Acie Burleson said when he was saved as a Christian some years ago, along with that came a calling to carry Christ's cross.

Burleson said he took that literally and figuratively.

The Andrews, South Carolina, 34-year-old left his home state on March 11 to embark on a journey to the Grand Canyon, all the while bearing a large cross over his shoulder.

He is walking along a U.S. 72 stretch that on Tuesday included Colbert County, hoping it serves as a reminder to every passing motorist about the sacrifice Jesus made.

"Anything to help get God's word out," the upbeat Burleson said as he returned waves to passersby. "This is mainly to spread the message to pray and be ready for the coming of Christ."

Burleson said he built the cross after feeling a call from Jesus to carry it. He started out carrying it from one town to another.

"When I got saved, God called me out to be a walking memorial for him," he said. "I've never done a long distance like this before. Most of the time it was just town to town. This is the big one. I'm going all out."

He believes it will take approximately three more months to complete the journey. Thus far, it has been an eye-opening experience about the love of others. A small tent is wrapped around the cross but remains unopened as people, churches and others have invited him in for the night along the path.

"It is a one-man tent and I've never had to use it," Burleson said.

He generally travels 12-14 miles daily and continues to be moved by the responses he receives.

"One guy turned his car around and immediately started trembling and tearing up when he approached me," Burleson said. "God knew he needed that that day.

"Once, a woman at a red light hollered at me. She pulled over and cried. She said, 'I was one block away from killing myself. This stopped me.'"

Burleson said he is fortunate to have the support his wife and four children are providing throughout the journey, and his wife in particular came through on the morning before his encounter with that woman.

"I wasn't going to walk that day," he said. "I didn't feel like it, and my wife encouraged me to get up and go."

Burleson said he always has wanted to see the Grand Canyon, and wonders how he will react when he arrives there.

"I don't know whether to throw the cross in there or keep it," he said. "By the time I get there, I may be too sentimental about it. I may just keep it."

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski

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