Driving north along I-75, you couldn’t miss him: Jesus, arms upstretched, praying to the Father. The 62-foot-high, 40-foot-wide landmark—officially called “King of Kings” but affectionately dubbed “Touchdown Jesus” by local drivers—was erected in 2004 by Solid Rock Church, a 4,000-member evangelical church in Monroe, Ohio. And for six years, the butter-colored statue was a silent witness to faith, a call to prayer.
Then on June 15, 2010, during a fierce electrical storm, Touchdown Jesus was struck by lightning and in a dramatic blaze that lit the night sky, the $300,000 statue burned to the ground. Damage to the adjacent amphitheatre was estimated at an additional $400,000. Fish in the surrounding reflection pond died as fiberglass and burning foam fell into the water, leaving only the steel frame stretching heavenward.
“Touchdown Jesus” is about to rise again, though—although this time, his resurrected form has been titled “Lux Mundi,”, from the Latin for “Light of the World.” He’s a more traditional Jesus with arms outstretched; and already the blogosphere has given him the affectionate nickname “Hug Me Jesus.”
The new statue has been engineered to fit the existing steel frame and concrete base, but will stand only 52 feet, as compared to the 62-foot original. Display Dynamics Inc., the company which is constructing the work, is using molded foam on a framework of round and square steel tubing, which will be bolted to the existing frame. This time, the statue will be the color of concrete; and in the factory where its seven bulky pieces lie sprawled across the warehouse floor, workers are spray-painting it with a grey polymer that contains tiny terra cotta specs, matched to the church’s roof.
The statue will rise again beginning in September, when six flatbed trucks will transport the five-ton statue to its final assembly point. It’s expected that the on-site construction will take two to three weeks; but then Jesus will once again rise beside the freeway, embracing weary truckers and vacationing families alike.
UPDATE: I just had to show you. Driving north from South Carolina this week, we passed the new “Hug Me Jesus”–and this time, I knew it was coming and I had my camera ready. Now granted, I was in a vehicle skimming the freeway at 70 miles per hour. So you don’t get a professional portrait–but here He is, outstretched arms beckoning northbound truckers and tourists on I-75 near Monroe, Ohio!