“Walking with the Cross” printed in the Bakersfield Californian on June 10, 2006

As commuters fume in traffic or whiz through neighborhoods they’d never want to visit, Tom Alexander walks the streets of Bakersfield, five days a week, three hours a day, towing a large wooden cross.

If you’ve passed by him in your car or seen him tread by your house, he’s praying for you.

Alexander faces oncoming traffic as he hauls the 5-by-10-foot cross along sidewalks, smiling and waving at drivers while he prays out loud. He is always ready for a conversation and a “God bless you.”

The No. 1 question people ask him, naturally, is why?

His answer is threefold: To honor Jesus for his salvation, to share with as many as possible that “the cross of Jesus Christ is God’s plus sign” and to pray for Bakersfield, “asking God to pour out his spirit of revival on the entire city.”

Some of his prayers have been answered – most recently, for Rockin’ Rodeo to close after a May 7 shooting death at the nightclub.

Crosswalk 2006, as Alexander had dubbed it, is the realization of a dream from more than 30 years ago. He began on March 1, intending to continued until April 30.

God had other plans, Alexander said. He now hopes to keep walking until the end of August – or longer. Although the cross weighs 60 pounds and he is 58 years old, the former surfer and weightlifter says a little Ibuprofen is all he needs to keep going after each day’s eight-mile trek.

Alexander’s regular circuit includes all sectors of the city where he can safely trundle the cross and obey traffic laws. He’s been to the northwest, the southwest, eat, Rosedale, and Cottonwood.

Many different people – from white Bakersfield College students in a Jeep, to a group of African-American men outside a store in southeast Bakersfield – hail him with cries of “Hey, brother!” Friday, he walks downtown and prays for city government, police and courts.

While he walks, Alexander greets people and hands out tracts explaining his journey. Occasionally, he will set the cross upright and give a mini-testimony.

The Crosswalk is typical of Alexander’s style of street evangelism.

His longtime friend Kerry Bulls, a substance abuse counselor and former correctional officer whom Alexander met after he turned to Jesus in prison, was thrilled – but not surprised – when he heard about Crosswalk 2006.

I knew it was going to be a successful thing as a witness for Christ,” Bulls said, “because Tom has quite selflessly done this type of ministry right out in the street, where people live.

Alexander founded Teen Scene/Soul Wars Inc. a nonprofit youth program that provides children and young adults with alternatives to gangs and drugs.

His testimony to people facing hard times comes from his own experience: He had been serving a fiver-years-to-life sentence at Tehachapi State Prison for armed robbery when he gave his life to Jesus. He often shares he past with others to illustrate that if Jesus can change him, Jesus can change them, too.

Donations from individuals, churches (including his own congregation at First Assembly of God), and Christian foundation support Alexander financially in his full-time ministry efforts for Crosswalk and Teen Scene. His wife, Jeanette, works as a teacher’s aide.

Long before the crosswalk, he regularly strolled through neighborhoods and prayed.

He intends to pray over every school in Bakersfield by the end of summer, and has already interceded for many – including East Bakersfield High School on the day of the rally against the proposed immigration bill.

With security and school administration officials standing warily by, Alexander prayed for God to bless and protect all the students and adults at the school.

Soon afterward, a group of approaching student marchers invited him to walk with them. He declined, not wanting to confuse any political cause with his own.

With so many Christian in Bakersfield, one might expect a positive reaction to Alexander’s efforts.

Indeed, the honks, smiles and waves overwhelm the “one and a half” obscene gestures directed toward him. The “half” was a man who started to flip him off but added more fingers in response to Alexander’s friendly wave.

Less welcoming territory would be fine, too, however.

“I would feel just as comfortable walking in Saudi Arabia as i would in Haggin Oaks,” Alexander said.

Many times, he gets more than a smile and wave. In East Bakersfield – which he said is one of the friendliest, most interactive portions of town – people come out of their homes to talk.

Along Ashe Road, one woman made an illegal U-turn and pulled up near the sidewalk. She got out of her truck and, in tears, asked Alexander to pray for her broken marriage.

On a recent Friday, a gaunt woman in a sweater and jeans first asked for money, then asked if she could touch the cross and pray.

“Jesus sent you to tell me that it’s all right,” she told Alexander.

Crosswalk is as much to rouse Christians to ask God for revival as it is to witness to nonbelievers, Alexander said. Eventually, he would like to see others walk with him, or take shifts carrying the cross and praying.

“I’m trying to get people to start praying for the city,” he said, “because we’re facing some problems.”