The beautiful George V Hotel in Paris was my home for the night. I was on the same floor as our hosts, Graham Lacey and Cecil McBride. We had celebrated the Lords’ supper together, remembering the body of Christ as we blessed the bread and ate it. Then we blessed the wine and drank it, remembering the blood of Jesus which was shed for our sins. We sang a song and afterwards we had foot washing as recorded in the Gospel of John, Chapter 13.
Graham and Cecil had come to see me off. I was going to strife-torn Lebanon with the cross. Another war lay ahead. My life was on the line again to carry the cross, spread love and work for peace.
Jesus said of the bread and wine, “Do this in remembrance of me.” We did and my mind was full of Him as I flew into Beirut, Lebanon on June 6, 1980.
Full of love, prayer, excitement and joy, I arrived at the airport in Beirut. I didn’t have a visa, so I was detained at Immigration. Finally I was allowed to collect the cross with it arrived with my baggage. I had been told the PLO would welcome me and there was no need for a visa, which was impossible to get anyway. I was taken to the door, ready to be put back on the plane. I had not made it in after all.
“Oh, Jesus,” I prayed, “I’m not afraid to die here but I don’t want to just get here and not get in the country. Lord help me get on with the cross walk.
Suddenly there was a big commotion. Men with guns were facing each other, and then I saw Mr. Bandack, whom I had met at the Presidential Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. They had found me! The Palestinian Liberation Army troops led me through the airport; guns were more persuasive than a visa. Television and news crews were waiting for me. Children sang and welcomed me. What a wonderful welcome. Who would believe the welcome of the cross in West Beirut? I’ll never forget their words…”We welcome you with your cross. We also carry a cross. We understand you and Jesus.”
I was in an area of Beirut controlled by the PLO and other Muslim forces. I was welcomed with opened arms and encountered no problems. I preached the gospel of Jesus in freedom and carried the cross in most of the Palestinian refugee camps, including Satilla (also known as Shatila or Chatila) and Sabra. (In 1982 these camps were destroyed in a massacre.)
I carried the cross in Tyre, where Jesus had been and where one of the earliest churches was founded. Recently, bombs had hit, but the dear followers of Jesus did not flee; as they had refused to do for the past 2,000 years.
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ARTHUR A PILGRIM
By Arthur Blessitt
I also went up to Bedford Castle, a strategic military base, which overlooks Israel. I could look out and see where I’d carried the cross in Israel in 1977. I also carried the cross into the Palestine Christian Refugee Camps. Many people think that the PLO is only Muslims, but there are many Christians from the cities of Palestine, Bethlehem, Nazareth and other cities.
A Catholic priest walked with me and translated as I preached the gospel. Large crowds gathered to see the cross and hear the world of Christ. People wanted to take me to another church several miles away in West Beirut. I wanted to walk but some of the people thought it was too far.
“Oh, we will help you,” and a group of young soldiers grabbed the cross and put it on the jeep. The jeep had a machine gun mounted on its top. Ten young men from 13-17 years old held the cross on the jeep. Only two of the boys were in uniform, the others were dressed in civilian clothes. A fifteen year old was driving. All the young men had machine guns except for a midget who carried the ammunition. I leaped on the jeep as it took off. What a sight, the 12-foot cross, me and a Bible with about ten armed teenagers of the PLO on a jeep racing through the streets of Beirut. What a way to die!
At one point the jeep almost turned over. The horn was blowing, the engine was racing at full speed and we almost hit a car. The midget lost some of his bullets but the driver roared off without letting him retrieve them. We passed blown-up buildings and numerous roadblocks. Traffic lights didn’t work so troops waved us through the intersections with their guns. The biggest gun had the right-of-way.
Finally, we arrived at the church. I must have been quite a sight – me and the boys. The young men took the cross off the jeep and carried it into the church. The priest was stunned and could not speak. Here, a group of Muslim gunmen carrying the cross into a church with me walking behind it. He welcomed me with a big smile.
I spied a large poster on the wall that looked like a ‘No Smoking’ poster. I asked one of the armed men what it meant.
He began to laugh.
“What does it mean?” I insisted.
“Oh, it says smoking may be dangerous to your health.”
“Why is that so funny?” I asked.
“Well, when you are the bodyguard for Yasser Arafat, smoking is one of the safest things you can do. We won’t live long enough to die of cancer.”
I stood looking at the small man in the Palestinian head wrap. A pistol was strapped to his hip; his eyes were alive and sparkling. I was somewhere in West Beirut on Sunday, June 22, 1980. A pilgrim of the world, carrying the cross, holding my Bible and a small cross. It was 2:00am and here I am with the chairman of the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Commander-in-Chief of their army. A hero and patriot in the eyes of much of the world; and in the opinion of others, the world’s chief terrorist. I was looking into the face of Yasser Arafat. Some of his men had come at midnight and awakened me saying, “Yasser Arafat wants to see you.” I knew of him and he knew of me.
I dressed quickly and went in a car with the gunmen. They drove with no lights through the battle-strewn streets of Beirut. Now we stood facing each other. I spoke first.
“It’s one fanatic meeting another,” I smiled.
He reached out his arms and hugged me and we exchanged kisses in the traditional Arab custom. What a meeting! Two radicals…one with a cross and the other with a gun.
We sat down. I seemed to know him and feel his struggle, pain and hurts. We were both liked forged steel in our paths of life.
“Sir, it’s two o’clock in the morning. You’ve had a long day and a long struggle. I ask you to listen to the words of someone who loves you, understands you and can help you. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. His name is Jesus. I’m not here as a politician, a diplomat or a reporter. You’ve seen plenty of those. I’m here as a simple man with a cross. I come as a man of God. I’m going to read words of Jesus from the Bible.”
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
On and on I read from the word of God, from the books of Matthew, Mark, John and II Corinthians. The Holy Spirit of God was so strong in the room. Jesus had promised that any time two or three are gathered together in His name ‘There I am in the midst of them.’
I took Mr. Arafat’s hand and said, “Let’s pray.”
I knelt for fifteen minutes and talked to God. I was crying, Mr. Arafat had taken my hand into both of his and tears filled his eyes. When I finished praying he spoke softly, “There is no doubt, the Bible is more powerful than the gun or the sword. The Romans tried to kill Christianity by beating, imprisoning and murdering Christians. But slowly, the believers, the Christians, took Rome and Rome became Christian. They took it by the heart. They did with a cross what no army had been able to do.”
For two hours we talked about Jesus and the cross. I explained how Jesus had died for us and why He was the Way, the Truth and the Life. I gave him a small cross and he presented me with a two-foot high mother of pearl cross from the Holy Land. We discussed everything from war to Israel to love. I won’t write about all our conversation as most of it is very private, but I will say this, as a person, and hear me very clearly, he is one of the most gentle and kindest men I have ever met. We have many different opinions, but we are friends, just as I am a friend of many Jews in Israel and other people I’ve known in wars all over the world.
We parted at 5:00 in the morning. I returned to my hotel room but the fighting all around the hotel was so terrible I couldn’t sleep. Shells were exploding and gunfire pierced the night, rattling the building. In the midst of war – where is peace?
My mind was full of thoughts about the things we had discussed. The Palestinians and Jews. Surely these people, who have suffered so much injustice, discrimination, suffering and death, could find peace. If any two cultures could understand each other, it should be these two. They are from the same land, from the same father, Abraham, and the same persecution, trouble and displacement. Surely there is hope. At the cross there is a place of peace and reconciliation between God and man. A place of forgiveness, not revenge. Of love, not hate.
As dawn came, the fighting ceased and I could sleep and dream, for if we ever cease to dream of peace, of beauty, of love and life, we are dead even before we die.
The Battle of Lebanon – I want to give a brief account of Joshua and my travels in and out of Lebanon and Israel during the war in the summer of 1982.
The first time we were in Lebanon was from June 29th to July 7. We rented a car at Tel Aviv and drove to Beirut. We carried the cross in West Beirut, then on to East Beirut. We then drove back to Tel Aviv and flew to the United States to try to meet with our government leaders, which proved to be futile. I then went to Poland to carry the cross. Joshua re-joined me in Greece and we flew to Cyprus. We boarded an old ship and sailed to Lebanon. We carried the cross from Juniyah to West Beirut, where we stayed until the siege of Beirut ended with the evacuation of the PLO.
Next we carried the cross on foot to Sidon, to Tyre and into Israel through the West Bank to Jerusalem. In 1977, I arrived to carry the cross around Israel and Palestine. I began at Bethlehem to Jericho, then to Galilee, up to Mount Hermon, back through the Golan Heights to Nazareth, Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Then, in 1980 I carried the cross in Cairo, Egypt, through Gaza and then into Sinai Desert. I was in Lebanon in 1980 and also that year Joshua, Joel and I carried the cross through Jordan and Cyprus. In 1971 I carried the cross in Morocco, North Africa and Ceuta, a small Spanish possession. I carried the cross through Turkey in 1981.
In 1982, Joshua, Joy and I had been carrying the cross in Lebanon and then we walked from Oslo, Norway to Stockholm, Sweden. When we arrived in Sweden we went to Gothenburg to rest for the weekend. I learned that war had broken out in Lebanon but didn’t know any of the details.
