By Mike Haynes | Published The Upbeat Reporter Summer 2023
Despite the white wind turbines that dot the prairie around Groom, it’s hard to miss the dominant sight on an Interstate 40 drive across the Texas Panhandle.
A 190-foot white metal cross rises from the farmland half a mile from the town of 550 people, just south of I-40. At night, lights keep it visible for miles as motorists travel east from Amarillo or west from Oklahoma.
Photo by Mountain Sands Photos
It’s the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ, a Texas icon since its construction in 1995, and an estimated 10 million people pass by it every year. Many take exit 112 and stop to shoot photos, pray or stand at its base to wonder at its size. What some I-40 drivers don’t realize is that the cross is surrounded by much more spiritual inspiration – and sometimes even support for travelers who need encouragement.
“We just hope they all find peace here and that they come to know the Lord,”
said Bobby Thomas, wife of the cross’s builder, civil engineer Steve Thomas.
Steve and Bobby both are graduates of White Deer High School, 20 miles north, and have attended St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Church in nearby Pampa for decades. The cross, grounds and visitor center are not affiliated with any church, however, and operate as a nonprofit organization, the Cross of Our Lord Jesus Christ Ministries.
Lots of people have said they’ll travel up and down the road many times, and they thought it was just the cross,” Bobby said. “And for a long time before we had the visitor center, they could see those sculptures, but they thought it was people working!”
The Thomases live much of each year in Florida, where one of their children, Zach Thomas, starred for the NFL’s Miami Dolphins after an All-America career at Texas Tech. Zach will be inducted Aug. 5 into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. But Bobby and Steve also spend much time near Pampa and at the cross site. Steve is zealous about planting trees, and both get their hands dirty. “We do a lot of maintenance,” Bobby said. “We do pressure-cleaning and planting and fertilizing and mowing – just taking care of the grounds.”
This year, Bobby slept at the cross the night before Easter to get up early and prepare for visitors who would enjoy refreshments and a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. When not on site, she orders merchandise for the gift shop.
“Everything we sell here sends some sort of spiritual goodness or scriptural message,” Bobby said. “When people buy something, we want it to keep them inspired and close to the Lord.”
The grounds are open 24/7 all year, while visitors are asked to call 806-248-9006 for gift shop and visitor center hours. The visitor center is available for weddings and other events, and youth groups spend the night in their sleeping bags on their way to Colorado or other destinations.
Co-creator of Cross Ministries
Besides serving as a quick reminder of Christ as people speed by on the interstate, the site includes:
Life-size bronze sculptures showing the traditional Stations of the Cross, the Last Supper and St. Michael
Calvary, an empty tomb with the stone rolled away and a white angel standing above it
A replica of the Shroud of Turin and a video about the Shroud
A Memorial for the Innocent Unborn
The Ten Commandments
A visitor center with a fountain and a Christ sculpture; a state-of-the-art theater; a reception room; an office and counseling suite; and a spacious gift shop.