BRANSON, Mo. -- You could think of it as The Ozarks' version of the St. Louis Arch or the Golden Gate Bridge: a monumental, God-inspired undertaking that its planner thinks could draw millions of people from around the world.
"This actually started as a vision that my dad had about 15 to 20 years ago," said Kerry Brown, the man behind the effort to build a 200-foot cross along U.S. 65 north of Branson on Bear Mountain.
Brown says he is on a mission from God. Now he's taking his father's vision and he is making it a vision everyone in Branson will share.
"He (my dad) was able to come into possession of the actual property that has the second tallest mountain in the Ozarks Mountains," Brown said.
Ask Brown how he knows it's an assignment from above, and he will tell you the story of this giant sized gig-saw of a puzzle that has come together quite divinely, with key pieces falling right into place.
"Like many projects, it's about 'What’s going to happen to me?', and a landowner to the east had some pretty strong concerns and, it's kind of interesting, after the meeting he came and spoke to me out in the hall, and he said, "I didn’t know what this was about and I wouldn’t have spoken if I would have known what it was about.' He was actually in favor of it when he heard the whole story," said Chuck Pennel.
Pennel was a Taney County commissioner four years ago when Brown was trying to get this monumental project off the ground. The usual "not in my backyard" hurdle, though, was quickly cleared.
"Well, our front yard is where it will be, so we’re ecstatic about it!" said Larry Green, the nearest property owner to the project.
The prime piece of real estate sits right off U.S. 65 south of U.S. 160. Green is a pastor.
"We’re real happy with what the Lord is doing," he said.
Green says the power of the cross has changed his life, so he's thrilled that a 200-foot tall cross could sit atop a nearby hill. In fact, he's now helping Brown carry out his plans to build the huge ivory and mirrored cross. It would be seen for miles around, and by some 8 million cars along U.S. 65 every year.
"Our design is for one elevator to take people in from the north face and take them up to the
horizontal crossbars and let them out, then have them interact with the different things we are doing there, and then come down on the south-facing elevator," Brown said.
Visitors would have a bird's eye view high above the tree line. Of course, the project comes with some challenges, including building that high into the air. And, since the cross bar of the cross would be unsupported, that also made some a little leery -- at first.
"One of the questions I have when I’m talking to people on the street about the cross is, 'When is it going to get built?' and I’m not sure when, but I know it’s going to get built because I’ve sat in too many meetings and watched the power of God work through the meetings," said Mark Blackwell.
Blackwell was on the Taney County Planning and Zoning Commission four years ago. At that time, the board had to recommend changes to some of the existing county laws to be able to push this thing through. After a lot of science and engineering, and a lot of convincing, Blackwell was on board.
"This project went through P and Z for six months, which was the limit, so the last opportunity to vote on it before the project would have to start all over again in the P and Z process, that’s where the vote was," Blackwell said.
It was approved. Brown says it's the Lord who conquered that mountain.
"It’s going to have a pretty significant impact," Brown said.
It would be a cross for everyone to see and, Brown hopes, to also experience at the crossroads of America's heartland.
"I just want them to have a personal encounter with the Lord, whether it's just riding down the road and they are suddenly struck by it, and He speaks to them and makes Himself real to them, or whether it’s with the people who have genuine authentic Christian hearts at the base of the cross where they are taking it in, if they can leave and think, and scripture says, when we genuinely with all of our heart seek Him, He allows himself to be found," Brown said.
This is estimated to be a project that would cost between $3 million and $5 million. Brown is taking donations. Green is helping him. He is asking every churchgoer in the Ozarks to donate at least one dollar to the project, which would get it well on its way. To do that, he's calling on every pastor to take up a special offering.
To donate or find out more about the cross, Brown has set up a website to help with expenses.