Free Crosses on Church Street

Published 8:38 am Monday, March 28, 2016

Commentary by Dr. Don Newbury

Odds are, Shrimp Boat Manny’s, on Church Street in Livingston, TX, may be the ultimate oxymoron. Where else, pray tell, can diners scarf down delicious Cajun food whipped up from Southern Louisiana recipes that owners Manny and Nancy Rachal have featured since 1985… then, pick up free crosses on the way out?

The intent is for the sealed cedar crosses–weighing 2.6 pounds each, 42 inches tall and 33 inches across–to be posted in yards or wherever. Painted in white on each cross are the words “JESUS IS LORD.”

They are stacked beside each entry to the restaurant, and in three months, patrons have helped themselves to almost 3,000 signs. Oh, the oxymoron mentioned earlier; how ‘bout “shrimp and salvation?” For those quick to criticize unintended irreverence, perhaps propriety might suggest that patrons find satisfaction for the tummy temporarily and the soul for eternity?

Several years ago, Rev. Vic Bass, then pastor of a non-denominational church in a rural building between Diboll and Lufkin that once housed a honky-tonk, heard of a Nacogdoches man who enjoyed making crosses. Last spring, when he retired as a pastor of Faith Family Church, he took on a cross project himself, expanding it as he could.

In a single year, it has grown beyond all expectations. Between Easters of 2015 and 2016, about 100,000 crosses have been made and distributed. Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous East Texas businessman, two men have been hired full-time, and volunteers have popped up to help out.

So far, it has cost the anonymous underwriter between $10,000 and $12,000 monthly. There is no end in sight. Project leaders say they’ll keep handing out crosses at least until the national election in November. And the generous provider nodded approval.

Dale Foux, manager of Shrimp Boat Manny’s and a bona fide Cajun, is something of a “straw boss” on the distribution end of the project. His pick-up has a sign “free crosses,” and folks take them as they please.

Foux and his followers sometimes leave “free cross” trailers on the side of the road, and David Landrum at “Cool Shades,” a car-tinting/truck accessory place in Cleveland, also stocks them. Gary Vess, Jr., who lives in Livingston and owns a transmission shop in Lufkin, hauls completed crosses from Rev. Bass’ place to Livingston on his way home most days.

Crosses are available, too, at Thomas Mercantile, a souvenir/tea room/sandwich shop on a gravel road near Livingston. Several churches also have partaken. When Bar None Cowboy Church, between Tatum and Henderson, featured historian David Barton and Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson as speakers, they expected to need quite a few crosses. Founder Vic put 900 crosses on a cattle trailer; volunteers unloaded, and all were gone by service’s end. Then, the Bar None folks ordered 500 more for their Easter worship.

Foux has hundreds of Cajun jokes and stories. The Cajun Ten Commandments include: ”Just be one God in heaven, Brought yo’self to church, Don’t be kilt nobody, Don’t yo took nothin’, always told the troot and don’t yo wish for yo neighbor’s pirogue.”

When the subject of crosses comes up, he’s as serious as a funeral. He says NOT ONE patron of the restaurant has spoken critically of the project; in fact, many diners want to help out.

He believes when a 130-ton* project like this gets rolling, the outcome is unpredictable, well beyond our comprehension. (*the weight of the crosses built to date.)

I pray the financier will never grow weary in well doing, and laborers for the cross will grow well beyond few. Workers on the project warrant deepest thanks and congratulations.

These yard signs have great permanence, with deep meaning from now on, long after temporary political signs are uprooted and gone. Whoever said it first got it right: “The ground at the foot of the cross is exceedingly level.“

This project brightens the hope of Easter. It refreshes in a world of turmoil and discord, rife with distrust and disgust. So does the marquee of a Tennessee church: “Duct Tape May Patch a Lot of Things, But Three Nails Fixed It All.” Stand and sing–or sit and hum–The Way of the Cross Leads Home.


Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site: Columns archived at, newbury blog.