2. THE DARIEN JUNGLE
Ten years after God told me to carry a 12-foot cross around the world, I found myself confronted with one of the world’s deepest, darkest, most impenetrable jungles.
The famous Darien Gap faced me, approximately 400 miles of mountains, rainforests and swamps. This is the only place from Alaska to Argentina without a road; a place of five layered forests where sunlight often never reaches the ground. The footing is often wet from heavy rains. Leaves rot slowly and often you stand up to your knees in the decaying vegetation. It’s hot and humid during the day and at night it’s so cold you need a blanket for sleeping. There are deep, narrow rivers, waterfalls, rapids and rainfall of about 130 inches a year. Steep cliffs, covered in vines, grass and thick brush border the streams. Saw grass, which is sharp enough to cut you to pieces, is so thick it’s almost impossible to get through. All kinds of diseases, parasites, leeches, rabies, fungus, mosquitoes and ticks are everywhere. A six-foot coral snake called the fer-de-lance that bites feet and ankles and can kill is common. Then there’s the deadly bushmaster, which lives in trees and strikes on the face or neck, which has two and a half times the poison needed to kill a human being. Most of the Darien snakes will kill in a short time with venom that paralyzes the heart causing cardiac arrest. There are all types of spiders, scorpions and ants as well as wild animals like panthers and wildcats.
The Darien Jungle is along the narrow stretch of land that joins South America with North America. It has a backbone of mountains going steeply down toward the sea into mangrove swamps. The few tribes of people are Chocó and Cuna (Kuna) Indians who live along the rivers, but seldom travel over land. They travel to the sea and back in hollowed out logs called piraguas. The total number of people that have successfully crossed from the Panama Canal to Turbo, Colombia probably only numbers in the hundreds.
There are no reliable maps available; cuts and scratches are difficult to heal; most of the water and food is contaminated and disease is common.
Now, I faced all this with a 12-foot cross. It is easy to take a ferry boat from Panama to Colombia, or even a small boat that stops at the villages along the shore, but to walk with the cross through the jungle? Here is the question: Do the unknown circumstances we face cause us to re-evaluate the call? Of course not, I accepted the call of God to walk from Mexico to Colombia. There was never a thought in my mind that I should go around by boat. There is only one way…walk!
Two men came from the United States to help me. I felt it was necessary, but I was to find out otherwise. I shall call them Tom and Jerry. Tom was a doctor who spoke Spanish and he brought along all kinds of anti-venom in case of snakebites. He had first aid supplies and enough equipment to perform an emergency operation. Jerry, a very good friend and a businessman, had accompanied me on another trip.
We spent one day in training at the Sherman Jungle Training Center for U.S. rangers, green berets and Special Forces serving in the Canal Zone. Colonel Hale Alderman and his lovely wife helped us immensely with information, supplies, good home cooking and especially love!
Everyone told us it would be impossible to carry the cross alone to Colombia, but with a well-supported team it was possible, though very, very dangerous.
The walk began from Panama City, Panama, on January 25, 1979, a continuation of the walk I started in Mexico City in 1977. Tom and Jerry were carrying backpacks loaded with supplies; I was carrying the cross with my backpack tied on the back of it. This is the heaviest backpack I’d ever had on the cross, over a 100 pound load, in almost 100 percent humidity and 100 degree temperature.
The story of the Darien walk could be a book in itself, so I will select highlights that deal with different aspects of the struggle. The following pages are taken from my Diary in the order the events happened.
We left Panama as a three-man team. I never considered it to be temporary; to me we would live or die together. There was only one direction – south to Colombia. There was a highway going south for a few miles, then gravel, then dirt, then a trail for the road.
Tom and Jerry had blisters on their feet and they were sore from carrying their backpacks. We did some good witnessing. Each day things grew more primitive. After five days Jerry told me that he did not feel this was his calling. We prayed about it and he decided to fly back to his wife and children. I surely missed him.
After Jerry left, Tom rented a truck to carry our supplies and he drove while I carried the cross as the road began to get smaller and smaller. The road finally ended at a river after two days of driving. I told him I’d wait for him to drive the truck back and return to me or we could leave the cross and I’d go back with him to turn in the truck and then we could come back together. He decided to go back in the truck then fly to meet me in Yaviza a village several days walk away. There is a small airstrip for private planes in this jungle town. He told me he would fly in with supplies and join me there. I was in shock, “Hey, we must do this together.”
“Arthur, we can go around by boat or fly to Colombia. I’ll be back and join you in a few days.”
I could hardly feel anything. I was numb with shock, pain and aloneness. How could anyone do this? For me, the question was never why, but how. There was no turning back. I might die, but I’d never turn back.
At this midday crisis, I had to decide what to take with me. What was really necessary? A week ago we had to have bandages, a first aid kit, snakebite shots and food. So much was necessary then, but now it’s all irrelevant. There was only one person with the presence of God, a big cross, a river ahead and an almost impenetrable jungle. Yes, I needed my Swiss Army knife, a hammock, two rolls of Jesus stickers, my passport, my money purse protected in a plastic waterproof bag, a tin of lemon drops, two canteens of water and my machete. I stood looking at Tom with tears pouring down my face. I recorded a message for my family. Would I see them again? This was a nearly impossible mission. All human reason was being cut off, only faith remained. I knew my children would understand that I must go on. I said a brief prayer, glanced at Tom and the truck. There was a road back – I could sleep in an air conditioned hotel room tonight or I could sleep in the jungle. Oh, glory Father, Thy will be done. I remembered my commitment, turned and walked away. I’d rather die in the will of God than live outside it.
I said goodbye to Tom. “See you in a week.”
I turned toward the jungle and began to wade through the water. Joy flooded my soul. It was me, the cross and Jesus. That’s the way it should be. As darkness shadowed me, I walked on.
From my Diary – I walked all day. Hot…so hot…what a day! Made it to Santa Fe. Walked from 6:55am to 8:30pm, 13 ½ hours, carrying my cross. I cried a lot today. I don’t know why, but tears just kept dripping and so did blood. I’m bleeding from several deep cuts. Tired, my back is hurting, my feet burn a lot, but I made it through and I’ll make it on.
At Santa Fe, a construction company village, the people welcomed with a steak and offer of a cigarette. One black man who could speak English told me he would find me a guide to Yaviza. The man offered me a place to lie on his floor. I pulled the mosquito netting over me thinking, “Maybe I carry on my back, feet and shoulders part of the pain of this world, but I bear it gladly. Oh, I love you Jesus, I’m so happy to be here. It is so beautiful to see the hand of God. These people will never forget that they saw the cross. Good night, Lord, thank You for keeping an eye on me.”
Well, I made it another day, here by a small river which is not running. It is stagnant. All day we’ve been drinking water from nearly dried up rivers and muddy holes. I bathed this morning with this water, but after four days without a bath I could not stand myself. Mano joined me today; he knows the way to Yaviza. He is a very sweet 20 year old. He received Christ several years ago. I out-walked him, but he is very good at finding and carrying water. The biggest problem I face is that all the people want me to preach. I do, but it is ten minutes stretched out. They want more, but I have no more words in Spanish. I don’t have Bibles or an interpreter. My heart cries out, I can hear the voice of Jesus crying out, “Who shall I send, who will go for us, the harvest is ripe but the laborers are few.
My feet are blistered and blood is flowing out of my heel. All I can do is keep going and not stop. I must go on. My back is in constant pain, my legs ache, my skin burns and my shoulders are so sore that if I touch them they hurt more. But, when I lift up my 12-foot cross and whisper Jesus I can start off again.
About dark we came to a small house by the river. The people were waiting for me. The lady gave me some beans and rice as the entire village gathered around. I preached and led them in prayer. As I write this, little Indian children are looking over my shoulder. Their faces glow and their eyes sparkle as the light from an oil lamp shines. This is right out of a book of yesterday. The houses in the village are straw huts. A bony pig is rooting all over the floor, frogs scream and animals of the night sing their songs.
This has been a good day for God. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else at this moment. I am following the will of God. I sit up hurting, I lie down hurting. Maybe I can fly. Sure do need a faith healer. Ha! No, I have the best. I cannot believe except by God’s grace I’m not sick. I tell you, what I put in my body the last few days would kill a native!
Today where we got water the local people would not drink it. I had to drop a pill of iodine in it and then drink it. In the house tonight I drank the water straight. The Bible says, “Eat and drink whatever is set before you.” I do, I pray and I keep walking. I’m still not dead. Lord, please help me to sleep. It is almost as hard trying to sleep as it is to walk. It hurts so much not to have a bed. Well, glory, I’m going to try it.
Monday, the fifth was one of the most incredible days of my life…wow! I was up at dawn after a night of shivering in the cold. I remember looking at my watch at least every hour. I didn’t even bring a blanket because I was trying to save weight. The lady we were staying with cooked pig or something I thought was pig, we ate and left. Everyone told us it would take two days to get to Yaviza. I decided we could make it in one day if it took others two days!
A small hand painted sign pointing into the jungle read YAVIZA. This is the jungle, no storybook tale, it’s for real! We blazed through, up and down dry riverbeds and through grasses growing so high there was no way to watch for snakes. But, being from Louisiana and as a boy being raised in the swamps I was used to dad and me rushing through the vegetation past startled snakes. This is what we did today.
I can’t believe it…it’s so hot. We drank twelve liters of water in the jungle today, all from stagnant holes. We met two men along the way who informed us the water is no good.
Once Mano and I worked and lifted the cross across a deep ravine overlooking a hole of green water. The cliff gave way as I was crossing and Mano was plunged into the green hole of slime. On and on we went, fighting for each step; banana leaves slapping us in the face and vines cutting us.
Pulling the cross up the mountain was incredibly tough, but the Lord was leading us. Mano is the toughest walker I’ve seen on the road, except for my late friend, Jim McPheeters. Mano hung in even though he could not believe my pace. I told him, “Tonight we will sleep in Yaviza,” but by 4:00 I knew it would be impossible. We were making only about two miles an hour and I was totally exhausted. At one time I thought I could not go on. I said, “Lord, I’ll walk one more mile, but please do something. I haven’t asked for much these past nine years on the road, but this is the toughest walk I’ve ever had and I can’t move this body much more. I pain with every movement, walking or sitting. You said you would prepare a highway in the wilderness, do it now, please Lord. I don’t want to sleep in here tonight. Bless me, if You please.”
Mano was lying on the grass, too tired to even care about the insects as they crawled over him. I heaved the cross and started up the mountain side. When I had walked a mile I was ready to set the cross down and stop. But I saw a trail and it got wider and then I saw a double wheeled-truck tire track and the grass was beaten down along the trail. I began to race down it. After the path we’d been walking on, this looked like a freeway. I was going downhill on what was still dense jungle. But, no doubt, these were tire tracks and they had to come from some place. Finally, I stopped and waited, but no Mano. I returned to look for him and he was struggling up the hill. I said, “We are almost there, let’s go!”
He shook his head, but sped up. I walked at a fast pace to get through the jungle before dark. As I rushed through the bushes my right foot caught on a vine and brush. The cross and the backpack on it pushed me downhill. I fell into a pile of grass and brush and the cross fell on top of me. I was stunned and my left arm and shoulder felt broken. I got up slowly and discovered I was only bruised and hurt, not broken. It was the first time I’d fallen. Praise the Lord!
The trail forked and Mano said, “We go left it will take us to the city, but least three or four hours climbing mountains.”
I asked, “How about right?”
“It goes to the big river, “ he replied.
I looked at the roads – left to the mountains, right into the jungles and we didn’t have a bite to eat. Up and down, right or left. I thought, I’ll follow the truck track and we can get to a boat. I said, “Derecho” (which means right). I walked full out open about four miles from 5:00 to 5:50pm. I was exhausted and in almost unbearable pain. The Lord kept telling me, “I’ve got it all worked out.” Suddenly I turned the corner of the trail and there was the Chucunaque River. I cried, “Glory to God!”
Two men were by the river and I asked about a boat to Yaviza. They said, “Maybe tomorrow.”
It was beginning to get dark so I took some pictures and then Mano came up and talked with the men. I stood by the bank and watched. A boat passed by on the other side of the river, going the other way. Then a motor boat made of a hollowed out log came in view going up river. I yelled to them and the boat turned around and pulled up. I had the cross ready to go. I said, “Yaviza, es necesario, (it is necessary). I pay you.”
The men looked at each other and I came down hauling the cross and put it on the boat, then jumped in. By 6:30 that evening we were walking up the main street of the frontier jungle town of Yaviza. Glory to God, everyone in the village knows Mano.
I found a hotel room, much as you might expect in a small town, but nonetheless a bed. I washed from a barrel, but now I’m clean and then ate some rice and beans for a dollar.
I walked down to the river and talked with the women washing clothes. Little children every where were sick, they had bad sores and their teeth were rotted out. The mothers had me pray for the children. I cried inside. This is where we need faith healers with all their miracle services – out where the people are really sick, not in front of television cameras, dressed in expensive suits and ties or in an air conditioned hotel with a “mighty miracle” service or at the civic center. The poor and the sick need help. God have mercy. Jesus said, “The poor you have with you always.” How true! What can I say? The world is full of sickness, injustice, disease, poverty and death…yet there is another world of fullness and well-off people. We see the deep ravages of sin and its effect upon the world and everything in it. How it must grieve God, yet in His inexplicable way He allows this to happen, for He is God. I only wish I saw more instant healing but we probably couldn’t stand it.
A missionary family lives here. I stayed with them. They are wonderful. The jungle airstrip is nearby and Tom is supposed to fly in today. The roar of an airplane engine gave me a mighty thrill. Now my interpreter will be here and I can preach better. No! There was no Tom was on the plane! Only two boxes and a bag with an 8mm camera! But, where was Tom? The pilot didn’t know. He used the airplane radio to call Panama and learned that Tom had gone back to the United State three days ago without an explanation.
There was a letter from the Aldermans in the bag saying they had said goodbye to Tom and put him on a plane. Not even a note from Tom. He had sent my billfold and the rest of my money, but he could have sent me a brief note. Jerry left me and now Tom has gone. I have the feeling I’m in this alone. I was shocked, hurt and crying inside. I couldn’t understand why Tom would leave without even a word of explanation.
My deepest hurt was that the gospel was not going out and what I wanted to do was to preach in all the villages with Tom interpreting and Jerry filming. But God has His own way. It was Him, the cross and me now. God seems to want me to do this alone and has put me face-to-face with Himself in a beautiful way. What a joy it is to face the struggle of life alone with God. This trip is for me, if for no one else. Like Moses on the mount or Jesus in the wilderness, it is my time of inner revival and refreshment. I struggle to live. How powerful! It refreshes me on the inside to make me unshakeable. Never a thought of not going on – only the question of how to do it, of which way to go. This mission will be carried out. I will make it through the Darien Gap with the cross!
The beautiful missionaries, the Grindstaffs, and a nurse, Maude Backker, had received me as a man of God, fed me, loved me and let their home be my home. My heart was also thrilled by their little six year old son named Davis. He reminded me of my own children back in the States.
These jungles are incredible. There are no more towns until I reach Colombia. Sometimes I think I can hear the roar of a waterfall, but I can’t see more than three feet in front of me. At other times, it’s clear for maybe 50 feet. Nothing grows under the trees. I see steep cliffs, ten to forty feet straight down and then a stream that may be only ten to fifteen feet wide, but on the other side is a cliff covered in vines, bushes and grasses that rise straight up. It is a challenge to get down the steep cliff, across the stream and up the other side. Time and time again the vine I was using broke and I’d yell, “Jesus!” and push the cross one way and I’d fall the other, praying I would not land on a rock or log or splash into the mud and slime. I didn’t see any snakes, probably because they were as afraid as I.
Often I could hear a noise in the trees, but couldn’t see what was moving. I didn’t worry about food. I fasted for 40 days once, so it takes the fear of hunger away. I figured that even with the energy used in the jungle, I could go for weeks without food. I think the reason people starve to death in such short periods of time is that they are in anguish rather than content.
The walk with a cross – streams running to the sea. Between each stream was another mountain to climb and then down to another stream, then over another ridge. Near the sea it became mangrove swamp. The feeling in the jungle is awesome. Many people lose their minds. They can’t stand the pressure of feeling the vast forest, which encloses you. The greatest battle is in the mind and not to panic.
When I attended Mississippi College I made aerial maps to plot cotton acreage for the U. S. Department of Agriculture. This proved to be great training for me…a perfect sense of direction is one of the gifts God gave me along with an endurance that I must go on when there is nothing else.
As a Southerner, I always felt I could find my way by heading south!
At one village by a river in the thick jungle everyone ran in fear. The adults came back as I played with the small children. The houses were built high up from the ground on poles. The men and women only wore small “G” strings. My heart was broken that I could not speak to them. When I spoke Spanish they did not respond. I wanted to preach. It is my passion. But how? I felt the Lord wanted me to do drama and show the crucifixion. With most of the Indians sitting on the ground all around me and a few standing I leaned the cross against one of the houses. Then I put my hands up and showed them how the nails were driven in. They didn’t have any nails, only cords, but I tried to explain. I was speaking in Spanish and English. “Oh, Lord, I don’t mind struggling my way through the jungle, but I want them to understand,” I prayed.
Tears flowed from my eyes, I was in agony. The reality of what had happened at Calvary seemed so powerfully real I could hardly stand it. The Lord had me with my hands outstretched upon the cross crying. I was exhausted, wet with sweat and dirty, a machete strapped to my side, “Oh, Jesus, help them, oh, God.” I opened my eyes after a while and in front of me was an old lady with no teeth. She was crying, tears running down her cheeks. Then others began to cry. Soon the entire village was weeping. The glory had come.
I went to the children and began to say, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” touching their beautiful little faces and finally one of the children said, “Jesus.” I leaped with joy. Others then began to say, “Jesus.” And then I would shout, “Jesus,” and all of them would repeat it. I’d point to the cross, “Jesus,” and then point toward heaven, “Jesus,” then toward my heart and their hearts, “Jesus.” Their faces covered in tears and their love will be my constant companion. Only God knows what they understood, but we were one. This drama became my common means of witnessing.
February 9th- Tonight I sleep in house on high poles in a primitive Indian village. As I lie here I can see the faces of the people watching me. The entire village is sitting nearby as I fall asleep. From the light coming from a can of burning oil I study their faces; the women are topless, the children with eager eyes, have perhaps never seen or been so close to a white man. It is wonderful, but I was surprised when I came into this primitive village…there were several cases of empty Coco Cola bottles!
Today I heard the sound of a motor much like the noise of a power chainsaw. Was I hallucinating or was it real? I headed toward the sound and called out. An answer came back in English. We cut toward each other in the jungle, and then we were face to face. It was a group of men traveling from the tip of South America to Alaska in two four-wheel drive vehicles. There were about seventeen of them and more than twenty Indians. They had support air drops; all equipment was sponsored by different companies. Some of them were reporting for National Geographic. They felt like Columbus exploring virgin territory; then they ran across me!
“What are you doing?” they asked in wonder.
“I’m carrying a cross,” I calmly said.
“From Mexico to Colombia.”
The men could hardly believe their eyes. Me with a cross! And I could hardly believe my eyes either – two four-wheel drive vehicles! We had a lot in common. They let me preach to them. I was a sight to behold: a headband, dirty, torn clothes, a cross and a machete. The gave me a meal, filled my pockets with food and then I went on. Later they sent me photographs and a letter to my address in Hollywood, California. The pictures showed what greeted them when they arrived in a village where I’d already been. Mostly naked people with little read “Smile God Loves You” Jesus stickers on their chests. Guess I was doing my little bit for morality!
I’ve been on the road for twenty-one days and I finally made it to Pucuro. I was received by the Browns, New Tribes missionaries. The Browns have been in Pucuro five years, learning the language and witnessing. There is a small airstrip, one of only two in all of the jungle. The Browns are such sweet people. They provided me a room and I took a bath in the river while she fixed me supper, with iced tea…wow! We talked and now I’m in a real wooden bunk bed. I have a lamp of my own and a bed with a sheet. I feel like a king with the closeness of Jesus. I feel I could look back and He would be standing there. Jesus, the Holy Spirit and His angels have been with me every step of the way. I thought I had the walk planned out. I had worked hard on the details. Everything was ready for us to be a great witness in the Darien. Jerry to film and photograph, Tom to interpret in Spanish, so we would have great rallies – preaching, teaching and singing. We had Bibles flown in, but then God seemed to say, “I have something else in mind. I’m interested in you, Arthur, you and me in here. It’s not what you do for me; it’s who you are that I’m interested in. It’s your heart, your love, your peace I care about. Not by might nor by power, but by my spirit. Yes, everything to make this a great success is here. The means to film, photograph and preach, but I have another way. You alone, the cross, stickers and a simple witness in this jungle – nothing more. Everyone will hear about the cross; this river walk is total. All will hear. I’ll use you in a simple way and I want you to just spend time with me. Don’t get so involved in preaching, witnessing, television, news, Sunset Strip and cross-carrying crusades that our time is lost.
It is so great and glorious what God is doing in my heart. He has stripped me of everything but the cross. As for my supplies, Tom didn’t even send my wrench. If I had a flat on the cross I couldn’t fix it. I didn’t even have a patch. (I went all through the jungle and never had a flat!) He sent me the weirdest things, but he didn’t send the wrench or the things I needed the most. Not even a first aid kit.
I can only carry a few tracts and a few Bibles. It’s just me, the cross and the power of God. Surely, I must look like a prophet out of the Old Testament coming through the Darien Jungle.
I ran out of water today and ate the last can of food for breakfast. Now I must live by grace; where I sleep, what I drink and what I eat. I must depend on Jesus for strength to climb the next hill, for His safety not to slide down a ravine and stick a spike in my body. I must trust Him to give me balance as I walk a log with the cross over a twenty foot ravine. I must trust Him to restrain the snakes – the bushmaster and the fer-de-lance – as I walk through tall grass and climb over logs.
I must trust Him that the water is not diseased, that I find a guide, that I don’t have an accident, that the cross doesn’t break or the tire go flat. Back to the simple – it must be God, for my Spanish isn’t good enough to save anyone and most of the Indians don’t speak Spanish anyway. It is all through Jesus. No great story appeal or the right moment for an altar call. No great sermons.
I have written a book, Arthur Blessitt’s Street University, preached and witnessed on television and God has now put me in this jungle where He has cut me off from all interpreters and has said, “Now be my witness; love, care and let the people see the tears. I want you to hurt, to cry and communicate.” But, I can’t get through. This is the way I feel, I want to speak to the people in the world, but they can’t hear me. I speak the language of the spirit, of life and of heaven. There’s a language of the flesh, death, hell and suffering. I cry, I weep, and I want to communicate. It seemed God was saying, “Look around at all the people you know in evangelism and in the ministry who are doing great things for God. Saving souls, teaching, healing the sick and prophesying. But think a moment, you know many of them personally and the home lives of the great leaders are but shallow shells; the real spiritual life is empty – you know this. Now what they are doing is trying to make things too big for me, bigger and bigger, but I’m not interested in their lives, their hurts. I want to heal their frustrations. It is a disaster. Yet they try to lead My people. I want their hearts, their emotions, their love, and their interests. Not so much their time or big plans. I’m tired of hearing what people want to do for Me. I just want people to love Me, to love one another – then I will do what I will, for I am God. Everyone wants to plan a Crusade or go somewhere, but few seem to have time for Me. Arthur, I’m more interested in who you are than in what you do for Me. The world will be blessed as a result of the overflow of our relationship, but some would rather talk about Me than visit with Me or live with Me. Who will wash My feet with their hair? Who will anoint My feet with costly oil? Or, who will give a cup of cold water in My name or place to sleep or visit a prison? Who will speak My name dripping love? Everything must flow from the heart of God or it is in vain, no matter what the result. The question is, ‘who are you?’ not the result. We’ve come to believe that the end justifies the means in Christian circles. That if people are being saved, we believe it’s a successful ministry.”
Look at the size of that church, God must be blessing it. Not so, for Paul said, “Lest as I preach Christ I myself be a castaway.” Oh, Lord keep coming, I’m hearing you clearly. Tune me in; I don’t want to miss anything you are saying.
“What I’m asking you to do is obey Me, love Me, and follow Me. You don’t have to be successful; you don’t have to have a bigger or better story that ever before, just be My disciple today. Sometimes I teach you, sometimes you share it. Always you live it. You have come this far by obeying Me, loving Me and doing the simple things. The Sunset Strip was the story of little things, like taking drunks home, spending hours with runaways and drug addicts. The walk has been one step at a time, day by day, not with television following you, or a book or fame. You are now tempted to try to force success. You haven’t done it, but you are close. You must succeed, you are the expert. All the people want something. The pressure is to give it to them. But, no, I want you the way you are. Simple, complete and powerful. I don’t want you to have to be captured on film or spoken of on television or reported in the newspapers. Do everything only for me, for the good of the people – only for the good – not for the glory or the fame. Interest will follow, not because you tried to get it, but it will be because I did it.
“Like the other day in the heart of the jungle. I got you on television and you will be in a book or magazine. You are in My will, you have not gone astray. But be warned – stop and clear everything else from your mind. Serve only Me. Do it only for Me. Let that be the criteria and I will use you to shake the world.”
You see, when you are well-known, you are always tempted to tell a great story. You’ve always got to have success. That is what has happened to many evangelists. They feel they must have more conversions this month than last month. They feel if they give an invitation they can’t afford for anyone not to come forward. After all, they are on television and viewers will think they aren’t getting any results. People have been told that if they don’t help financially the work of God doesn’t get done. You know the whole financial thing – we need more stations and we need more money to ‘help save the world.’ A healing evangelist must have someone healed at every meeting – he can’t afford not to, it would be such a put down. The whole ministry is at stake. God has to come thorough at this particular moment. He may choose to heal in the morning, but no, He has to do it at 9:00 at night after the invitation. If no one is healed the evangelist must find some kind of stretch, so the whole ministry has become unethical in the sense that a few high points are being emphasized.
As for prophecy – there are not enough things happening that there are totally new revelations every day. There isn’t enough in the Bible to fulfill all of them, but most of the prophecy teachers have to come up with something new every week. It is conjuring up a new prophecy because of a weekly television show. The same old ones can’t be repeated time after time. All of Christianity has been caught up with this struggle and God is teaching me – you are the same. You tell them how to witness because you wrote a book. There is only one constant and that is…loving God!
I love you my Lord, my way, my life, my sunshine, my day, my night, my Father. You give all glory, not that I try to glorify You, You are all glory. It is just that I pray Your glory is reflected in my life. Having You in me so that the glory is from You and to You and I am blessed in the process of being in between.
This is powerful! We are caught in between. His glory comes down and we reflect it back. See, we are not really working it up, glorifying Him. He is all glory…we just reflect a little of it.
Oh, thank you Lord for caring about me enough to teach me more, to reveal more to me. I thank You that I am not as a machine producing decisions for Christ, not just a tool for You to use, but You are interested in our relationship, not what I am doing for You, but in me. You are interested in a personal relationship with me.
It is like loving your family so much that you want the best for them and you go to work; you want them to have a nice home and, television, proper clothes, good schools and a college education. You work, you take a second job and give all of your time getting and giving to them. Meanwhile you are neglecting your family. You are seldom home, and when you are, you are too tired to enjoy them. You don’t make time to play or spend time together and before long your life is wrapped up in what you are doing for your loved ones not what you do with them. You wake up and your relationship is destroyed because you did everything for them and nothing with them.
So it is with God. We get so busy studying, preparing, preaching, getting decisions and healing and praising God, doing everything for Him until we realize we are empty, our relationship with God is not really there. God took me to the jungle alone to talk with me, to cut me from the noise of others and from any selfish effort of my own, to get my full attention, to moisten my heart, to equip me for battle, to clear my head from the Los Angeles smog. Thank you, Jesus, continue to refresh me for witnessing. It’s like the Father said, “I don’t need anything you have. There is nothing you can do for me. All I want is you. I want you to love me.”
I want you Lord, totally. Gloria, adios.
February 12th – A father gives a child a toy, but how it breaks the heart of the father if from now on the child loves only the toy and loses interest in the father.
See, that is what a lot of people have done with ministry. God gave them a gift of calling and now they spend all their time talking about it or thinking about healing or evangelism or planning crusades and forget the one who gave them the gift! You can see God is getting hold of me.
Lord, help me through this jungle. My body aches, my toes are bleeding. You, Lord are the only one who speaks English. It’s good Father for us to go on together from struggle to struggle.
I’m here somewhere in the village of Paya, just me and Indians with rings in their noses. I’m back with the Cuna Indians now. About fifteen people live in this house, all have sleeping hammocks in one room both young and old.
Oh, I’ve been eating a lot of iguana. It is good meat. I carry iguana eggs with me and roast them over a fire. The Indians fish from the stream, drink its water, bathe in it and go to the toilet in it. All at the same place.
When you enter a Cuna village you are given a bowl of juice to drink. All day, as the women work, they chew corn, spit the chewed corn into a big pot, add palm juice and let it set in the sun to ferment, and then they serve it. It is a must to receive and drink it. Spit, chewed up corn, palm juice…not so good, but prepared with tender loving care.
February 15th – Oh, what a day! Nine hours walking in the jungle. Oh, my sweet Jesus. I need Your help. I cry unto you. This is tough, Lord, I almost didn’t make it. I was struggling, lunging, crawling, falling down cliffs and crawling up mountains. I had to crawl, pushing the cross a foot or two at a time. It was unbelievable. I slipped, slid or fell going down.
I crossed nine rivers today. As I walked along the bank of one of them, the bank gave way and I fell into the muddy water. What a mess! I struggled on. I felt like an ape man, it was simply a battle to survive. I cut vines and brush with my machete until I could hardly hold up the big knife. Vines wrapped around the cross; at times you could not even see the ground. This cross walk is one of the most incredible trips ever undertaken by man. I tell you, I’ve lived!
I refuse to die in this jungle. If God wills His power, I will make it. My heart is so tender, my mind is tough, and my body is in pain. But I am going to make it by God’s grace.
I paid two men from the village go with me to the river that flows into Colombia. It is only a small stream here and if you miss it, it is hopeless. There is no other way out of the mangrove swamp. When we got to the river I dropped the cross and fell into the knee-deep water utterly exhausted. I’m back to civilization – a pig pen by the stream! The ground is wet and swampy but I put some boards across the top of the pen to sleep.
I write this by the setting sun. Tonight I will sleep in the “Pig Hilton.” The pigs never slept though. They rooted and grunted and bumped the boards all night. They would even rub their backs on the boards. It was grunt, grunt, grunt, bump, bump, bump all night. This, plus all the sounds of the night and the awful smell. What a life!
Some Colombian men came by in a boat with long poles to push around the rocks and through the swamp. They agreed to give me a ride south for some money. After a while a motor boat came by. It was a Colombian government warden on his one or twice a year tour of the area. He gave me a ride on his boat. What would have been a two or three day trip was accomplished in one day. Hour after hour we would push with the poles through the swamp and when we got to a clean area the warden would start the motor. Finally we came to the big Rio Atrato river and then to the village of La Trevesa.
I stayed with some wonderful black Colombians for two days waiting to get a boat to Turbo. I think every one was converted to Christ. Finally, a banana boat came by, passing me up as I waved my shirt. I prayed it would turn around and take me on – cross and all. It turned around and let me on – cross and all. They could not believe I had come through from Panama.
All the area is swamp, there is no way to walk, and a boat is a must. Riding on the boat along the river gave me an unbelievable feeling; the sound of water, the vibration of the engine, the sun setting in the distance casting a red glow on the water, me sitting on deck with the cross, surrounded by bananas and rope. What glory! What a wonderful feeling! Oh, thank you, Jesus.
When we got to Turbo it was almost midnight. The boat stopped and anchored but I was told it was too dangerous to enter the town at night. Robbers and murderers are common on a Saturday night, I was told. You could see lights about a quarter of a mile in the distance. I said, “No, I go.”
Finally I paid a man $5 to take me to the shore. He and a companion took a gun. When I got off the boat and onto land a crowd of big, tough, drunk and doped men gathered around. After the Darien Jungle, there was no cause for fear, but I knew it was dangerous. I found the meanest looking man, shook his hand and told him what I had just done, where I had come from and why I was carrying the cross. I asked him, “Where’s the best hotel?”
I then lifted the cross and put it on his shoulder. He was shocked, but the two of us walked into the center of the wild town, me with my machete swinging by my side, long hair, a full beard, a small bag with my hammock and those big black men. What a sight!
The best hotel was so filthy I hung my hammock rather than lay on the bed, but I’d made it. Glory!
The next day I flew in a small plane to the big airport at Medellin. Then I flew to Bogota, spent the night and on February 19, 1979, I was flying 35,000 feet on Avianca Airlines non-stop from Bogota to Los Angeles. I had made it from Mexico City to Colombia on foot! It had taken a year and a half. I was ready to get home. Tired and dirty but full of joy. All glory to God.