In 2009, Avon Smith was working at the Salvation Army, where he met BSUMC member Jim Abbott. Jim invited Avon to attend Buncombe Street’s annual “Walk to the Cross” during Holy Week.
“It seems like the Holy Spirit just came over me,” Avon said, remembering that first Walk. “I could feel the presence of the Lord. I’d never felt that before.”
“I knew that God was going to do something in my life. I can’t explain it. I was still fighting addiction, but I knew I wanted to serve the Lord no matter what.”
Avon began attending services at Buncombe Street at around the same time, and the following year, he attended the Walk to the Cross again. The third year, he approached the event’s organizer, BSUMC staff member David Stubbs, and asked if he could help carry the cross.
“The same feeling came over me again,” Avon said. “I knew that God was going to do something in my life. I can’t explain it. I was still fighting addiction, but I knew I wanted to serve the Lord no matter what.”
Since that time, Avon has carried the cross each year by himself. He refuses any refreshment during the Walk, wanting to feel as close to what Christ felt as he possibly can.
“Carrying the cross is a special anointing. It’s not something I should be glorified for,”Avon said. “It is an honor to be able to carry the cross and to think about what He meant when He said, ‘pick up your cross and follow me.’”
“It’s very personal. God has given me the spirit to do this. When I was in the middle of things that I never could get completed in my life, it was because I didn’t acknowledge His suffering. So I carry that cross with honor and dignity.”
But just carrying the cross once a year is not enough. Avon, who has a past that includes prison, addiction, and homelessness, has made that past part of his testimony, and he shares it freely with the people he meets who need to hear about God’s power to transform lives.
“One of the things I like to do is be honest and straightforward about what’s happened in my life. God can’t use a made-up story. He can use the truth,” Avon said.
“There are so many people that are still hurting, and they need to hear that Jesus loves them. I want to let them know that.”
He remembers a time when his life was so hopeless that he didn’t expect to live to see the age of 25. He turned 57 in January, and he believes he was given these years for a reason. “Every day I get up,” he said, “it’s so I can keep on giving Him praise and hopefully help someone else along the way.”
“My ministry is in the streets because there are so many out there who don’t know who God is. They haven’t had the chance. Everything God’s given to me, He gave it to me to pass along. There are so many people that are still hurting, and they need to hear that Jesus loves them. I want to let them know that.”
“Then Jesus told his disciples, ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Matthew 16:24