United States

Walk across America with the Cross

The call to carry the cross

AmericanWalk1In 1967 I felt the call of God to go to Hollywood, California to begin a street ministry and open a Christian coffee house on Sunset Strip. The building we named “His Place.” The story of these years of ministry is told in my online book on my website at:

To the right is the team that carried the cross across America: Jessie Wise,
O.J. Peterson, Arthur Blessitt and Jim McPheeters.

The call to give my life to carry the cross around the world came on a warm Texas night. Like so many times in my life, it was in the stillness of late night that God spoke to me — powerful, life-changing and glorious! It was 5:00 in the morning when I felt God speak to me, telling me to pray all night long. Oh, how I love to just be with God. When I was a child I would often sit high in a tree in our front yard, a big pin oak, and pray. Sometimes all night. Mother would call out, “Son, are you okay?” I’d reply, “Yes, mother,” and my soul would thrill in fellowship and friendship with my Lord. I’ve always felt close to Jesus. Never alien from Him. So, on that night, He was to alter my life forever.

I had been preaching a crusade at the Garland Stadium in Garland, Texas, the first week of September 1969. As is normal for me, I also went into a nightclub to share Jesus Christ. There was a chain of nightclubs called “The Cellar.” I had first met the owner of the one in Houston, Texas, and preached there, then I had preached at “The Cellar” in Fort Worth, and now that night I was preaching on the stage at the club in Dallas. The Cellars are notorious for their dancing girls, the drug addicts and rednecks the girls attracted. I had preached in the smoke-filled, loud and rowdy club on stage for 15 minutes, and then I talked to the customers until very late. First at the church, then the club, then prayer until dawn. As I knelt by my bed with only the sound of the air conditioner in the small one story motel, I prayed. I was 28 years old, only weeks away from my 29th birthday on October 27th. Suddenly Jesus spoke to me, not in an audible voice, but in my heart and mind. I know His voice. In a clear revelation of witness to me, He said, “I want you to take the cross that is hanging on the wall in HIS PLACE and carry it across America.”

I was stunned. The words lingered in my mind and then wave after wave of the power of the Holy Spirit swept over me, from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head, like ocean waves. It seems as though inside of me my inner being was aglow. I was immersed in that incredible call, bathed in the Holy Spirit’s lingering presence. I was crying. Tears pouring down my face, yet I was smiling, praising God. Laughing, saying, “Thank you, Jesus, wow! Yes, Lord! Thank you, Jesus.”

The Lord spoke more. “I want you to take the cross into the roadsides and streets of the world to identify my message in the streets with the common man. I am sending you into the secular world. I am going to put the gospel on television, on the radio, by your walking. I want you to bear witness of My life and My love, proclaim My peace in the streets.”

As I thought on these things it seemed the Lord was telling me, “When I was here I was in the streets with the common man, that is where my message has to be identified again; in the streets. I didn’t question the call, only thrilled that Christ had spoken to me.

When I was a student at Mississippi College one night as I was praying in my dorm room I lay on the floor and I remember praying, “Lord, I may not be able to preach like Billy Graham, or sing like Beverly Shea, but I’ll be your garbage can. If there is anything somebody else won’t do, I’ll do it. I volunteer.”

I think time and time again God has called the good, the mighty, and the best qualified, but then somehow they refused and He got to the bottom of the barrel and there I was. He’d say, “Blessitt, come on, boy,” and I’d jump out thrilled, happy and excited, just to do anything the Lord says.

Never my wildest dreams did I think my life would be indelibly imprinted with the cross.

Back in the mid-60s God had led me to minister in Hollywood. First at “love -ins,” then in 1966 and 1967 to the Sunset Strip crowd of hippies that gathered each Sunday at Griffith Park. I talked to the young kids as the music played and they sat in the grass taking LSD and drinking. One Sunday as I spoke to a young fellow he said, “Why don’t you give the message on stage?”

“Well, they probably wouldn’t let me,” I replied, looking toward the platform where a far-out rock group played loud screeching music. “Oh, yes you can. I run the program. You can have five minutes.”

I spoke and invited those who wanted to hear more to meet me under a tree nearby. About 50 kids came over and the crowd applauded. This was my first step in becoming known as the minister of Sunset Strip.

AmericanWalk3In Hollywood, I would walk down the streets talking to the kids, feeding them and sometimes there would be 20 or more sleeping on our apartment floor. I would also witness in the Sunset Strip nightclubs. We barely had food to eat, but saw hundreds come to Jesus. We needed a Jesus nightclub that is open all night. I had been preaching at Gazzarri’s on the Strip. Bill Gazzarri, the godfather of rock and roll had at first thrown me out, but now I was preaching on stage Tuesday nights, and then unknown singers who later became world-famous were helping me. Andre Crouch and “The Disciples,” Charles McPheeters and “The New Creatures,” Sharon Peck and “The Sunshine Sisters,” and the Jimmy Owens Singers.

His place

AmericanWalk2We opened HIS PLACE in March 1968, in the heart of Sunset Strip, an area of the 60s subculture, where thousands of runaway young people, drug addicts, teenage prostitutes, Hell’s Angels, and other notorious bike groups, flower children, dreaming young actresses, music groups, the lonely, embittered, the lost, the hopeful all poured by the thousands each week. Everything was on the Strip in West Hollywood, but a refuge, a haven, a Jesus nightclub was not there.

We rented a building next door to a topless go go club and prepared to open. Everything was ready. We had wild lights, fishnet on the ceiling, a stage, prayer room, and a , and we would give away free food. Yet, something was missing.

The Cross

We needed a life’‘size cross hanging on the stage with colored lights on it so the cross would immediately impact everyone who walked in. Young people stoned on drugs or drunk would never forget the cross. We needed something visual to go with the spoken word, to point the way to life in Christ. We were getting cable spools to use as tables from an electric company in Santa Monica where we found the cross beams used for big light poles, four-foot by four-foot, and soaked in creosote to preserve them. These would make the perfect “old rugged cross.”

Back in our building one of my co-workers on the streets, and I cut a piece out of the center of the beams so the two pieces would fit together and form the cross. After drilling the hole and putting in the bolt, we realized that we had no wrench to tighten the bolt. At that moment I heard the roar of a Harley Davidson. Looking out the front window I saw Tom getting off his chopper. I knew him from all the time I had spend sharing Christ with the Hell’s Angels. Tom was as tough as they come. He was one of the original charter members of Hell’s Angels. He was a middle-aged, shorter than I, with thick, strong shoulders, bearded and long hair.

Back in our building one of my co-workers on the streets, and I cut a piece out of the center of the beams so the two pieces would fit together and form the cross. After drilling the hole and putting in the bolt, we realized that we had no wrench to tighten the bolt. At that moment I heard the roar of a Harley Davidson. Looking out the front window I saw Tom getting off his chopper. I knew him from all the time I had spend sharing Christ with the Hell’s Angels. Tom was as tough as they come. He was one of the original charter members of Hell’s Angels. He was a middle-aged, shorter than I, with thick, strong shoulders, bearded and long hair.

“Hey, Tom! “I called as I walked out the door, “Do you have a wrench I can borrow? It will only take a minute.” “Yeah, I got one.” He reached down and pulled one out.

“I just want to tighten a bolt.” “Hey, I’ll do it for you,” he said as he followed me in.

“Over there,” I replied as I pointed. The cross, 12 feet long by six feet wide, was lying on the floor. It was an impressive sight. “Here is a bolt right here.” He froze in his steps. His big, rugged face filled with shock. “What is it?” “It’s a cross.” “Hey man, you do it,” and he backed away from the cross. As I began to tighten the bolt, I was amazed at his response. The big, tough, fearsome fellow had encountered the cross. It had shocked him. Cut him to his heart. And he didn’t want to touch it. No, not the cross. “Hey, come back tonight and see it on the wall,” I said, handing him his wrench. “No, no. I’m not coming back,” he said, shaking his head.

