Of all the ways people attempt to share their faith in The City With Spirit, Rodney Summerford chose one of the most grueling — carrying a large wooden cross down Keith Street in temperatures …
Of all the ways people attempt to share their faith in The City With Spirit, Rodney Summerford chose one of the most grueling — carrying a large wooden cross down Keith Street in temperatures ranging into the mid-90s.
The heat-exhausted 56-year-old was not professing to be Jesus Christ or even pointing people to a particular church. He said he came to Cleveland because his heart was broken for those who were lost and hurting and did not know that Jesus died for their sins.
The Alabama native said he took off work and drove from Flat Rock, Alabama, to Cleveland last Tuesday to raise awareness about Jesus’ sacrifice.
“I’ve been to Cleveland several times. I felt in my spirit that God wanted me to come here,” he said. “I took off from work at a recycling place just to do this. I take off every year to spread the Gospel and lift up Jesus. I’ll be here several hours and then go to another town. My heart’s broken because there’s so many lost souls out here. I just wish they’d repent and turn to Jesus.”
Summerford admits to being born into an alcohol-dependent family and had his first drink when he was 7 years old. Once he became a teenager, he said alcohol, marijuana and acid were vices he indulged in with others engaging in the same destructive behavior.
“I dropped out of school when I was 15 years old, and got a job to support my drug habits,” he said. “Even with my job, drugs and alcohol, I felt like an outsider, which caused me to experiment with other drugs — living a life of self-destruction while I tried to fill the void that haunted me.”
A year later, the 16-year-old had turned to stealing to fund his drug habit and ended up in juvenile detention for theft.
He confessed, “I spent my next 10 years in and out of jail. It wasn’t long before I was introduced to cocaine, and when I was 27, I got caught passing counterfeit money, which led to 13 months in the penitentiary.”
Once out on parole, Summerford admits to continuing his use of drugs, buying, selling, lying, cheating and stealing to keep up his habit, while maintaining a good job for the next eight years. His life took a turn for the worse, however, when he was introduced to meth, then learned to manufacture and sell it. Still, he felt empty and unhappy inside.
“One night I was in my garage and I asked God to help me,” he recalled. “It wasn’t too long after that that I was sent to prison for the second time.”
This time Summerford said he was invited to sit in on a religious service that proved to be life changing for him.
“I felt like God touched my heart. I felt like I was changed that day,” he confessed. “Since that year, 2003, I have had a peace I have never had before. He has changed my life, and has put a love in my heart for the people that I encounter who are lost and hurting.”
Summerford is a man grateful to have put his past behind him and thankful to receive a gift he could never earn.
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