for his Christian religious sculptures, then prayed and received the same vision of the prayer garden.
After a local newspaper publicized his vision in 2005, atheists and other opponents began to attack the idea of the giant cross and the project as a whole.
Greiner said atheists united and filed false charges to the IRS; sent the group pornography; bought products in the ministry's name and sent it to the group; and made up false news releases and sent them to media agencies.
"It has been a battle," said Greiner, whose group also faced a lawsuit by area residents in 2008. The lawsuit, which claimed that the cross would invade the privacy of the residents, cost the ministry $200,000 in legal fees and delayed the project for 15 months.
Greiner said even last week after the cross was raised there was opposition.
Greiner's wife blew the shofar – a horn used for Jewish religious purposes – while standing in the seven-story cross last week. Shortly afterwards, a contractor truck that left the garden and was going down the hill was hit by a rock that Greiner believes was thrown by an angry resident.
"There are a bunch of people who are very happy about this cross going up in the community, and there are some that are very angry that this symbol of Christianity is being put on a hill right above Interstate 10," Greiner said.
Now, however, the 77-foot cross is up and work on the 23-acre prayer garden is finished.
Once finished, the prayer garden will contain a path made of 77 16-inch tiles with gospel messages on them that will lead visitors to the $2-million cross. The scripture verses from the gospel will be in three different languages – English, Spanish, and German. These languages were chosen because of the large population that speaks them in the area.
Once inside the hollow cross, visitors are invited to read the sinner's prayer inside its walls and can "literally receive Christ at the foot of the cross," Greiner remarked.
Prominent supporters of the Sculpture Prayer Garden include Mike Huckabee; Dr. James Dobson; Franklin Graham; Pat Robertson; Rick Warren; and the late Drs. Bill Bright and Oral Roberts.
Presently, the garden is still far from being completed. But Greiner said he felt that God wanted him to raise the cross before finishing the park so he stopped construction and put all the funds into getting the cross up.
Greiner envisions the free park to be a fun family-experience that will feature picnic areas, walking and biking trails, a garden and waterfall. The group still needs another $2.2 million to complete the garden.
TCKF plans to build similar Christian prayer gardens across the United States. The one in Kerrville is the first. The next garden is to be built outside of Minneapolis along Interstate 35.