“Well, come back sometime. Jesus loves you, Tom. This cross is not the message of death, but life. He died for you and rose again. You can have real life in Him. You can be free inside.”

“No,” Tom sighed. “I don’t want nothin’ to do with the cross.”

“Man, you are already a part of it,” I smiled. “Because your wrench tightened down the center bolt.” He dropped his head and turned to leave. “I’ll think about it,” He said as he walked slowly out the door.
Four days later Tom came walking into HIS PLACE and started staring at the cross hanging from the wall of the stage. “Tom, Jesus loves you,”
I said softly. “You know,” Tom said. “I just can’t get this cross out of my mind. Everywhere I go I keep seeing it lying down there on the floor. I even dreamed about it. It’s strange how I drove up just at the time you needed that wrench.” “No, it’s not strange, Tom.” I said. “Because God wants you. He is drawing you to Himself. He brought you to the cross, now He brought you back. Jesus loves you so much. He suffered and died for every sinful thing you’ve ever done. Open your heart and you can know Him. Repent and He will cleanse you.”

After a short time we went up to the prayer room on the second floor,sat down and I showed him in the Bible how to be saved and then we prayed together. He was born into the family of God. During the next two weeks I spent a lot of time with him, teaching him the word of God. Two weeks after his conversion he was killed on his motorcycle on the Hollywood Freeway. I preached his funeral with scores of Hell’s Angels attending. Five more bikers were converted there. The first person that had anything to do with the cross was converted and that had set a pattern for ever after. People see the cross, hear the word, and meet the living Christ.

Every night at HIS PLACE I preached at midnight, standing under the cross. People came to pray at our altar under the towering cross.

Chained to the cross

I don’t have time to tell the story but in the summer of 1969 after we were evicted from our second HIS PLACE building, I moved the cross out of the building and chained myself to it with a strong chain. We were having a big battle with the police, nightclubs and property owners who were trying to close us and drive the witness of Jesus from the streets. I had been arrested three times for witnessing on the streets, and now evicted by a landowner who claimed we were out of taste with the neighborhood. Chaining myself to the cross was the climax to that struggle. I refused to eat, fasting day after day there on the sidewalk with the cross leaning against a light pole, the chain locked around the center beam and coming down to where I was chained on the bottom. It remained this way 24 hours a day. I had no idea how long I would have to fast. I was prepared to die. I would not let the witness of Christ be driven from the streets of West Hollywood. Radio, television and newspapers carried the fast nationwide. Believers and non’‘believers rallied forth. Others thought I was crazy. Hundreds found Christ around the cross. Now I saw the reproach of the cross in the minds of many, even many Christians, but I also saw the impact of the cross, First I made the cross, then preached under it for two years, now I was chained to the cross. Christ was preparing me to live in the way of the cross, stamping me with the cross.

Bob Friedman, a news reporter for The Los Angeles Herald Examiner came one day to report on the story. He was a Jewish non’‘believer, drawn back to the cross week after week by the Holy Spirit. Finally he was converted on the street one night. The very next day we got a new building, and I ended the fast and unchained myself from the cross, ending 28 incredible days of being chained to the cross in the center of Hollywood’s Sunset Strip. Only a few weeks later I was to receive another mission concerning the cross I had by now become so identified with.

After the call to carry the cross across America we took the cross down from the wall of His Place and went out in the desert to do a test walk. I had no idea how many miles and hour I we could walk with the cross. I wanted to see what a day would be like walking with the cross. I learned that I walked about four miles and hour. Also that with this cross weighing about 90 pounds for long walks we needed to carry is sideways. Two of us would carry the cross at a time. Since I was the tallest I needed to walk close to the roadside ditch. At the end of the day we noticed that the bottom of the cross wood dragging along the highway rocks and pavement had worn away about an inch on each side! At this rate we would have to make a new cross every couple of hundred miles. We needed to make a wheel for the cross to keep it from dragging away on the road.