On Sunday morning, June 27th, I saw a photograph of Yasser Arafat and other people that I knew on the front page of a Swedish newspaper. The Lord grabbed my heart, wringing the insides of me with a deep burden to go back to Lebanon with the cross.
As I went to the airport to buy a copy of the Herald Tribune printed in English, I was praying, “If You will have some other evangelist go, then I won’t have to go to this war. If I read in the paper that Billy Graham, the Pope or someone else was in West Beirut…,” but as I scanned through the paper there was no mention of an evangelist in West Beirut sharing Jesus.
About midnight, Joy, Joshua and I were praying and Jesus spoke to Joshua. Joshua looked up and saw Jesus standing in the room behind me as I was lying down praying. Jesus spoke to him and said, Joshua, go with your father to the other countries as far as you can go.”
Joshua told me of his vision and we knew we had to go to West Beirut. I kept wrestling with the call. Oh, a horrible war, taking my son, both of us with crosses. But the Lord had spoken to me by a lakeside and there was no choice. I had to return to Lebanon. Here I was in beautiful Scandinavia with the sweet and wonderful people. The people we had met in Sweden were friendly and eager and I wanted so much to continue to Stockholm with the cross. But war and death were raging in Lebanon and must be offset with the good news of Jesus.
We traveled to Oslo and Joshua and I booked the first flight out to Israel. Joy returned to Los Angeles.
The following story is so true it’s almost unbelievable.
Newspapers and television have reported the story of Joshua and me carrying the cross through the incredible war in Lebanon. This is a story so full of miracles it would take an entire book to give it justice. I want to share just a few of the events with you.
When we arrived at the airport in Tel Aviv we had to decide the best way to get to West Beirut. I felt the Lord wanted us to go to West Beirut and speak to Yasser Arafat and the people again. The city was surrounded by the attacking Israeli Army that had already swept through south of Lebanon and was now pounding the surrounded PLO and Syrian forces in the city.
Joshua and I rented a small white Italian Bianchi car and tied the crosses on top. It was quite a sight. But how else do you get two crosses and a child to West Beirut in the middle of a war? All the news people traveling in the south had to have an army guide. It was not possible to travel around freely, but God used a few very different people to accomplish our mission for Him. A young man from ‘Youth with a Mission,’ an atheist girl from Norway, two Maronite Monks, an Israeli officer and a Philangist commander.
After a prayer meeting with the leaders of the Baptist Church and another prayer meeting with the staff at the Christian Embassy, Paul Crouch from TBN and David Mainse of 100 Huntley Street Television in Canada, Joshua and I set off for the north.
The roads were teeming with troops, tanks and armored cars, all heading in a northerly direction. Joshua, only 11 years old, had the glory of the Lord upon his face as I looked at him. Tears filled my eyes as I wondered what lay ahead.
We arrived at the border and attempted to cross. We were told, “Come back tomorrow with some of the Christians from the Christian Mission across the border. We will let you in for a few kilometers!”
I met the Christian leaders, but they were very fearful about Joshua and me going to meet Yasser Arafat and trying to carry the cross around Beirut. They were afraid that our problems would reflect on them and that the risk was too great. I was deeply hurt because all we needed was for one of them to say that we were their friends and we would be allowed to cross into Lebanon. We could only travel about five miles into the country, but it would be a start and then we would need to get permission to go further.
A young man arrived to help distribute aid to the homeless in south Lebanon. He was on the staff of ‘Youth with a Mission,’ a worldwide outreach of thousands of committed youth sharing Christ around the world. His name was Homer Lanier.
Homer said, “I heard the great Bible teacher Joy Dawson speak on the island of Cyprus a while back. She told us you are a true man of God and if any of us could ever help you in any way we were to do so.
“I do love that lady,” I told him.
“Well, I could not live with myself if I could help you and did not. I’ll go to the border and tell the guards we are friends, no matter what the other Christians say.”
We went together and in less than ten minutes I had a pass to travel the five miles into Lebanon. It was a first step!
We went to the Israeli Army Headquarters in Lebanon to get a pink slip which was needed to pass through the lines. It is impossible, we were told. Joshua and I prayed and drove to a small town. There was a Christian radio station there, but it was run by some of the same people that were fearful of helping us. I saw a little restaurant on a hill. There were other restaurants around, but I felt this was where we should go.
Joshua had to put rocks under the wheels of the car to keep it from sliding down the steep hill. I went in the restaurant to get us something to eat and drink. I ordered a drink and noticed a blonde girl standing over to the side. She smiled, and I spoke to her as she stepped over to me. “It’s strange to see you here.” “ Well, I’m Norwegian,” she replied.
