19. JERUSALEM AND ISRAEL
Glory to God! At last we have arrived in Israel. After years of carrying the cross around the world, I finally stood in Bethlehem. There are at least 15 other people with us. We knelt and prayed and then I lifted the cross to my shoulder. Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus!
We had just visited the Church of the Nativity and we were standing outside its doors. Right here, in this area, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords was born from the womb of the Virgin Mary, the hope of the world, the Word had become flesh! From here went forth a light that all the darkness of all times has never been able to extinguish. The babe born in Bethlehem was destined to die on the cross. Bethlehem was here, and here was the cross!
We all prayed together. My sons, Joel and Joshua, walked by my side through the streets of Bethlehem and on through the wilderness toward Jericho. John Anthony, from Jerusalem, was also walking beside us. He could speak Arabic and some Hebrew. John was to help interpret for the first day.
As we left the city, a group of school children saw us and ran over. We began to share the message of Christ. Through the hills toward Bethany we had no problems. Jeeps full of soldiers stopped, getting out and taking Jesus stickers as we told them about Christ. No problems at all what a glorious first day of carrying the cross in the land of Christ. It was just a glorious privilege to carry the cross through the land of the Bible and land of Christ.
We began the walk in Bethlehem and carried the cross to Bethany, where Jesus had been so many times. Where Mary, Martha and Lazarus lived and where He often spent the night. Then we walked the Jericho Road, the old Roman road that leads to Jericho, which some claim to be the oldest city in the world. It is the wilderness area of Judea where David grew up, where John the Baptist preached, and where Jesus walked many times coming to and from Jerusalem. It was also in this area that Jesus fasted for 40 days, here in the Jordan Valley that contains the Dead Sea, which is 1200 feet below sea level. The river Jordan flows here into the Dead Sea from the Sea of Galilee.
It was a wonderful experience to study the Bible here. My family stayed in Jerusalem and from time to time, they would come out and walk with me. But most of the time they stayed in Jerusalem during my first trip in 1977.
At least once a week, Dr. Wes Brown and Dr. Bob Lindsey would walk with me, or I would go to them. They would teach me the Bible pertaining to the area where I would be walking. I not only witnessed for Christ, carried the cross, and preached to others (which was the prime purpose of my being here), but I also studied. I really learned the Bible. I knew what had happened everywhere I walked by studying the Bible. It was such an experience!
I carried the cross on to Beth Shean and then to the Sea of Galilee, where Christ performed so many miracles, and then up to Capernaum, the area where Jesus spent most of His ministry time, around Capernaum and the surrounding areas where He preached the Sermon on the Mount and multiplied the loaves and the fishes. Then I went up into the northern area, upper Galilee, into the beautiful farmland, all the way up to what is now Kiryat Shmona. From there I went into the Golan Heights, right at the foot of Mount Hermon, the wonderful, beautiful snow capped mountain. I came back through the area of the Golan, almost to Kuneitra, down again to the Sea of Galilee, from there to Nazareth, where Christ grew up as the carpenter’s son.
From there I went on to Haifa to the elegant, beautiful Mount Carmel, where Elijah called down fire from heaven, along the sea with fabulous beaches and so many historical places along that seacoast to what is now Tel Aviv. From there I went to Jerusalem.
I have walked with the cross from Jerusalem to Cairo, which stretches out where Jesus went as a child, from Beirut to Jerusalem, and up through the heartland of what is presently known as West Bank area.
On another trip in the Israeli occupied territory, I had covered the Gaza Strip and east bank of the River Jordan, which is now Jordan. However, it is also the land of the Bible, for there, so much of what happened in the life of Christ and the prophets took place on the east side of the River Jordan.
In Lebanon, along the coast of Tyre and Sidon, the Bible states that Jesus preached along the coast, so I have carried the cross basically in every area where Jesus preached and ministered, not only carrying the cross, but preaching to the people and sharing Jesus with them openly and publicly.
While many people have visited the places where Christ lived and ministered. I don’t know of anyone else (there may have been) who has gone to those same places and preached publicly. Especially anyone who has carried a cross in modern times and publicly evangelized in all the areas of the New Testament and most of the Bible.
