STERLING, Ill. — Drive past the East Jordan United Methodist Church in Sterling and you'll see small, white wooden crosses sticking out of the grass.
Members of the church started building the crosses when Russia invaded Ukraine as a way to symbolize their support for Ukraine.
"When the atrocity started in Ukraine, the bombs started falling in Ukraine, our hearts break for all the people in the rest of the world that are in peril," Rev. Jim Miller said.
Anyone can stop by the church to take a free cross to put in their yards. Miller said the crosses are a reminder to pray for those around the world.
"One of the problems that we see in this free country, is that what's happening somewhere else becomes a new normal, and we wane from it. We weaken from the passion that we need to take and pray with and to give and to care for them," he said. "But for the grace of God, but for our good fortunes, that could be us. And all of the freedom that we have that we just take for granted? I think it's time for us to stand up."
The idea to build the crosses comes from an incident in Michigan where people rallied around the Christian cross, Miller said.
East Jordan Methodist Church Administrative Council Board Chairperson Kevin Deets was approached to help with the project. He's been a member of the church for 64 years and is also a woodworker.
"They've evolved a little bit since we started, they were 10 inches tall, the first ones," Deets said. "We didn't think it showed up in the yards enough, so we made them 16 inches tall and 10 inches wide. I've made the process pretty streamlined now, so I can cut a lot of them in a short amount of time."
He uses some of the extra wood he can't sell to make the crosses. Deets cuts the wood and has a team that helps glue the pieces together, drill holes for metal stakes and paints them white.
Deets said he's made more than 550 crosses in the past few months.
"Which is kind of amazing for where we started from because we didn't know if 100 would go," he said. "When I drive around, see one in a yard, I'm thinking I have a sense of pride because I help make that... It's also that these people were willing to put this in their front yard and to show what it means to them."
"We're a smaller church doing, I think, bigger things," Miller said. "Over 500 crosses in this little country town."
There are around 100 members of the congregation at East Jordan.