This without question was one of my toughest and strangest crosswalks. Chad in located in the heart of Africa, with much of the country located in the Sahara Desert.
When I carried the cross in Chad, the nation was in a civil war and also at war with Libya. The place was crawling with all kinds of military. The main force in Chad was the French Foreign Legion.
I flew into the airport at the capital, N’djamena.
“Chad! Poverty, war, desert, people and now a man and a cross! Pour out your Glory, oh Lord, magnify Yourself. Lord get me in and through this land.’
A few months earlier I was preaching at Westminster Chapel in London, England. The wonderful pastor Dr. R.T. Kendall is my dear and close friend. After the message a man with a strong French accent came up to me. He was very sharp. He wanted to arrange to talk with me. I met him the next day for dinner. Here is the short version of what he told me.
He said he was Colonel Albert of the 1st Battalion French Foreign Legion now fighting in Chad. One night they were in a battle with the Libyans and one of his men was shot. As he carried him through the night, the man knew that he would die. He told Colonel Albert that a man named Arthur Blessitt from Hollywood, California, had led him to Jesus. But he had backslidden in sin and joined the Foreign Legion. Now he prayed and made things right with Jesus. He said he had one final request. “Go find Arthur Blessitt and tell him to come here, we need him. He is preaching in London.’
He told me the Legion always carries out the wish of a dying soldier. So he left, flew to London and arrived at the train station. He did not know where to go but started walking down the street, saw a church and walked in just in time to hear Dr. Kendall introduce Arthur Blessitt.
This was an amazing story. He said, “I am going back to Chad and when you get there everything will be worked out. The French Foreign Legion will welcome you at the airport.’ He gave me a phone number in London to call and leave a message to let him know when I would be coming to Chad.
I prayed and felt led to go to Chad. When I phoned the number it was an engineering company and they said they did not know this man. I left a message anyway.
I went back to America for a few weeks. While there I had several direct warnings that I should not go to Chad at this time.
As I stepped off the Air France airplane into the hot tarmac runway, French Foreign Legion troops were standing on guard. I smiled and made my way, along with a few other people, to the Immigration line at the N’djamena Airport in the Capital of Chad.
Civil wars had destroyed this desert land for years. Poverty and starvation here had been forgotten by the world. Only the best of modern weapons now flooded the lands. Libyan troops controlled the northern third of Chad. French paratroopers and the Foreign Legion controlled the other third. The mid-section was virtually a no-man’s land.
I checked through Immigration and went to the baggage area get my cross, stopping to ask the tough, but smiling, Foreign Legion troops where my friend Colonel Albert Lewis de Bourgeon was. Col. Lewis is Commander of the First Battalion Red Beret French Foreign Legion.
The man, in a heavy Scottish accent, replied, “There is no person by that name and no unit by that name in the French Foreign Legion.”
How can that be, I thought. This must be a mistake. But no, over and over I asked as high a ranking officer as a Major in the Legion, but I still got, “No, no one by that name, nor any unit of that name.”
Later, I learned it was a set-up.
But now I am here, I knew God wanted me to be, but I had felt for weeks that I would not finish this trip. It seemed as though the Lord was saying, “You won’t finish this trip.” I could only think that it would end in death, because I knew that I would not leave because of fear. What lay ahead was like a mystery.
I found a hotel room and tried to meet Christians, but in this Muslim dominated country, the Christians were about as friendly as if I were the enemy. Concerning the cross, they remarked, “Oh, you can’t carry it here.” The only friendly Christian people I met were the United States Ambassador and his lovely wife. The Moffett family. They had me for dinner. The Ambassador gave me stern warnings about the possibility of kidnapping and possible death.
From my diary:
I feel covered by God. He surrounds me and His fullness overflows me. I feel a strange light is around me, and that my prayers are just floating up to glory. I did not sleep during the night only prayed. The knowledge of the deep struggle ahead fills me. I packed my backpack, put it on the cross, and lay down on the ground to pray. The Lord spoke. “Go, but you shall not finish this trip.”
I gritted my teeth, smiled at the hotel staff, picked up my cross and started toward the war torn capital city, which was really like a small village. I had no interpreter and no way to carry enough water into the desert. I only had my cross, a backpack, and God.
I walked past blown-up and bullet-riddled buildings. Soldiers were everywhere. Most of the people were in Arab headdresses and robes. A few trees offered shade but most of the time the sun beat down with merciless passion. Sweat poured from me as I went on toward the main market. I may die, but I will not flee. People stopped to talk, but they spoke only Arabic or French.
Finally I passed by the U.S. Embassy and a young man came up and asked if I needed an interpreter. He had spoken to me the day before, and was the only person who wanted to go with me. The young man requested a motorcycle. It was too hot to walk, but he would carry the backpack and a supply of water. I prayed and felt okay to take him, even though I had a strange feeling that trouble lay ahead.
After I gave him some money, he left and returned later with a much more expensive motorcycle than the money would have paid for, but I decided not to question it. The people at the Embassy said he did not work for them, yet the man told me that he did. We started off together, he being the only companion that wanted to go with me, whatever his motive.
Oh, did I ever sweat. Water poured from me. Crowds of people gathered around and I preached and walked through the city, on past the major military roadblock of troops on the bridge, and then I was in the Sahara Desert. Small scrub bushes, an open vastness of sand, a few clusters of houses which were scattered along the way, and at times, great distances between villages.
I drank water all day in this scorching Sahara Desert. As I carried the cross it was 104 degrees in the shade. My watch has a thermometer on it, and the temperature would go to 130 degrees.
One evening while standing beside the road, a pain slashed into my right side. It became a constant pain that began at around 4:00 P.M. There was no relief. I walked and prayed until I reached a village just before dark. The mud huts with straw tops were the houses for about 75 people who lived there. My interpreter arrived by motorcycle ahead of me and had arranged for us to sleep in the village. I could hardly sit down. I found out I had kidney stones and was bleeding. I prayed and hurt, but God gave me no relief. Little children were all around me, touching my skin and trying to be friendly, but I was in such pain I could hardly keep from screaming.
I must get to the hospital in N’djamena, but it was after dark and is illegal to travel after sunset. This was civil war, and the French and Libyans were in the middle fighting. Anyone on the road would be shot without warning. My interpreter did not want to go, but I said, “Kidney stones are one of the most piercing and hurting pains a man can have. We go or I go alone. I’ll come back and get the cross later, but I must try to find some kind of relief.”
We got on the small motorcycle. I put my backpack on and we took off through the night. The motorcycle had lights on it, but it was very rough as we tried going over sand, rocks, and through the brush. Finally we got to a road and, or course, a roadblock. It was very dangerous to approach the soldiers, but we were yelling and we approached them very slowly. The soldiers shined lights in our faces and held guns to us. There was no way that we could pass, but they saw I was hurting, as I was all bent over. They remembered me as the man with the cross, so they let us through. Finally, after several roadblocks, we arrived at the city. We went to the hospital.
The hospital was an old building where no one spoke, English. People were sitting all over the floors and wandering around. The doctor motioned for me to come in. He could understand a little English, but my interpreter was explaining my symptoms. There were rags all around, dirty and bloody. There were old vases and flies were all over everything. I was trying to explain how I felt. He cleaned off a needle with a rag. The needle had been used before. He filled up the syringe and gave me a shot and a few pills and said, “Come back tomorrow. We will probably have to operate on you tomorrow afternoon.”
I was hurting so badly I could hardly stand it. I went back to the old hotel where I stayed before, checked back into the same room, laid down and slept about an hour. At midnight I awoke.
I was hurting and in much pain. I prayed through the night. I knew I had to either get back and get the cross, or go to the hospital, or leave the country and try to get medical attention somewhere else. As I prayed in the early morning hours, I felt the Lord say, “Go, get out now. It is finished.”
I began to kind of argue with the Lord. “No, Lord, I’ll stay. I’ve never turned back before. I will be operated on here. I’ll finish the walk here or I’ll die here.”
But, the Lord said, “It is finished. Am I going to have to do something more to you to get you to leave? Get out! I got you here, I led you here, now I’m telling you, go.”
Now, if I ever felt God telling me to go anywhere, I felt God telling me to get out of Chad now! There was this feeling of death and it seemed like the devil wanted me to stay so he could kill me. When I heard the Lord say, “You won’t make it,” all I could think of was that meant I would die.
Even before coming to Chad, I had the feeling that my main battle was going to be with water. It was a battle with water … my water … my urine. It was my kidneys, my kidney stones. I thought, I must get back and get the cross. God had only told me when I started, to go south. He hadn’t told me how far to go or where to go…it was very strange. Normally, He tells me from this place to that place, but He had only said, “Go south.” Now He was telling me to leave the country. I knew that God could heal me, but He chose not to. He brought me back to my room and now He is telling me to get out. I had eaten nothing all day or all night, the pain was so bad. Now when the Lord says, “It is finished.” It is finished!
At dawn I met with my interpreter. He said he would get a driver and we would return to the cross and bring it back into the City. I don’t feel led to tell the entire story but I was almost killed on that return trip. Nothing more will be said about it, but I do, believe God used those kidney stones to get me out of a death or kidnap plot that was foiled by leaving so soon!
I got the twice-weekly flight from Chad to Paris and left that day at noon. I was in such pain as I arrived in Paris, but missed the connecting flights to the States or to England where I could get to a hospital. The next morning I awoke in my hotel room near the airport in great pain. As I sat up on the bed ready to book a flight so I could get to the hospital, the Lord Spoke. “Arthur, go now to Switzerland and start this week with the cross and carry it through that land.”
I flew to Basel, Switzerland. A wonderful doctor checked me and found kidney stones on the X-ray and began giving me medication. It was Wednesday night when I arrived in Basel and on Saturday I began my walk with the cross from the center of Basel. I was in great pain, but after about an hour of walking and sharing Christ with the interested and wonderful Swiss people, I realized I was fine. No more pain. Hallelujah!
I marvel at God’s ways, I don’t have to understand, just obey. Sometimes if we have to have an explanation we are asking the wrong question!
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt