Roger Gates has a cross to bear, literally.
The 71-year-old from Braggs, Okla., is in the midst of his second walk across America.
Gates needed over a year to walk from the North Carolina coast to California 39 years ago. Now he figures this trek with a 60-pound cross will take a little longer since he’s been joined by Father Time.
“This isn’t about me,” said Gates. “It’s about the Lord and what he wants for his people in the future. He wants us, today, to stay busy in his work and not to worry about what’s going on. He’s the one that’s in control -- not us. We think we are, but he’s the one in control.”
Gates made the large, white cross he now carries with him every step, every mile.
“I’ve averaged about 30 miles a day,” said Gates, as he entered Warren County on Thursday afternoon on Highway 30. “I’ll get to Highway 70 and continue west. I’ll be stopping in McMinnville for the night before continuing on.”
He always knew the day would come for a second walk across America. He wasn’t sure of the date, but he said he knew it would arrive.
“God told me when I finished that first walk that I had another one to do,” Gates said. “I’ve been waiting and I thought I had gotten too old. Maybe he passed it on to a younger person. About 10 months ago, the Lord said it was time and I knew what He was talking about. I started building the cross and preparing for the walk.”
Gates served in Vietnam and he dealt with drug abuse and addiction upon returning to the U.S. He’s served time in jail, but has now found another calling.
“The Lord told me to open up and share my relationship with God to help others,” said Gates. “I’m doing this for the future generations. We need to get behind what God is trying to do. I knew I needed help. I was spiritually sick. I had walked away. I placed my life back in God’s hands and told Him to do with me as He wished.”
Gates carries a sleeping bag and a small tent in the event he can’t find a place to sleep. They are attached to the bottom of his cross just above the wheels.
Bad weather held Gates up on several occasions, but delays often lead to unexpected friendships. A woman Gates met on the road offered him a ride to the nearest hotel, spawning a friendship and an offer to create the Facebook page “Ministry of Truth,” chronicling his journey. If he received enough financial support, Gates said he’d like to open a multi-faceted facility in Oklahoma that provides for families in need.
Gates will be spending the night in McMinnville before continuing west. He anticipates arriving in San Bernadino, Calif., sometime in 2021.