It was cold, windy and rainy while carrying the cross today, but it was a very beautiful stretch of road that leads up to Mount Hermon in the Golan Heights of Syria, which is now Israeli occupied territory. As I walked along the road some army jeeps stopped. A man got out of one. He seemed to be the Commander, and he began to talk to me about my journey, and asking me why and what I was doing. One of the other officers said, “Do you realize who you are speaking to?”
“No,” I answered.
“He is the famed General Rafael Eitan, the Commander of the northern Army of Israel.”
(A few years later, General Eitan became commander-in-chief of the entire Israeli Army, and was the commander during the invasion of Lebanon.)
The Commander was smiling and happy. He asked if he could carry the cross for a while. He put the cross on his shoulder and took a few steps. His eyes were sparkling, and he had a very pleasant and pleased expression. He asked, “Would you like to join the Israeli Army? Anyone that can walk like you around the world, we’d be happy to have.”
I laughed and said, “I’m already in the Lord’s Army.” I shared with him about Jesus Christ, and what Christ means to me and how one could have peace with God through this person, who, though He lived and died here years ago, is still alive and we can know Him.
Commander Eitan asked if I would say a prayer. I put my arm around him, bowed my head and we prayed together. All the soldiers also bowed their heads, and when I finished praying, the Commander looked deep into my eyes and said, “You’re welcome to the Golan Heights and to all of the northern Israeli Army area. You can stay in any of our camps. You can speak, talk to our troops, anything you want. We love you. You are welcome here.”
Today as I am walking along the road, it is wet and cold. Several cars stopped and a group of news reporters got out. They were from the Israeli television station. Many Israeli newspaper and magazine people were there. They took pictures and did interviews with me. They said, “Tomorrow you will be very famous in Israel. We welcome you to Israel, and are happy you are here. You’ve come as a messenger of God and as a man of peace. You are welcome in our land.”
Late this afternoon I was lost along the road. It got dark and I didn’t know where I was going, so I just kept trying to walk and feel my way through the darkness. I was in the Golan Heights, and it had all been blown up. Tanks and troops were all over the area. Finally, I came to an Israeli Army roadblock and they said the Syrians were just across the way and that I couldn’t pass.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t know where I was.”
The soldiers told me to try to find a place and stay there. It is very dangerous in this area. I saw a bus stop and it had only one bench with a small, narrow board lying across it. So I lay down on the bench in my sleeping bag. It was cold and windy. Every 15 minutes or so an army jeep or armored car would come by, and once during the night, several tanks passed me. The soldiers would all stop. They brought me coffee and food. I shared Jesus with the Israeli soldiers all night. I didn’t sleep at all. Just moments of prayer. And on that very bench in the cold and uncomfortable position in the Golan Heights, God used me as a mighty witness to hundreds of troops, because they all wanted to see the man with the cross. The soldiers would say, “You are very famous. Tonight you were on Israeli television.”
They had seen me on TV or heard of me on the radio. God was pouring out his spirit on an old bus stop as I lay on the cold, narrow board. Glory to God!
From My Diary-February 10, 1977 – If I had only one day to live in my lifetime, I would have chosen today! Some may be rich, but none as rich as I. My walk started at 6:30am in the Golan Heights. After being on the road 13 hours, I witnessed to thousands of troops. Car after car stopped alongside me. Army jeeps, trucks, tanks, armored cars, tractors, United Nations people… it was just incredible. I’m in all the Israeli newspapers, on their television and radio stations in order that the nation of Israel can see the cross as it is being raised up at this time.
The news stated that I was showing the love of God and praying for peace in the world. All the troops were trying to get my autograph. “You’re famous in Israel,” they would say. Hundreds of people would stand by the cross getting their pictures taken, or would want to hold the cross. The commander of this area came and carried the cross a few steps and asked why I was walking with the cross. I told him. I prayed with several Israeli soldiers today to receive Jesus Christ. Several times they had me stand on a tank or on the hood of a jeep, or on an armored car, and speak to several hundred soldiers at a time.
At one point I came over a hill and heard clapping and cheers. I looked, and there was an army base and the troops were lining the road, cheering and clapping. They led me into the camp and lifted the cross as high as they could and had me speak to them for 45 minutes about nothing but Jesus. They gave me coffee and food. As I was leaving, one man said, “You are accomplishing your purpose. You are getting us to believe.”
Another said, “I only pray that there can be more in this world like you.”
At another camp, a lady soldier said, “After interpreting for about 50 men you give us hope.”
As I was coming along the road, many people would stop and say, “Maybe you have brought peace to Israel. We pray for peace.”
One lady stopped her car and said her husband was in the Army, and he had called home and told her to bring their two children to meet me and hear about the Lord. When she got out of the car with her two children, she asked, “How do you hear the voice of God?” And I explained and we prayed together and they cried.
A tour bus stopped and the guide said, “You are history happening now! This is the best stop on the tour.”
People kept giving me so much food I had it tied all over the cross. It was weighing me down. I was flooded with drinks.
All this area is a battlefield. It has been fought over again and again in the last 20 years. Everywhere buildings are blown up. The devastated city of Kuneitra was destroyed in 1973 during the war, and now is occupied by the United Nations. Just before dark a huge tank rolled up and stopped. The troops got out and greeted me. The commander said, “Can we give you a ride? We heard you were in the area and we’d like to help you down the road. You can put the cross on our tank.” I thanked them, but told them God had called me to walk.
At one place all the young soldiers posed with the cross and said, “Some day, when we have a family and children, we will show these pictures and tell them about the cross.”
It was incredible. Can you believe a man with a cross is so accepted in Jewish Israel?
Unbelievable! TODAY God has been glorified! I have lived, I am ready to live, I am ready to die, and this is glory! Today is a fabulous day. Unspeakable. Crowds of people stopping on the road, car after car. Glory to God! All I can say is that I can’t describe it. The people are so hungry to hear about the cross and about the Messiah Jesus!
Today a car stopped and a soldier got out and other people stopped their cars also. I talked to them for awhile, and the soldier kept waiting. Finally, the other people left, and the soldier said, “I’m a messianic believer. I believe Jesus is my savior and in my kibbutz there are about ten of us who believe and pray together. Would you come and visit us tonight, but without your cross? We will come and get you. We want to pray with you.”
It is literally amazing that all through my journeys in Israel, day after day, Israelis would stop and would tell me they knew Jesus as their Savior and believed in Him, and they would invite me to their house that night, or kibbutz, or moshav, and there would be friends who would gather and we would sing and pray and worship Jesus together, and I would teach them more. They would give me their addresses and say, “Don’t give this to anyone, because we are not connected to any church or any group, but we are committed to Jesus Christ.”
I have the names and address of hundreds of believers in Israel, and have written to many of these people over the years, and have seen them growing and expanding. What a day! Glorious!
Well, believe it or not, I finally made it to bed. Weary and exhausted, practically asleep on my feet. I know why Jesus had to leave the crowds and go off alone at night. He wanted a time to be alone with the Father. It has been great all day just glorious! Great crowds were everywhere. Even when I tried to eat breakfast! I finally was able to leave the house where I was staying. Sweet, beautiful people fed me breakfast. People on the road were so beautiful. Car after car stopped.
I arrived in Nazareth and was invited into a house located in an Arab village to spend the night. The people fed me good food and strong Turkish coffee and tea. The whole village gathered around to welcome me. It was unbelievable.
Today I preached in Nazareth. It was an incredible experience. I preached at the Church of the Annunciation. Outside, crowds of people gathered. The school was closed and mostly Arabs gathered in the heart of the city, blocking the street. The owner of a restaurant had me stand on his table to preach. The name of the restaurant was Abunassar’s. The owner gave me dinner and we had great fellowship together. The Vice Mayor of Nazareth served as my interpreter. He is a Muslim. I stood on the table and preached to crowds of people who gathered to hear the good news of Jesus in the city where Christ had grown up. It was glorious!
