FISHER, Minn.—Friday was humid on U.S. Highway 2, and smoke from wildfires in Ontario billowed into the air across the plains.
That didn't stop Steve Epp from walking through the haze near Fisher as he shouldered a 40 pound wooden cross.
The 66-year-old said the northwest Minnesota portion of his 4,000-mile walk across the country has been particularly lonely, but within a half hour on Friday morning, July 20, he was visited by three different cars who stopped to talk to him about Jesus.
"I just drove by and I saw a man with a cross on the side of the road and knew he was shedding light there," said Vance Corrington, one of Epp's visitors.
"Doing something right," Epp said in response. "Either that, or crazy."
Epp has a sense of humor about his journey; he knows how he comes across.
"It's kind of barbarian, I'll say it," he said. "It's kind of ludicrous,"
Still, he said he believes this is the best way to get out his message of love, tolerance and God. A former pastor for the Church of Nazarene in Tulsa, Okla., for 35 years, Epp began walking along highways with his cross four years ago.
He said he draws his philosophies from the Bible, but he is non-denominational. Along the road, he said, he interacts with people with many different conceptions of God, and he sees religion as a constricting concept.
"I don't down the church," Epp said. "I don't down Catholics or Lutherans or Protestants or whatever. I down religion because of what religion's done. Jesus got killed by religious people."
Epp documents his journeys on his Facebook page, "The Well Tulsa," and one of his major goals is to reach out to young people. Sarah Tammi, whose boyfriend follows Epp online, stopped by excitedly Friday morning with a friend. They had been keeping an eye out for Epp after Tammi's boyfriend met him at a restaurant in Crookston the previous night.
Religion became important to both Tammi and her boyfriend after he was released from prison, she said. She proudly told Epp he has been sober for two years.
"I was really excited," Tammi said about finding Epp. "It's the first time I've got to run into somebody doing something, you know what I mean? There's a lot behind this."
Epp will continue walking until he reaches Grand Forks, at which point he will head toward home with his wife. He plans on taking two or three months off before walking across the southern states as the weather cools.
He feels the expected aches and pains of any 66-year-old who spends all day lugging around a large cross, but Epp sees no definite end to his mission. As the sun rises over the Red River Valley, he walks on with the most recent album from Christian rock group "Third Day" in his ears.