Two of my children were with me on the cross walk in Jordan in the summer of 1980. Joel was fourteen years old and Joshua was nine. They flew in from Los Angeles to Amman, Jordan so they could walk with the cross and me. We began our walk in Jarash and walked west toward the Jordan River. Then we carried the cross south along the Jordan Valley and then to Amman, the capital.
Jesus walked along the east side of the Jordan River on most of His trip. Two and a half of the 12 tribes of Israel were on this side of the Jordan River in the Bible days. It was only to the east side of the Jordan River that Moses got to before he died, but he could see over to the Promised Land.
It was a long, hot walk. I carried the cross, Joshua carried the water, and Joel carried the backpacks. We were walking during much of the time of Ramadan, a time of fasting in the world for those who follow the religion of Islam, but the people gave us food and water without any problems. Again, the only people afraid were the few Christians in the country.
Here are a few excerpts from the diary that I kept while in Jordan.
Up and down these hot, dry mountains and through the towns of Ajlun and Irbid we walked with the cross. Car after car stopped to talk to us. It’s difficult to make any progress walking. We passed a big wedding party and all the men were in a big circle dancing. They welcomed me to dance. I joined them as some people clapped. We had our arms around each other. I could not keep in step, but I tried. The people asked me to explain what we were doing, and I shared with them about Jesus Christ. Glory!
Today we ate with a Jordanian army officer. When we left, he gave me his head wrap, which was the most personal gift he could give. We both wept. Poor people bought us cold drinks and gave us food.
Shuna: A village near the Jordan River. Joshua, Joel and I arrived having no food for breakfast or dinner except a watermelon a man had given us. This area is nearly deserted with very few people. We ran out of water, but an army truck stopped and the soldiers gave us a drink. When we arrived at a village, the men gave us some cool water and a can of tuna fish. It was great! This is a village of Palestinian refugees from what is now Israel. They asked us to sit down and had us take off our shoes. We were very hot. It must have been 125 degrees. The Muslim men knelt down and washed our feet, then dressed us in white robes and took us on a patio covered with grapevines. We were treated like kings!
A man arrived who could speak English. The people asked what I would like to do, and I said, “I’d like to speak to the people about Jesus.” The men gathered around, and for hours we shared the good news of Jesus.
Let me share just a word about how wonderful most Arabs treat you. When you meet a true Arab family, they treat you as a prince. When you are invited to their home to eat or sleep, then they treat you like a king with all honor and reverence. When you leave, you are a poet, you are a trumpet, you will tell the other people that you meet a wonderful family or village you have been in. You don’t tell about how good the food is or how bad, or how nice the house was or how poor. You can only speak about how good the man is or how good the village is. You do not enter an Arab village and stand in the street and begin to preach, although I do that in many other places. I enter the village and the people would be looking at me, then they offer me a cup of coffee or tea and if you seem to be friendly and love them, the Arab will then offer you an invitation to his home to eat or sleep. It is a great humiliation to be offered something and reject it. After you arrive at their home they’ll want to know what you want to do or what you would like, and I always tell them I’d like to speak to the people of the town or village about Jesus. They gather the people together and I address the gathering. I eat, drink and sleep in their homes not as a stranger, but as a friend and as a follower of Jesus. I have been showered with love from these people.
The Jordan Valley is from 800 feet to 1200 feet below sea level, and in July it is
about 120 to 130 degrees. Today we ran out of water. Joshua and I almost fainted.
We finally tried to wave down passing cars. A car stopped and Joel went to the car
and then began to scream. They had no food or water, but had ice. Can you believe
it? In the middle of the summer in the Jordan Valley during Ramadan! He had an
armload of ice. We thought we were in heaven. Hallelujah!
Hot isn’t the word for it. It is fire. I know what it is to be baptized with fire… hot sun, hot water, hot sand, hot wind, hot road, hot, hot, hot!
We stopped at a Christian Bible bookstore in Amman today. Joshua and Joel held the cross as I went in. “Oh, please, take the cross away from the front of the store the Muslims will riot,” the manager said.
“No, we can’t give you water. This is Ramadan and the Muslims will stone you and us.”
“No, we can’t sell you a Bible to give out. The people must ask for them personally.”
I told my sons what had happened. They said, “But, aren’t they followers of Jesus?”
“Only God knows that.” I said. “But isn’t it strange that the only ones to turn us away in this entire trip were the church people, not the Muslims.”
As we walked down the street to the end of the block, a man waved us inside his store. “ I see the cross and your two boys. Here, have some ice cream and cold water. We are Muslims, but we care.”
We had great response all along the way of our crosswalk in Jordan. Many prayed with us to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord
My wife, Denise and I went back to Jordan and on to Iraq in 1990.
Denise and I arrived in Amman, Jordan and checked into a hotel. Jordan was filled with hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring in from Kuwait through Iraq. They were stranded in the desert, hungry and thirsty, homeless, and in despair. Our hearts stirred within us. We knew that we must go on the highway. News reporters told us that it was impossible. You had to have all kinds of permission to get through the roadblocks to get there. We rented a car, filled the car completely with food and water so that we could give it to the people. We wanted to rush to the border and begin our trip into Iraq with the cross.
These words I recorded in my diary:
“So I lay here again as at other times in the past, praying, wondering, holding onto God alone, as everything says no to getting there, no visa for Iraq, no permit to even get past the Jordanian check points, a rental car that is not supposed to go out of Jordan, we only have the call of God to go to Iraq and pray. In a few hours we set off to face the impossible. We have made a decision to contact no one by phone. Now we need a miracle. There’s not time to talk about it. It’s time to do it. I cannot sleep, I am so excited. I just want to leap all the way to Baghdad. That is what is tough, demanding and that is our fight. Jesus help us. Lord we need you now. Loosen the holy angels tonight and bind up the strong man Satan. Loosen the Holy Spirit Lord. Jesus just put one drop of thy holy blood upon us and protect us, get us through to accomplish the mission and Your holy call. Now we sleep, we lay in Jesus arms. Hold us oh Lord; we have nothing else to lean on, only You.
Friday, September 7: Denise and I got up and we were off to Iraq, ready for God and ready for anything that he has in store. We found our way out of the city and to the desert road. It was about 350 kilometers to the Iraq boarder. In the name of Jesus and by God’s grace we got through seven army check points, we were never questioned or stopped, just waved on. At the Jordanian Border, all they did was laugh as we told them we were going to Iraq. A U.S. and a British passport holder wanting to get into Iraq. We saw the evacuees in the camps set up in the neutral zone between Jordan and Iraq. About 75 thousand people were there at the time we passed through. We stopped and gave food and water to some that we met along the road. Finally, at 5:00 p.m., we arrived at the Iraqi border. The car loaded with the cross inside was in Iraq. We saw the Iraq signs. We went through a checkpoint.
Finally, we arrived at a barrier. A man flagged us down and when they looked at our passports, they were in shock but friendly. Many troops were standing about as a man began to translate what we were doing. One man was from the P.L.O. and had fought in Beirut, Lebanon and he had seen me there in 1982.
They were so happy to see us, but they asked, “Do you have a visa?” “No”, we replied. They began talking on the radio and finally a man said, “Follow us” and we went with him to a building at the border post several hundred yards further. We were escorted into an office, which we later understood was the office of the secret police. We sat down and they began to ask what we were doing and what we wanted. One man came in, then another, then another. They took turns talking to us. All were very, friendly. We showed them the photographs that I carry with me in a plastic book, showing me with the cross all around the world and with Yasser Arafat in Libya, with Mohamar Ghadaffi in the background and they realized that we had been to all of the places and knew all of these people and they seemed very concerned not to offend us but to treat us completely as a man and woman of God. They began phoning Baghdad on a red telephone; there was a white phone and a red phone that was a direct line. I could hear them talking, but then they would speak to us while they were on the phone and I kept explaining, “No, we’re not news media. I’m a pilgrim, a follower of Jesus Christ”, and in everything we were saying, we were sharing the Gospel of Jesus. The man put the phone down and said they’ll call back. In a little bit, the phone rang again. They continued calling. This went on for about 2 hours. Finally, I was speaking to the Minister of Information on the telephone. He said, “You need to speak to the Ministry of Religious Affairs”, and finally they were on the phone. After a lot of conversation and explanation, it was determined that we had to go back to Amman, Jordan and get a visa. I said, “We’re already here. We don’t need a visa. We volunteer to stay in Iraq. You have people at various places. We’ll to go to a chemical factory, missile sight, or anywhere. We will just go with the cross and pray.” The men seemed filled with great love and understanding. They brought us cold Seven Ups to drink. We had been obedient to what God had told us to do. We were not accepted as guests, but were treated with great honor. We had given it all that we had. We should go back now to Amman and try it in a more formal way.
Following that, we began a long two-week period trying to get a visa for Iraq. We met with the leadership at the Iraqi Embassy in Amman, explained what we wanted to do. They said, “Wait, we’ll get back to you in one or two days.” Every day we they would say, “We are still waiting, call back tomorrow.” We were never refused, just constantly delayed.
After a couple of weeks, Denise and I were praying over a map, what did God want us to do. I lay for a long time praying before God. The Lord told me to raise my hands. I did. And He said, “Now I am going to pour out my power and glory upon you to do what I have called you to do. You will go in my glory. I have chosen you as my prophet for the nations. You are my ambassador, my representative. You must act and be as such. I told you to give up your dreams of doing great things. Now I tell you to submit your life to do things whether it seems great or small, you must do all things I tell you with total dignity and honor and commitment. Lift up your head in honor. I am proud of you, My son. You have been found faithful. Your mission has not been lessened. Your mission is the same. Focus on the cross and carry the cross. It is for you, and you must never let things control you or be bound by things. You and your wife are one. Now lay hands on her and pass on to her all the glory I am giving you to go forth.” I was crying and praying. I went to sleep after telling Denise what had happened. Then one series of meetings after another began to take place and we began to meet the leaders that God arranged for us to meet in Jordan who had influence throughout the entire Muslim world. Everything changed from that moment on. Denise and I totally committed our life to reaching out and ministering to those refugees, the hungry and the needy that were around us. The desperate women were so receptive and kind. Most had everything taken from them in their escape through the desert. The women from Sir Lanka, Bangladesh, and India could identify with the suffering of Jesus. Many opened their hearts to Jesus. A few days later God spoke clearly that it was time to go to Yemen and carry the cross there!
In 1998 Denise and I returned to Jordan and made two trips
from there into Iraq. This time we carried the cross in Iraq.
Please read Iraq I and Iraq II for the full story of that cross walk.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt