Display of crosses outside Leawood Baptist commemorates the 194 lives lost to violence in KC area last year

White crosses commemorate the 194 lives lost to violence in the Kansas City area last year.
White crosses commemorate the 194 lives lost to violence in the Kansas City area last year.

The Kansas City metro area marked a grim milestone in 2017 — and the leaders and parishioners of Leawood Baptist Church want to make sure it’s not overlooked.

One hundred and ninety four white crosses dress the church’s State Line Road lawn, where thousands of cars pass each day, with each cross representing the victim of a murder in the metro area. Each year for the past three years, the church has had a “longest night” service on the winter solstice, Dec. 21, to remember the lives lost to violence the past year and to show support for the friends and loved ones still grieving. The crosses placed in the lawn serve as a visible reminder of the toll violence has taken on Kansas City and surrounding communities.

Leawood Baptist Pastor Adam Carter said the congregation came up with the idea for the service and cross display after they became increasingly alarmed at the broad impact of violence here.

“When you notice what’s been going on in our community due to the loss of life and violence, we decided we wanted to find a way to show love and support for the families that have been affected,” Carter said. “Unfortunately, for people who have lost someone to violence, Christmas is not a joyous time. There are people who are hurting because of what’s happened to them and their families, and we wanted to show them support.”

Carter said he hopes even more members of the community will come out to the church’s Dec. 21 service in 2018 so that those affected by community violence can feel the support. But more than anything, he hopes that the need for that support will trend downward.

“Our hope is that in 2018 we don’t have to put as many crosses out,” he said.