37. A WALKER’S REFLECTIONS
I lay in bed under mosquito netting reading my Bible by lamplight. Almost two years of Africa lay ahead. The missionaries told me, “You can’t walk across Africa especially carrying a 12-foot cross! You can’t eat the local food, you can’t drink the local water unless boil it to purify it. If you sleep with those people you will have all kinds of bugs, diseases, and worms.”
I lay praying, searching for an answer. As I read Luke 10, I decided four things:
1. Into whatsoever house ye enter, say “Peace be unto this house.”
2. In the same house, remain eating and drinking whatever is set before you.
3. Go not from house to house.
4. Heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, “The kingdom of God has come near you.”
In fifteen years around the world this is how I lived. I have never been sick a day on the road from food or drink, have never had diarrhea or fever. Every time I eat or drink, I pray, “Lord, kill them all, Lord, if there is anything in my body that should not be there, cleanse it. If there is anything I need and it is not there, put it in. In Jesus’ name.”
It seems that in many places response is easy, deep and powerful, as well as life changing.
But where there is high expectation, finer organization, promotion and long-planned prayer meetings, what is worked so hard for, I seldom see the event live up to its expectation. The glory of God seems to be revealed most powerfully and the response seems to be the greatest when things happen spontaneously and flows from simplicity, then everything that happens can be attributed to God and to Him alone. It is like God will not share His glory with everyone. He will give His glory, but it cannot be taken.
On the afternoon of Friday, October 5, 1984, I sat in the office of a doctor who was giving me my first check-up in 15 years. I was at the City of Faith in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a part of the Oral Roberts ministry. The doctor looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “Arthur, you are in critical condition, you could die at any moment. You have two aneurysms in your brain (a balloon-like weakness in the wall of an artery). One at the junction of the left middle cerebral artery to the circle of Willis and the other along the basilar artery. You need brain surgery, as one of the aneurysms could burst at any moment resulting in paralysis or death.”
Now, I believe in doctors and hospitals, but with an operation as critical as this would be and the great chance of paralysis or death resulting from the operation, I felt no peace about having it done. So, I decided to rest my life in God’s hands for the future as I had in the past, remembering that in 1969, two weeks before I was to begin my walk with the cross, the doctors at Glendale Adventist Hospital had told me that maybe, without preaching, getting excited, or without lifting anything heavy, I had from six months to three years to live.
For 15 years I have lived each day only by the grace of God. Each step, each beat of my heart has been a miracle of God. He has sustained me, Hallelujah.I have lived each day knowing it could be my last.
I have preached each sermon as if I’ll step into Heaven at any moment. I put everything into now. I can’t worry about living and going into Belfast, Beirut or Nicaragua. My desire is to obey God, to accomplish the mission He sends me on. If it’s to live, I’m happy. If it’s to die, I’m happy. I never know what the outcome will be. I just go into everything God asks me to. I trust Him, live or die. There is no such thing as success or failure, only obedience, only love, only responding to the call of our Lord. I shall go on.
The doctor called me on the phone a few weeks ago and said, “Arthur, you are a walking time- bomb!”
Then so be it, I fear not. I am a pilgrim who is leaving to go on another walk. This time I’m going to India. As you read this I may be on a road somewhere in a jungle or in a war, or in Heaven. This pilgrim is on a long journey. I know my destination and I’ve enjoyed the journey with my Lord Jesus. He is still teaching me and loving me. Each moment I live only by His grace and I am excited.
I have learned to see the truly beautiful things in life. The faces of people, their smiles and sad eyes. To feel the joys and burdens of the people around me. To live with them and to truly care about them. This gives me great joy as well as painful sadness at the same time; to love the old people and sit and listen to their stories and feel their experiences.
It is so good to learn about all in the world. How can I ever forget pulling in fishnets with the people in a village in the Philippines, or building a church in Sibuyan, or helping pound corn in Africa?
Going into a big factory and speaking to the working people or trying to get the cross up the stairs to meet the President of Liberia.
Or, sleeping with 60,000 people by a roadside, in fields and barns in Poland. Or sipping tea with the PLO in Lebanon.
Or sleeping in a battlefield with the Israeli Army. Or looking up the road and seeing a sea of people waiting for the cross in Papua New Guinea, Abidjan, or Tegucigalpa, a long string of places too numerous to mention.
What a feeling it is as thousands try to kiss you in Spain, or stone you in Tetouan, or what it’s like to walk with a cross in New York as crowds rush by, or when you are told a church can’t keep the cross overnight, but the bar across the street will. When someone prays, it’s worth it all. To wipe a tear from a weeping face, or eat in a house where you have not one word to speak in common, to sleep there and leave in the morning, weeping in each other’s arms because of such love shared.
