The Druk airplane doors opened and the fresh cold air swept over Denise and me. The small airport where we had landed, lay along a river with high mountains all about. Only three thousand visitors a year are allowed into this Himalayan Mountain Kingdom. There were about twenty other visitors on our flight and we all waited in the freezing cold for nearly two hours to complete the visa and customs process. It was unbelievably slow. All tourists are required to travel in tour groups of at least six or more and be escorted on a tour. The officials could not believe we were a “group’ of only two. Bhutan is one of the most expensive places to travel in on earth. One lady said to me, “You are lucky to get an independent tour.” I answered, “No, not luck, Jesus did it”!
At the customs area we were confronted with Bhutan’s policy of no religion allowed, except Buddhism. The cross was wrapped in a sleeping bag unbolted with the three wooden beams inside. The official asked, “What is it?” Denise said, “Oh, my husband carries it with him when he is hiking”! And he waved us in.
Our tour guide and driver met us and took us to a beautiful cabin where we nearly froze to death during the night. The architecture of the building is a unique artistic style of wood, color, and arches. Culture seems of great importance here.
The next day our tour began. We were driving along the mountain road from Thimpu to Paro and I asked the guide to stop, then explained that we really wanted just to walk, not tour. They had no idea what the cross was as I unwrapped it, then bolted it together. The most important thing is to walk, to get started, and not be stopped before that mission is accomplished.
Quickly I said, “Denise will explain everything to you. I’ll be walking down the road, meet me in a few miles.” I shouldered the 12-foot cross and began walking, what glory, what freedom, what a thrill. This is my life. My prayers for this nation and its people filled my heart as the cross was carried in the Himalayan Mountains and Bhutan.
A beautiful stream of clear mountain water flowed by and people plowing with oxen worked in the fields. The farmers were waving to me from their rice patties and some came to greet me.
Upon arriving at the tour van, I heard Denise explaining about Jesus and the cross. They had no idea what the cross was, knew nothing of Jesus or the Bible. She went back and began at the beginning where God created Adam and Eve. The two young men, dressed in their colorful national dress of knee length robes of bright colors heard of how Jesus died for their sins. Tashi, the interpreter, interrupted Denise and said, “This is horrible how Jesus had to suffer on the cross and die, I never heard anything so sad”. He was in tears. Denise led them in prayer to receive the risen Christ who lives today into their hearts. Heaven must have exploded in joy at this good news. We were all happy together. I had arrived to greet two new brothers into the family. Hallelujah! They were so excited. I now had freedom to carry the cross, an interpreter, and two men who also wanted to carry the cross in their land.
We carried the cross along a winding road that had almost no traffic to the second largest city in Bhutan called Paro. Most people seemed simply amazed to see a white man carrying this huge piece of wood. Children followed along and even helped me up some steep climbs. One little boy came along making a drama of the way Jesus died on the cross. We had no problems, the police even waved and smiled as the cross went through this land of no churches. The air was not what one expected in the mountains.
Often thick smoke from wood fires around the houses would almost choke me.
But, at last the cross was carried in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt