Cruise for faith

heresa Edwards

Canton woman walks across country to spread God’s word

Carol Cruise (left) and Wendi Miller walk along Route 531 in Ashtabula Township, Ohio. After helping Cruise out part-time in her faith walk’s early stages, Miller joined her friend full-time in September 2003. “I feel called to the walk,” Miller sai

Credit: Steve Schirra

She traded her house for a post office box and a mobile home so she could walk the perimeter of the continental United States and pray. Now, most of what she owns is gone, but she kept her clothes and crutches for support so she can detach her leg and rest.

Carol Cruise, a former chemical dependency counselor who currently resides in Canton with family and friends, walked 1,400 miles on a prosthetic leg and planted one cross for every mile she walked up the East Coast.

One of Cruise’s biggest themes she teaches on her “faith walk” is that people “be the church.” She said church is not a building, it is the people who go there.

“We’re giving, we’re caring, we’re embracing,” she said. “It becomes a way of life instead of something we just do on Sundays.”

“Be the church” has become a personal theme for Cruise to help her cope with frustration with her medical hardships.

15 surgeries and one amputation

Cruise broke her leg in December 1988; it healed in 11 months. She suffered another injury to a finger and when she went in for her checkup, the doctor noticed she was limping.

Cruise said the doctor took some X-rays of her leg and told her it was still broken. He had her undergo 15 surgeries to fix her leg.

A couple years after the surgeries, however, Cruise observed she was still having problems. She took her X-rays and got other medical help, later finding out from different doctors that her surgeries were unnecessary.

In 1992, a portion of her right leg was amputated.

She opted to have it amputated below the knee because she wanted to save as much of it as possible, but doctors advised against her decision. Now, she wears a three-inch “stump” on a daily basis.

“I didn’t want to be bitter because of having been injured in an unnecessary surgery,” she said. “I knew that I could be pretty angry about it.”

Within a year after her amputation, she began waking up in the middle of the night with a desire to walk around the United States.

She said she had an amputee friend who was going to walk across the United States but never took the initiative.

“I just said, ‘No, that’s not me. I’m not hearing this right. I’m not getting this right,’ because of my inability to walk well,” Cruise said.

She tried to ignore it and kept putting it off, but that didn’t work.

“I figured if I’m going to get any sleep, I better start walking because I keep waking up,” she said.

The beginning

The walk began at 3 p.m., Jan. 1, 2002, in South Beach Miami, Fla. Cruise worked her way up to walking about 50 miles per week, with some weeks being 30 miles because of pain or discomfort with her prosthetic leg.

Cruise is now breaking Michigan’s border as she works her way across the North; she’s completed 3,371 miles and prays as she walks.

Cruise said she wants “differently-abled” people to look at their abilities and not just their disabilities. She said she also doesn’t want to become bitter over losing her leg.

As Cruise walks her bitterness away, she’s joined by others who also feel strongly about her prayer walk.

“I’ve had people come out in their wheelchairs,” she said. “(They would) come out and meet me and stroll along side me for awhile.”

Family ties

Her father, Blair Cruise of Lakewells, Fla., walked the first 200 yards with Carol Cruise and her mother who passed away last March.

Carol mentioned the walk to him about a year before she started doing it.

“We all thought she was crazy for trying,” Blair said. “I didn’t think she’d be able to do it with her leg. I think she’s got a whole lot more strength than what I would have.”

He said the Lord is helping her and is giving her the strength.

“She’s tough. I think she’s gone this far, she might as well put all of her effort into it to finish it.”

Carol Cruise’s parents were there to see her plant the first cross which is larger than the others. She said she attained the three-foot cross from New Hope Church. It was tucked away in a storage room at the church and it was small enough for her to carry with her to Florida.

Blair Cruise said he made 200 crosses for Carol Cruise’s journey. He made them out of tree branches and plastic ties that his daughter gathered.

He decided to do this for Cruise without a lot of thought because he wanted to support her.

“I just made them for her with not much decision in it,” he said. “It was my daughter and she needed help and I helped her in that way.”

Reaching out to others

Other people around the United States also have made crosses for her.

Hugh Daley, a self-employed carpenter, and his wife, Vawn, of Dixfield, Maine, found two crosses Cruise planted.

They found the first cross while visiting Hugh’s brother. This is when they learned about Cruise’s prayer walk.

Vawn said she and her husband were on their way home when they passed a woman walking along the road. As soon as they drove over the hill, they saw a cross.

“Turn around and go back,” Vawn told her husband. “That’s Carol.”

They picked up the cross and drove back to see Cruise and invited her over for dinner. The Daleys took Cruise to church with them the next day and met her later in New Hampshire.

The Daleys have been touched by the walk. It’s made Hugh’s beliefs stronger, he said.

“Everything that she talked about, everything that she believes, we believe,” he said. “A church is a church – the people make the church.”

That, Hugh said, became the church’s sermon the following week.

To contribute to the walk, the Daleys made 150 crosses. These were made out of scrap lumber and their mothers decorated them with magic markers and stickers. They used rawhide to tack a laminated card to it.

The cards are on every cross and ask that whoever finds them to pass them on to someone they know in the name of God. Cruise said the cards contain her contact information so people can e-mail, snail mail or call her to let her know they received the cross from somebody.

Vawn Daley said they gave one of their crosses to the pastor at their church, who then passed it on to a friend in Massachusetts. They kept the other cross so they could place it with a photo of her sister and Hugh’s sbrother, who were married and died within six months of each other.

Spreading a message worldwide

Cruise said she has received e-mails telling her that crosses have been planted all over the world in places such as Africa, Australia and the Dominican Republic.

She expects the walk to take until 2010 and has yet to decide on whether she wants to visit Hawaii and Alaska. She’s thinking of taking a cross to each area and planting it, but she said Alaska would be especially difficult for her because of the terrain.

Cruise said the hardest part of the walk is having liners available, which act as a cushion for the bottom of her leg. She uses about two liners for every 200 miles she walks.

Her walk has affected others who are handicapped as well. Cruise said she met a little girl when she was speaking in Florida who also has a prosthetic leg.

The little girl asked her mother if she could touch Cruise’s leg because she never saw anybody with a leg like hers.

Another man got out of jail and found one of Cruise’s crosses, she said. He carried the cross 20 miles because he didn’t have a car.

A walk to remember

Wendi Miller, also a Canton resident, is walking with Cruise to spot her along the way.

The first time Miller met Cruise, she had announced her departure from New Hope Church in Canton and was beginning her walk.

Miller was asked to join Cruise for two weeks during the walk. She rejoined Cruise in September 2003 to spot her full-time.

Miller feels she was meant to do this with Cruise.

“I feel called to the walk. I’m real passionate about it, and so I share in her vision, and I feel that God called me out here to support her and to make sure that she has what she needs,” she said.

Cruise has received many donations throughout the walk as well as support from people like Miller. The mass participation has kept her motivated.

And, she never stops praying.

“I’m praying for our country, and I’m praying for other people along the way,” Cruise said.

Contact features correspondent Theresa Edwards at [email protected].