I told her that I had just come from Norway and had been carrying the cross there and around the world.
“Why are you here?” she asked.
I said that I felt the Lord told me to leave Sweden to come to West Beirut to talk with Mr. Arafat and the people in West Beirut.
“Shhh,” she said softly. “Don’t say that here. We are the ones they are fighting.”
Finally, I explained everything to her and that we needed to get permission to continue. She said, “My boyfriend is a bodyguard for one of the men you need to see…one of the commanders.”
She left to find him. He was a very nice young man and understood our mission. He took us to his commander’s house and we ate with him. After we finished eating, he called the Israeli Commander and asked that we be given the pink paper which would give us full freedom to travel all through Israeli territory.
The commander was so moved by the presence of Joshua that he begged me to let Joshua stay with them and for me to go on alone, but Joshua said, “I will go with daddy.” The commander responded, “The PLO will kill you.”
“No,” I said, “I don’t think they will kill us. They will probably say you would kill us.”
I gave the commander my sunglasses. The commander was so kind to us. I suppose most people would have been afraid, but we were only excited to have the pink permission paper. We raced off in the car, not knowing exactly which way to go. At one point we passed some soldiers who were waving at us. In a moment, an army jeep began to chase us and we stopped. We had passed the Israeli line and were almost into the middle of the war zone at the Syrian line. We had an Israeli tag on our car! We quickly turned around and sped away.
We passed through about 30 road blocks on the way to Beirut. Over and over the troops would ask, “How did you get this paper?” I would reply, “Jehovah is my friend and He wants the cross in Beirut.”
We could see the city of Beirut just below and in front of us. There were huge tanks, artillery and rockets everywhere. This was war. Guns roared and flashes of fire filled the air. Joshua began to cry. I stopped on the roadside and held him in my arms.
“Joshua, I will take you back and return alone.”
All his life, Joshua had lived on the road with the cross. I had pushed him in his stroller through the battlefields in Northern Ireland where people were being killed. Now, this precious child was going to face death. Planes dived, dropping their bombs and we are going to walk in the war with two crosses. No wonder he wept.
“Daddy,” he said, as he wiped away his tears, “Jesus told me to go with you as far as I can. I can’t turn back. I’ll stay with you. Jesus is with us. Let’s go, I’m OK.”
He gave me a little smile and looked ahead. I gunned the engine and sped up the winding road without saying a word. It was like a cloud of glory all over us. I stopped and got out of the car and lay down in the dirt to pray. This is God’s mission for us. We were under the orders of our Commander. Maybe we would die, but we would not flee.
Two monks stood on the roadside waving for us to stop and give them a ride. They got in the car and I asked for directions to a place to sleep. They said they would take us to a place. About 100 yards ahead we were stopped by the Israeli Army and were told, “You can’t go on with that tag on your car! Someone will shoot you.
We turned around and the Monks led us in another direction around the roadblock into the port city of Juniyah, which is just north of Beirut. People were waving and blowing their horns. They had never seen an Israeli car tag in this town! We were given a room and a meal at the Monastery which was located high on top of a mountain. It was the seat of the Maronite Christian Church.
“Please let us keep Joshua tomorrow when you go into Beirut,” the monks pleased. “You will die. They killed one of our monks today.”
Joshua lay beside me on the single cot and went to sleep in my arms. A candle was my only light. From the mountain top I could see the darkness below. Beirut was being pounded by land, sea and air. Flashes of light lit the sky. I was praying and thinking.
A mosquito began to circle my arm. I thought, “Well, tomorrow or in a few hours I may die. Why not let this mosquito get his fill. I won’t hurt him, but will let him suck until he is full.
He soon lit on my arm and I waited as he put his beak through the hairs to bite me. As soon as he touched my skin he shook, flipped over on his back and kicked his legs a few times, then didn’t move again. It was amazing. The mosquito was dead! I carefully placed him on the floor and he was still there the next morning. The Lord told me when I saw the mosquito die, “My glory is upon you. Tomorrow night you will sleep in West Beirut.”
Tears flooded my face. Wave after wave of God’s glory swept over me. It’s just beyond imagination. But God’s glory was so strong on me and Joshua that the mosquito couldn’t stand it. If there are non-stinging mosquitoes in heaven, this is one that will surely be there!
Sunday, July 4th – We were up early today, as a priest had invited us to a special Mass. “Today you die, we fear for you. Prepare to meet God.”
We were served Holy Communion, and then we drove to East Beirut, left our crosses near the lines and lay down on the ground and prayed. We felt we should go to the Museum Crossing along the Green Line dividing East and West Beirut. A policeman came up to us and said, “You will die.”