The national Israeli-Arab television station sent a crew to film me and the cross for the Arabic language television.
I was carrying the cross along the road approaching Jerusalem. It was getting dark and I needed a place to leave the cross overnight, as I planned to hitchhike to Jerusalem to see my family. I asked if there was any place I could leave the cross. A small group of Israelis had gathered along the roadside to hear me sharing about Jesus, and this a woman spoke up and said, “Yes, you can bring it to my house.”
I carried the cross over to her house with everybody in the village following along. We stopped at her front door. She became a little nervous, and I asked, “What’s wrong”.
“Well,” she said “I’m just trying to figure out how you’re going to get the cross through that small doorway.”
I said, “Why through the door?”
“Didn’t you say you wanted to leave the cross in my house overnight?”
“Oh, no,” I said. “Not necessarily in the house, but in the yard will he just fine.”
Tears were running down my cheeks as I looked at this wonderful Jewish lady who had not accepted Jesus as her Savior, but was willing to care for the cross in her home.
Haifa, Israel – If there can be a better day than today, I want to live it. This day has been simply fantastic, and glorious. A chapter from the Bible.
As I came into Haifa crowds of people gathered around me. Most all of them were Jewish. The crowd was so large it blocked the street. The police came and directed the traffic around the block, leaving me to share about my experiences and about Jesus. So many of the people would say, “We love you in Israel, you are welcomed. We love you!”
It is now almost impossible to walk with the cross. It is like a slow crawl. How can I describe it? People are waving to me from cars, horns are honking, cars are stopping and families are getting out. People are standing by the cross for their pictures to be taken. “We love you. Everyone is talking about you.” I keep pointing to the cross and Jesus.
Later in the afternoon I arrived in time for a special gathering that had been planned by the Catholic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, the Episcopal Church and by the Mennonites. All morning I had been with the Jews and now this afternoon at this gathering with the Christians. They wanted to walk behind me as I carried the cross up Mount Carmel. We walked to the Sisters of Nazareth School from the Roman Catholic Church. When we arrived at the school, the crowd gathered below as I stood on the stairway to speak. The fire of the Holy Ghost fell in power and glory.
I spoke with great boldness and authority. The crowd broke out in applause. Everything was for the Lord. The victory of the Lord. God had brought young and old. I stood on a balcony about 20 feet high with the cross behind me and the crowd below on the edge of Mount Carmel with the Mediterranean Sea in front of me and Haifa below. An unbelievable scene. Several thousand years ago Elijah had prayed on top of the mountain just above me and fire had come down. Again, the fire had fallen on the sides of Mount Carmel! I led the people in prayer and then I finished. The priest said my face was glowing, and in it he could see the Lord Jesus. It is one of those awesome moments.
I was so exhausted after preaching, having walked and talked all day. Someone brought me a chair and I sat down. Some sick Catholic sisters were brought to me and I was asked to pray for them. I prayed and each of them was healed. More ill people were brought to me. I was sitting in the chair and I would lay hands on them and they were healed. Joshua had come up to spend the night with me and he saw this. It was one of those rare times when I saw God healing people. For about three hours, He healed everyone that came. I was so exhausted I couldn’t even sit up. I was leaning over the chair, and still everyone was healed. Finally, I was helped to a place where I lay down and I went to sleep.
February 26, 1977 – I arrived with the cross in Jerusalem. I was filled with excitement. When I arrived at the top of the Mount of Olives with the cross a young Israeli soldier and his girlfriend were waiting for me. I had spoken to them yesterday and told them I would be here. They had brought three apples. We sat down overlooking the city of Jerusalem and ate the apples. They came to believe that Jesus had died for them, and accepted Him as their Lord. It was so beautiful.
