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The Triumph of the Cross: A Story of Faith
U. S. A. | APOSTOLATE | TESTIMONIES
The cross of Hurricane Rita destroyed their livelihood – and another kind of cross came to the rescue. Since then, the Thompson family has made their work into a ministry of hope and faith.

The Thompson family in Cheshire in the fall of 2007. From left to right: Levi (15), my wife Eva, Joshua (21), Mary (19), and Esther (11), and myself.
The Thompson family in Cheshire in the fall of 2007. From left to right: Levi (15), my wife Eva, Joshua (21), Mary (19), and Esther (11), and myself.

By Frank Thompson

It was dark—very dark as we approached our driveway at 2:00 AM. We had not seen a streetlight for 75 miles, and we could barely see the road because of the litter of broken trees, twisted metal, and downed utility lines. My wife and I were not sure what we would find when we finally made it home. This was the beginning of a stage of my life when I learned about faith, how to trust God and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he truly loves us.

We are a Catholic homeschooling family with 4 children, from just north of Lake Charles, Louisiana. As a stained glass artist, I have been making windows and doors for homes and churches for 26 years. We have gone through hard times as well as prosperous ones. Through it all, we can see the hand of God both guiding and teaching us.

In 2003, our 16 year old son Joshua went to Rome for a 30 day formation course with the Legionaries of Christ. In order to raise the money, our family made crosses out of scraps of glass left over from windows built for churches by our studio.

Since then, our son has decided to become a priest. Beginning in the summer of 2005, we started making more crosses to help support his formation. This time we made a web site called www.artisticcrosses.com and selected 24 different color combinations in two styles. We were ready to publish the web site when we learned that there was a mandatory evacuation for all of Calcasieu Parish.

Hurricane Rita Leaves Her Mark
On September 24, 2005, Hurricane Rita made landfall as a Category Three storm. We watched the news from our hotel room in Northern Arkansas and returned home four days later to
Glass crosses made in the Thompson workshop, available on www.artisticcrosses.com.
Glass crosses made in the Thompson workshop, available on www.artisticcrosses.com.
discover severe damage to my workshop.

I was devastated. A large pine tree had fallen and ripped out the back wall. Several of my machines for making wood doors and windows were broken and strewn around the shop. Tables were upturned, leaving a twisted array of roots, mud, broken wood, glass and metal. As I looked upon the damage for the first time, my immediate thoughts were questions: How am I going to fix this with no insurance?  How am I going to provide for my family now?  Why did this have to happen?  These questions kept haunting me and giving me feelings of despair and anxiety.

Then I remembered something a priest had told me during confession one day. “God will never give you anything you can’t handle, as long as you trust Him.”  I then thought about St. Rita, patron of hopeless cases. After all, it was hurricane Rita that did all this. Was this some kind of coincidence?  I started looking around the shop for signs of hope, and somehow deep inside I knew that everything would be restored.

Hail O Cross, Our Only Hope…
As I opened my eyes of faith, I saw that I had laid out the glass for 63 crosses before we left. I had not had time to cast them. In amazement, I realized that not one piece of glass was moved. Every single little cross had stayed in its original position despite the surrounding devastation. I thought, “OK, Lord. I can take a hint.”

With renewed enthusiasm, and with no electricity for three weeks, we started repairs and cleanup. Using a generator, we published the artistic crosses web site. It was a full two months before we could resume making the crosses. The crosses were more than a fundraiser now; they were necessary for us
A view of our workshop after the storm. This shows the crosses undisturbed in spite of the wreckage around them.
A view of our workshop after the storm. This shows the crosses undisturbed in spite of the wreckage around them.
to have money to live.

During the summer before the hurricane, we had made around 300 crosses. We tried to sell them to anyone. We had kept some in our car and showed them to people, hoping they would buy one. We sold a few and that helped us a little. With our credit cards maxed out and in debt from repairs and no work, I knew that God would bless us somehow. I was never good at marketing; my talents are in working with my hands. It was a difficult time for us, but we learned valuable lessons about being thankful and grateful for how God has provided for us and how much he loves and cares for us.

A Hurricane of Requests
One Sunday after Mass, a few people came out to our car to see the crosses. One of them was a reporter for our local TV station. She said this would make a great story of hope for those affected by the hurricane, so she came out to our shop and filmed us making the crosses. I was even able to witness about “Our Heavenly Father’s Insurance Plan.” My wife Eva was able to share about prayer and listening to God. The kids were busy arranging the glass pieces and being the great helpers that they are. None of it was staged; we were completely honest about what we do.

The night before Thanksgiving Day in 2005, Theresa Schmitt from KPLC TV told our story on the six o’clock news. That evening, we received phone calls for two solid hours. People wanted to come out right then and buy crosses. In four days we sold 300 crosses, and orders kept pouring in. I worked twelve to sixteen hours a day trying to keep up, since most people wanted them by Christmas. It took me until the end of January 2006 to finally fill all the orders.

Since then we have been making and selling the crosses to many people who also suffered damage from the hurricane. We have heard many stories of faith and we know how difficult the disaster was for many people. They have told us that they appreciate the crosses because they are handmade locally. We also heard that the black roofing sand used in casting the crosses is symbolic of the many roofs that were damaged in the storm.

A Godsend in the Wake of Disaster
For us, the sale of these crosses has helped us recover from the storm, provide an income for our family, and support the needs of our children in their ministries as they serve God. Our eldest son, Joshua, is now in his second year novitiate for the priesthood with the Legionaries of Christ in Cheshire Connecticut; our daughter, Mary, is a co-worker (a volunteer lay missionary) for one year in Calgary, Canada; and our youngest son Levi is preparing to enter the seminary for the priesthood in two years.

Today we ship crosses all over. People purchase them as gifts to give away not only because of their unique beauty, but also because of the story of faith behind them. Each one is carefully handcrafted by our family and in a small way we feel that we are fulfilling God’s gentle call to know, love, and serve him.

The cross is a paradox; it is a symbol of suffering, yet it yields a peace this world cannot give. It gives us hope on our journey to eternal life with God, the creator of the universe, who longs for his children to be with Him. We can see the light of Christ in the hearts and minds of people who tell us that the gift of this cross inspires them to see Christ in a world that so desperately needs Him.

God has truly blessed our family through these crosses. I also consider it an honor and a privilege to work on stained glass windows for churches that speak to the soul. I am truly thankful and grateful for all that the Lord has done for us. My faith has been strengthened.

We all have times in our lives when circumstances seem hopeless. I have learned that God allows these things to happen so that we will turn to Him. If I never had any problems in life, I might not need faith, and might not need to come before the Lord in humility. Scripture tells us that “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” It is an awesome feeling to experience how this happens not only in my life, but also in the lives of all Christians.

Frank Thompson
www.artisticcrosses.com



 


PUBLICATION DATE: 2008-03-13


 
 

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