Later a man ran up, tore off his shirt and tied a white strip of cloth on top of each our crosses. He was weeping. “You will die if you go in there.” He made the sign of the cross and walked off.
I felt the covering of the glory of God, but I knew this feeling might be preparatory for our entrance into glory. We arrived at the Israeli line. There were tanks parked and troops in position. The sound of gunfire rattled the air. The troops stopped us and I explained our mission.
“No! We have orders that no one enters West Beirut. Yesterday the last border crossing was closed. You will die if you go in there.”
“But, sir, we have come in peace in the name of Jesus. I know General Rafael Eitan, your Commander.” “No one enters, we have orders not to let any one in, especially the news media and people of God.
They moved us across the street. Joshua and I leaned our crosses against a church and sat down to pray. “Tonight you will sleep in West Beirut.” The Lord was still speaking to me.
Some newsmen arrived and were photographing the battle line. They were accompanied by soldiers. They were near us and Joshua gave one of the men a Jesus sticker. The man looked at us and came walking over. “Did you carry that cross in the Sinai Desert in 1980?” he asked.
“Yes.” “Well, I photographed you for a news magazine and always wondered what happened to you. Why are you here?”
I explained everything to him and told him that the troops would not let us in. We realized we had a mutual friend in Jerusalem, Dr. Wes Brown. Dr. Brown is a wonderful follower of Jesus. He smiled, looked deep into my eyes and said, “There may be a way to get in. I’m also an Israeli officer. You can outflank our line and slip in between where our troops and the Philangist are stationed. We slipped a reporter in that way yesterday.”
My heart leaped. His companions were calling him to leave. As he turned away, I stepped up beside him and said, “Draw me a map, please, for God, for peace, for my mission.”
His eyes watered as he looked at Joshua and his cross. He drew a map for me on a piece of paper. “I have done all I can to help you. Keep your head down. God bless you and good luck.”
I thanked him and handed him a gospel track. Just as he stepped into the car he whispered, “Keep your head down.”
I rushed to Joshua with the map. “We can get in,” I said.
We left everything in the car. I took only a small bag containing my money and our passports. We took no clothes, food or water. We did not want anyone to think that we were trying to gain entry into West Beirut. My heart was racing I was so happy, we were about to enter West Beirut. Live or die, the only thing was to get in. Sitting at the border was not what we had come for.
I picked up the cross again to start one of my most dangerous missions. Joshua and I held hands and prayed. Two men, two crosses, two white flags, two Bibles in hand and a host of angels, I’m sure. We walked along until we could make a left turn. “Is this it?” I wondered.
There were troops around and we were waved back. We then found the correct place of entry. As we started between some buildings Philangist troops were there and they moved to block our path. They summoned their commander. In English, the commander said, “You must get permission from the Israeli Army and you must cross at the Museum Crossing.”
“But God has sent us here to go inside with the cross.”
“You will be killed if you go into West Beirut!”
Again we heard the warning, but I pressed on. Maybe we will die, but we are willing to die for peace. I could tell he was shaken by the Spirit of God.
“But you must get Israeli permission!”
I cut him off, “You are the commander here. You are the Philangist. You are not Israeli. Don’t you have any authority?”
This shook him again and I saw him straighten up.
“My dear brother, we are here on a mission from God. You cannot stand in our way. Please, we have come through so much to get this far. Please in the name of Jesus, we must go in.”
God’s power and glory was overflowing. He looked long into my unwavering eyes. “You don’t have to say anything,” I continued. “Dear brother, just drop your head and we will pass in Jesus’ name,” I whispered.
He gave me a last look, dropped his head and shook it, and with his hand waved us by, “God be with you,” he whispered. I was filled with the glory of God.
Joshua held my hand as we went forward to face whatever was before us. The area was totally devastated. Buildings were riddled by bullets and bombs, even the trees were blown up. Soldiers began to yell at us to come back. They were waving us back, but we walked even faster. Some tried to run out at us, but we rushed past. This was war and to be in the open was to die. We turned a corner and were in the real ‘No Man’s Land’ right in the middle of five fighting armies; the Israeli, the Lebanese, the Philangist, the Syrian and the PLO. Two crosses and two witnesses were in the hotspot and spotlight of the world.
“Pray, Joshua, pray! If you’ve ever prayed, pray now!”
I was smiling and waving my Bible to all the hundreds of troops that were looking at us. Where do we step, where are the land mines? Huge piles of dirt and steel were in front of us with many tank barricades ahead. We must truly walk in the Spirit. We chose one path and entered into the Syrian-PLO lines. The soldiers were waving at us and smiling. We had broken the Israeli blockade. They were happy. A woman reporter/photographer from Time Magazine rushed to take photographs. The commander in that area stepped up and asked, “What are you doing?”
“We are here carrying the cross. We have good news. God loves you! Jesus is alive!”
“We need all the good news we can get. Welcome to West Beirut!”
In a few minutes the other reporters began to mob us. Newsmen from ABC, CBS, NBC, Polish television, British television, and Swedish television, Newsweek, UPI and AP were snapping pictures. We were moving along a blown-up street and suddenly Yasser Arafat appeared out a building. He was approaching Joshua and me. It was awesome. All the world news agencies ran stories about a man and a boy with a cross and Yasser Arafat. His eyes were sparkling and he was smiling. He hugged Joshua as we looked at each other. It had been two years since we met and spent more than two hours together. We hugged and kissed, and then I told him how we had struggled to get into Beirut and how God had called us.
“I expected you would come,” he said, “You are welcomed.”
We turned away and whispered to each other for a few minutes. I shared the deep burden of my heart, again sharing the message of Jesus. We exchanged words that I don’t want to write about, and then I said to the press, “We have come in peace. We want no more killing of Israeli, Palestinian, Lebanese or Syrian people. We walk, we speak, and we live or die for peace, love and reconciliation. God loves all, Jesus Christ died for all. I want to pray.”
Joshua and his cross, Yasser Arafat in the center and me with my cross and with my arm around Arafat, praying and weeping; It was an historic moment to become a legend as the story and a photographs spread around the world in newspapers and on television. On every continent, even through communist countries, millions saw our crosses and the scene.
Tonight we stayed at the Mayflower Hotel. The city is devastated. God used the ‘Youth with a Mission’ follower of Jesus, an atheist Norwegian girl, two Monks, an Israel officer, a reporter, and a Christian Philangist commander to get us into West Beirut. We witnessed to the world through the news media, we spoke and prayed with Yasser Arafat and crowds greeted us along the way into the city. It is reminds me of the book of Acts. But, what a struggle; one wrong move and we would not be here. Only God knows what is before us.
Guns are firing again. The building is shaking with exploding bombs, but Joshua has fallen asleep and I write by candlelight. We haven’t had anything to eat all day. I know Joshua is hungry. What can I say about this boy? Everyone has told us, “You’ll be killed.” There was gunfire and exploding shells today and yet he never complained. He only smiled and glowed with the glory of God.
To my knowledge, no one has ever done such things as this in the Middle East since St. Francis in the 12th Century when he went to visit the Muslim armies of the Sultan and also went to see the Christian Crusade armies during that time of war.
We have only the clothes on our backs and God and His host of angels. Only God can do such a thing as this. It took God years to train me in preparation for this mission and oh, thank you, Lord that you did not pass me by. I am so sleepy. I love you, Lord.
It is unbelievable to be in West Beirut. Over half a million people are stuck in their homes. The Israelis have cut off all supplies of water, food, electricity, gas and medical supplies…nothing is allowed in to the area! Many people drink out of the street, the hospitals are jammed and temporary hospitals have been set up. There are so many children with their legs or arms blown off, blinded or with other injuries and medical supplies aren’t available. How can people do this to each other?
At the front line in West Beirut one soldier removed the badge from his shirt and gave it to me. It has a red hammer and sickle insignia. He said, “I’m a communist but I have never seen or felt anything like this is in all my life. You are the bravest and most courageous two men I’ve ever met.
We looked at each other and then I replied, “I only have a Jesus sticker to give you in return,” and then stuck it on his shirt, smiling, “God loves you.” We stayed and prayed for a while in the middle of the battlefield.
All the time we were in West Beirut a man sat by our car day and night, watching over it. I was shocked. He said, “It is the least I could do. You risked your life for us.”
At the border the Army inspects even the backpacks of Israeli troops as they return from Lebanon so they can’t bring in any contraband. But when Joshua and I crossed through they just waved us by. We had been featured on television and in the newspapers all over Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel so the guards all know the cross. “He’s for peace,” they would say.
After being in the United States and Poland, Joshua and I arrived back in Lebanon. This time we came by ship from Cyprus. The old rusty ship sails once in a while to Lebanon, but only a few media people go into the country. The war has grown in intensity, if that is possible, as the siege of Beirut continues. We didn’t have a visa, but for a $40 service charge we were given a two-day visa, which was good for as long as we could stay alive. As we started into Juniyah, the Israeli troops mobbed us. It was unbelievable. They were so happy that we were back and they all wanted photographs.
u are very famous,” they shouted. “We saw you on TV and in the newspaper.” The troops would pose holding the cross. They truly loved us and the cross. All along the street toward Beirut we were given food, drinks and ice cream. The cross was covered with food. It was almost impossible to carry all of it. As we approached Beirut again, we could see shells and bombs falling.
A Philangist soldier came to me crying. He wanted to give his life to Jesus. He said, “I will walk with you until you go into West Beirut.”
We slept in his home. What a lovely family. They were so kind and beautiful. His wife washed and dried or clothes.
The Israelis were all asking about Arafat and the people in West Beirut, so were the Philangist, who had fought them for years, yet they all loved us. Nothing like this has happened in the history of the Middle East – someone being so accepted by all sides in the conflict. Oh, how the Jews and Christians love us, and how the Muslims and Druze love us also, the Syrians and the PLO. It is impossible to describe. Oh, if only they could learn to love each other as they love us.
Wow! God got us in again. Past the Israeli Navy, past immigration without a visa and now we are being mobbed by Israeli and Philangist troops. We’re being treated like heroes even though we have been with their most despised enemy, Yasser Arafat.
I feel a bond with the committed, even if it is war. I am close to those who are ready to die. They feel close to me also. We look at each other and understand each other. We are friends in a moment. By God’s grace, no matter which side they are on, we are living our lives with our life on the line. Each side tells me, “We welcome you, but the other side will kill you.”
Half of the hotel is blown up. No glass is left in the windows. The room next to us is demolished, but we sleep well. We do have a bed. Thank you, Lord.
We arrived back in the city. East and West Beirut both welcomed us. Troops from all the armies welcomed us. We’re now back at our old hotel, the Mayflower. We were told that the hotel had not been bombed. The holy cross was there. You are welcomed back. Put the cross inside the hotel.
Tonight we spent five hours with Dr. Arafat, the brother of Yasser Arafat. He held a flashlight for hours as we studied the word of God, mostly the book of Revelation. He carried a sleeping Joshua to our hotel room at the risk of his own life. He is a very kind man. He carries no gun and is in charge of all hospitals for the PLO. We met about ten times this summer, discussing the Bible and Jesus and praying together.
I shall not discuss the details of the war in this book. Everyone has read about it or has seen the news of it on television. All I’ll say is that it is horrible. Screams of the dying can be heard. People are trapped in bombed buildings. Diving planes and rockets can be seen. You can hear the shrieking of explosives. There are close calls of death that Joshua and I encountered. As I write this, the building we’re in is shaking like jello. Rockets fill the air and my ears ring with gunfire.
I don’t understand why the missionaries fled West Beirut when the siege began. Half a million people stayed to live or die, but not the preachers. Why?
I was at the Baptist Church and had dinner with the Lebanese pastor. West Beirut is not all Muslim and the Muslims that are in the city, with few exceptions, do not bother the believers. It is not a Muslim-Christian conflict at all, but is very involved with politics.
I saw doctors and nurses from England and the United States volunteering to help. They have come to West Beirut to care for the sick, injured and dying, but I have not met what would be termed, ‘evangelical fundamentalist Christians’ coming here during this terrible conflict.
Today French paratroopers arrived at the port to begin evacuation of the Syrian and PLO troops. Joshua and I were there in the middle of the evacuation with our crosses. The air was filled with shells being fired to salute the departing fighters. We had eaten with most of them for days now. They were all so kind to us and we prayed with many of the troops.
We carried the cross to the Green Line at Museum Crossing today for the sixth time during this summer of war and siege.
We are now heading south of Beirut on the road to Jerusalem. We spent the night in a Christian village. Strange, we have been with their enemies for days, but we were warmly welcomed to the village, we were fed a big dinner and I preached to the people.
We did an Israeli television program today. We are spending tonight by the beach with the Israeli Army and Free Lebanese Army troops. It is unbelievable. Today at least 500 Israeli troops took pictures of us. I preached to several groups of troops and as I lay here writing in my Diary I see the printing on a box next to my head rest says, ‘AMMUNITION FOR CANNON WITH EXPLOSIVE REPELLENT.’
The Israeli troops are still very friendly to us, but they warn us not to stay with the locals. They claim there are terrorists among them and that they’ll kill us. But we stayed with a wonderful Lebanese family. They were all Shiite Muslims and were so kind to us. They gave Joshua and me their bed for the night. Oh, what love.
We slept tonight in the Church of St. Thomas in Tyre. Jesus preached along the cost of Tyre and Sidon, where one of the first churches was established during the first century. The Church of St. Thomas stands over the old ruins of that first century church. We sleep where early believers preached, sang and worshipped. People from the entire Christian area in Old Tyre have mobbed us and even tried to take pieces of the cross. What beautiful people and so kind, with faith that has endured the centuries of time. A small enclave of believers that have faced persecution for centuries.
Joshua and I slept at the German Hospital in Lebanon at Tyre. Our beds were two operating tables. We had to get up early in the morning because our beds were needed to perform surgery.
We carried the cross into Israel this afternoon. We had no problems at the border. “It’s the man with the cross. You are famous. Can we have your photo?”
Car after car stopped us in Israel. Army trucks, jeeps…it was difficult to walk. The people are so friendly.
Just before dark a man stopped and came to me with his wife. “Meet a man who loves God, who loves peace and who wants nothing.” We had a great visit, and then he asked, “Where do you sleep?”
“At the first place anyone asks me to sleep,” I answered.
“We would love to have you in our home,” he said, “but we are Jews. Does that matter?”
I laughed and replied, “Well, I was hoping to meet one of those around here.”
They laughed. We stayed the night with them and the lady cooked two meals for us that night. One was at 6:30pm and then another dinner was served at 11:00. They placed the cross at the door of their house and invited their friends at the moshav to come and talk with me. The lady, who was about 65 years old, told me, “I make jewelry and sometimes I get requests for crosses. I bought a book once with different designs of crosses in it, but I’ve never understood anything about why people want crosses. Can you tell me about it?”
What a question to ask the world cross-carrying pilgrim!
While carrying the cross through the hotly disputed West Bank the Arab people have been so great to me. I spent the night at Jacob’s Well, which is the well where Jesus asked the woman to give Him water to drink. A priest gave me a room and water from the well. It was my only food. Praise the Lord!
As I was walking up a mountain with the cross, an Israeli Army bus coming from Lebanon stopped. The troops were all trying to talk to me at once. It was total confusion! Finally they asked me to come onto the bus. I left the cross and went inside. The eighty or so men and women on the bus became quiet. Most of them still had their guns in their hands. I was hot and tired so I decided to get right to the point.
“I carry the cross to share the good news of Jesus on earth, to show that He loves you and that God lives today. The way we can know God is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The temple has been torn down. There is no longer a blood sacrifice made in Jerusalem for the sins of the people, but Jesus Christ is without sin and He is holy. He died on the cross. That was His sacrifice and it is sufficient to pay for our sins. When you accept His death on the cross you can have peace with God and know Him as your savior.”
The glory of God came on that bus! I finished my talk with a prayer and then the soldiers burst into applause, then they rushed off the bus, blocking traffic. They grabbed the cross and held it up in the air and took pictures. I was crying and many of the soldiers were crying.
“Thank you for coming to us and for going into West Beirut. Please stay on the road! It makes the world a better place.”
The bus finally drove off with the troops waving and smiling. I was weeping, oh Lord, how wonderful! How wonderful!”
WHAT A DAY! I carried the cross through Old Jerusalem for the third time. The first walk was in 1977 and the second in 1980 and now it is 1982. This time I came on foot from Beirut, Lebanon. From the very door of death. Joy flooded my soul. I was home! I guess in some strange way most people who have ever been here feel that Jerusalem is home. It is THE CITY of the world. I looked out over the city with Joshua beside me.
We stood on the Mount of Olives where Jesus had ascended into heaven and where He had wept and sweat drops of blood the night before his crucifixion, down the old trail and into the city walls, along the Via del a Rosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and to the Garden Tomb. The cross had returned the third time to Calvary where Christ had died for our sins.
I was happy but sad. Still the world lies in darkness even though the light has come.
I must make mention in this book for the close friends and godly people that I know in Jerusalem.
Dr. Bob Lindsey, the pastor of the Narkiss Street Baptist Church. He is one of the most brilliant and Jesus-centered persons I know. He is one of the world’s top experts in Hebrew and is so full of love and kindness. The Narkiss Street Baptist Church, a fellowship of believes from every background including Jewish, Arab and Christian, is truly an international body of Christ living in a New Testament spirit. I am officially their missionary to the world.
Dr. Wes Brown, scholar and private teacher to me and a great leader in pursuit of all truth about Jesus.
Colonel Dobbie and his wife, Flo, who ministered at the Garden Tomb during my first two visits and who now work with the Christian Embassy in Jerusalem. They have always received me with love and honor and they are a mighty influence for our Lord there.
John Anthony has walked with me for a day each time I began a walk with the cross and when I ended my walk in Jerusalem. He is without shame and fear and he is a dear lover of the cross.
Reverend Vonderhoven, now at the Christian Embassy, who has such a Christ-like spirit and has stood with me on each visit.
I could go on and on…Dr. Scott, Leon and others. What a family I have in Jerusalem. The church of believers in Jerusalem has always welcomed, helped and loved us. We say, “Thank you.” You will live in my heart always.