I have learned that surely I’m the richest man in the world, with family, friends, experiences of every type, to live with the people of the world. Not as a tourist in hotels, but to live, eat, talk, and sleep with the people on every continent. To know and love the Lord. To know Jesus is my best friend and to know the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. How rich can you get!
I love people of every race and age. Often I am asked, “What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?”
I say, “People!”
In the beginning, God created. He made everything and it was good. He made man and woman, the ultimate of His creations. He breathed into man the breath of life so he became a living soul. So God created man in His own image, in the image of God created He him; male and female created He them. Genesis 1:27.
We have been made in His image. To love someone is to love the ultimate of God’s creation on earth. That’s why love for God and for other people are so together in the Bible. The Ten Commandments relate to both God and man. Jesus said, quoting from the Old Testament, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. This is the first great commandment.” The second is like unto it, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” On these two commandments hang all law and prophecy.
Remember the words Jesus spoke, “I was hungry and ye gave me meat, I was thirsty and ye gave me drink. I was a stranger and ye took me in. I was naked and ye clothed me. I was sick and ye visited me. I was in prison and ye came to me. As ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brother, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:35-46.
I have learned to accept the reality and will of God without question.
I have learned the beauty of nature. I have sat and viewed the sunset and the beautiful handiwork of God at sunrise. I have seen the sculpturing of God in the sky in the clouds, small streams and beautiful animals. I’ve looked at the turbulent rolling thunder clouds on high mountain peaks. I have learned to be a friend of nature, not to fight it but to flow with it.
When I first started walking, the cross was blistering and bloodying my shoulder. I prayed and God healed it. When I realized the cross was made for my shoulder, the cross was my friend. My shoulder no longer blisters or gets sore.
For many years I had great difficulty with my feet. They would blister, hurt, get bloody, tired, and rather painful. Then I began to learn that my feet were made for the road, that the road was my friend, and after 15 years of walking around the world, there isn’t one bunion on my feet, there isn’t any abnormality, and there are no hard calluses or one mark, only soft, beautiful feet, because I realized that the road is my friend. I’ve walked through the heat of the sun in the Sahara Desert, in the Sinai Desert, in the Mojave Desert, and spent two years across Africa.
Most of my walk has been near the Equator.
In Jordan I noticed that everything was in the shade except the donkeys, Joshua, Joel and me. Yet, by realizing that the Bible says, “The sun shall not smite thee by day nor the moon by night.” By looking at the sun as my friend I found that I can walk in the most extreme heat. I don’t fight it. I accept it and rest in God.
The same is true with animals. I have found that by accepting the animals for being what they are, they haven’t bothered me. I generally consider them my friends and when I have been with the cross it has bean amazing, the response of the animals.
I consider nature my friend, not my enemy. I don’t try to fight aging. I know that aging is a natural process of life. The Bible says, “There’s a time to he born, a time to die, there is a time to laugh, a time to cry.” If we try to fight against the inevitable, then we create conflict within us. Every year a person grows older and gets one step closer to death. I live with the reality of death and with the expectation of life. I seek to be a friend of God, with nature, with my fellow man. And at 44 years old, I can honestly say that I am happy, I feel peace and fulfillment, as well as an insatiable restlessness to see the world shaken, changed and transformed in the image and likeness of God. I like to dream. If man ever stops dreaming he is dead even before he dies.
Often there is no church for miles and miles. Sometimes days go by before I see a church. People gather along the roadside and I preach. Many are converted to Jesus whether there is a church to go to or not. Many times there is a preacher in the area who can return and start a church, but often I have no one to help, so I will gather the crowd together that has just been converted and will ask all the men who speak English and are converted to Jesus to raise their hands, or I use an interpreter for non-English speaking areas.
I pray over this and choose one. “You, sir, will be the pastor of this church. This is your church,” and I point to the crowd.
“This is a Bible. It’s your Bible now. Read it. Study it every day. I want you to gather all the people in the village together. Those who believe in Christ and those who don’t, and teach them every day about this Book.”
(I never tell them about Sunday. In Acts the Bible says, “Daily in the temple and house-to-house they ceased not to preach and teach in the name of Jesus.” There is nothing else to do in these villages, so why not have church?)
Then I hold up the Bible to the newly chosen pastor and, before his newly converted congregation. This part of the Old Testament tells how man turned away from God to sin and how God gave His laws, but we broke them. He gave us prophets and judges, but we disobeyed them. Then it tells us how God made preparation to send us a Savior and told us about Him. This part is the New Testament. The first four books are Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and along with the first chapter of Acts, tell you about Jesus. Read and study every day! Look at Jesus, love Him. Follow Him. Pray to Him. Live like Him, and live as He asks you to.
This is the book of Acts. It tells you what to do at your church, how to start your church, and how it functions. Just read it and do everything it says. If you have any problems, the last books in the Bible will straighten you out.