|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.
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
discover severe damage to my workshop.
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
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.
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.”
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.|
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.