By Kristen Spoon
A San Diego man passed through Menifee today on a 110-mile walk from his hometown to Loma Linda Children's Hospital -- dragging an 80-pound wooden cross with him.
Ruben Loya, who is stationed on Coronado Island in the U.S. Navy, stopped to chat with onlookers on Antelope Road just south of Garbani Road this afternoon. His goal, he said, is to raise awareness of cancer and the need for more research and funding.
Loya said he has a daughter who is recovering from cancer and that he has become close to a young girl, Jade Baeza, who is suffering from leukemia. The two met through a cancer awareness program at The Rock Church in San Diego.
"So many people have so many problems," Loya told those who stopped to talk to him. "We all have two hands. I put one hand on the cross and I still have one hand to help a friend. We're all brothers and sisters and through the power of prayer, anything can be accomplished."
Loya says he walks at least 10 miles per day and has traveled more than 80 miles so far. He started his trip last Sunday and plans to reach Loma Linda this coming Sunday. He stays at local motels or with friends and sets out again each day, dragging a huge cross with a wheel attached to it.
The cross bears the message, "Carry their cross," which also is the name of the Facebook page that talks about his mission and the need for awareness of childhood cancer.
Loya said he tried to construct a cross that would be the approximate weight of Jade. When he realized it was 15 pounds shy of her weight of 95 pounds, he packed an additional 15 pounds into a backpack he wears on his trip.
"When Jesus was carrying the cross, a man was forced to help him," Loya said. "When the man woke up in the morning, he didn't say, 'Hey Lord, I want to help Jesus carry that cross.' He was forced to do it. But I promise you, after the man did that, it changed his life.
"It's the same thing for us. When we help people carry their cross, it gives us so much pleasure. You can give one blessing and you get 10 times back. It's not just a blessing of good health and money. It's the blessing of the presence of the loving Lord and his indescribable love for you that makes you never want to let go."
According to the Carry the Cross Facebook page, it is "intended to encourage YOU to take action in support of those who need it most, in particular, children battling cancer."
Loya said the group's motto is "Pray, donate my time, become a blood, organ, marrow or other donor. Help fund the battle through a monetary donation to raise awareness of childhood cancer and ways to help."
Loya chatted with people who stopped on the side of the road to talk to him today. He prayed with some and passed out pamphlets about Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
A posting on the Carry Their Cross Facebook page explains more about Loya's journey:
Ruben has been stopped many times by passersby. He has been able to preach the gospel and give his testimony. He has been able to talk to individuals about taking action to support cancer patients. He has been able to build an audience so we can work together to impact the battle against cancer. And he has had plenty of time to reflect and pray about his own battles, his own goals, and his own God-given path.