About 200 people had gathered to walk into the city with us. Arabs and Jews, foreigners and citizens. We said a prayer and started off. I deeply enjoyed the walk down the old stone road and then through the Mount of Olives, then to the Lion’s Gate. It seemed as if I was covered and surrounded by the glory of God. What an honor to bring the cross into Jerusalem. The cross that had been carried around the world. It has been traditional to walk from the Mount of Olives at Easter time, then along the Via del a Rosa, with people carrying crosses. But this cross had been around the world. I carried it along the Via del a Rosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, where most believe Calvary was located and where Christ was crucified. The other side of the church is the tomb where Jesus was said to have been buried. When we arrived in the patio area outside the church, the guards came up with a priest looking on. One of the guards said, “You can’t stay here. You have to leave.”
“Can’t we just have a prayer in the courtyard outside,” I asked.
The Christian leaders with me asked at the Church, but we were refused admittance. We couldn’t even stay on the outside to pray. I was stunned. I had walked around all the land of the Bible, places where Jesus had been. I had eaten and slept in Arab villages with Muslims and Christians. I had walked all through the area of Israel and General Rafael Eitan had carried my cross. The Israeli soldiers had mobbed me and asked me to preach, and I had preached to thousands of troops. The Israelis had surrounded me in the streets, blocking the sidewalk and the police had directed the traffic around us. And here I was, at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Christ had been crucified and resurrected. It was the only place I had been turned away from or treated unkindly in all the land of Israel. The place of Calvary. After walking 14,296 miles, there was no room for the cross at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher! There are no words to explain how I felt. I remember how Jesus had overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple.
Some of the other priests went across the way to a Lutheran Church. They moved some chairs out into the street and I preached, standing on the chairs just a few hundred feet from where Christ had died on the cross. I then carried the cross to the Garden Tomb where some believe Christ was buried and where Calvary is located.
A news reporter had been with me all day, and a television reporter followed me all day. The television reporter said, “I don’t understand. You seem a very intelligent man, and yet how could you have walked around the world and seen so much hate, tragedy and suffering and still be smiling? You were smiling all day.”
“Because the God I work for is still in control,” I said. “Jesus is Lord.”
It was wonderful to have arrived home in Jerusalem after walking around the world. The city I had dreamed of. Now I had actually preached here and tonight I would sleep here.
Some have difficulty with people referring to the land of the Bible as the Holy Land. Especially as Christians, we believe that it is God who is holy and not earth, or it’s what God makes holy. If anything is holy it is people, but not the dirt.
Israel is flooded with Christian tourists who come to tour the Holy Land, riding tour buses, getting off, staying in a hotel, then unloading and looking at this ‘holy site and that holy site and another holy site,’ touching it, and somehow feeling that by being there they are made holy. But one day I was walking along the road and was visiting with a Miuslim farmer who was plowing the land where Jesus probably preached the Sermon on the Mount. The thought occurred to me, it’s not walking on that land that makes one holy, the man walking that land didn’t even accept that Jesus Christ died on the cross.
Many of the places that we consider ‘holy places’ are not really ‘holy.’ Like Capernaum. It is a city that was covered with dirt until this century when it was excavated and many of the ruins uncovered. Before that the land was being farmed. Holiness is in the heart, it is the right attitude toward God. God never called us to tour the world, but to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. It is good to go to the land of the Bible to see and to learn so we can better comprehend the Bible and understand the historical facts. To simply think that being baptized in the River Jordan is any more important than being baptized in the Mississippi River or the Amazon River is not so. It is not the same water that was there during Biblical times. It is similar to Christian fetishes, that by touching this rock or by going to this place or by doing that thing, that somehow what had happened there is rubbed off on you. It is to go into all the world and preach the gospel. The presence of God is as real in Australia or Korea as it is in Jerusalem or in Bethlehem. God is as close to you wherever you are on Earth as He is at this place.
I am reminded of the words of Jesus in the book of John 4:19-26. “The woman said unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on the mountain; and ye say, that Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” Jesus said unto her, “Woman, believe me, the hour cometh when he shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father. Ye worship ye know not what. We know what we worship. For salvation is of the Jews. But the hour cometh and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth. For the Father seeketh such to worship him. God is a Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.” The woman saith unto him, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ. When He is come, He will tell us all things.” Jesus saith unto her, “I that speak unto thee am He.”