The Start of the Cross Walk

At 10:00 a.m. Christmas Day in 1969 the cross of HIS PLACE on Sunset Strip was to be put on the shoulders of a man who began one of the most dramatic and enduring pilgrimages in the history of man. But before the historical first step with the cross was to take place, I was to receive some news about my health.

Lying in a hospital bed at Glendale Adventist Hospital, I heard the doctor say, “Mr. Blessitt you may need brain surgery. You may have an aneurysm in your brain, an abnormal dilation of the blood vessel wall, a blood vessel blown out like a balloon. This is seeping blood, causing your problem.”

I was numb on much of the right side of my body. Four times in three years I had experienced this problem. A stroke had landed me in the hospital. This time all kinds of tests were done on my brain, including an arteriogram, where a large needle they injects dye into the artery leading into the brain. It is a serious and painful test. My neck swelled larger than my head after the test. I had severe headaches and vomiting, and was not supposed to move. My neck was packed with ice. The test almost killed me, and now I was being given the report. “We may need to operate and repair the blood vessels. It is a very serious operation. You may get better but there is also a possibility you could die or be paralyzed”

“What if I don’t have the operation,” I asked. “The blood vessels could burst at any time. If you just rest, don’t get excited, don’t preach, or lift heavy things, you may have from six months to three years to live or you could live for many years.

The doctors say one thing and God says, “Carry the cross.”

Christmas Day was the day to begin. Do I obey the doctor or the call of God? I asked for time and left the hospital, still sick and bedridden I went home to our small rented house in Hollywood. The doctors had given me much medicine to take. Everyone was in suspense at what my decision would be. We had made plans for my staff to keep HIS PLACE open while I carried the cross across America. The cross still hung on the wall of our building.

I lay in bed praying, “Jesus, what do I do?” No answer. In the middle of the night I realized Jesus had already spoken. Take the cross and go Christmas Day. I had already agreed and accepted the mission. Now, do circumstances affect the call? I was learning fast. A lesson that was to mark my years ahead. The call of God is not conditional. His call is not to be interpreted in light of circumstances no matter how adverse. I made this decision. “I’d rather die in the will of God than live outside of it.” By going, I could live or die in peace and joy. By staying, I would rot inside in doubt, fear, and the knowledge that I had refused the call of God. It was settled that moment. I have never looked back. Joy flooded my soul. I’d gotten the ‘medicine’. “If any man come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.”

I went to the toilet and poured all of the medicine down it. The swirling water of the toilet washed away my last chord of human reason. Only faith was left. I would never look back.

December 25, 1969

The first day carrying the cross.

AmericanWalk4A crowd of about 200 people gathered to see us off. HIS PLACE had been opened all night and many of the crowd had slept on the floor. There were my pastor, Reverend Gwin Turner in a suit and tie; braless runaway girls; motorcycle and street gang leaders, some people from the underworld; workers and my staff. A lot of young people stoned on drugs came to say goodbye. Pastor Turner laid hands on me, anointing me for the pilgrimage ahead.

I took the cross from inside the building, spoke to the crowd of news reporters that had gathered. They were ready to record my first step. I knelt and prayed again, glanced around at the faces, reached down, took the cross in my hands, and raised
it firmly to my right shoulder. Jessie Wise, a close brother, did the same with the other side of the cross. I looked ahead as the news camera rolled and photographers took pictures. The crowd clapped and cheered. I led them in a Jesus cheer: “Give
me a J!”

They repeated after me “J”- E – E – S – S – U – U – S – S. “What does that spell?”


“What does America need?”


“What are you going to do with Him?” I shouted. “GO! GO! GO!” they screamed.

AmericanWalk5I raised my hand toward the heavens and stepped off. The walk with the cross begun. I didn’t know what was ahead, but I did know Who had called me, Who was with me, and in Whose power I trusted.

Walking along Sunset Boulevard heading east toward Washington, D.C., yet another drama of near death was soon to unfold. At the corner of Sunset and Vine, a man rushed up screaming, “That’s my cross! Jesus is my brother! I want it back! It’s mine!” He grabbed the cross and tried to pull it off my shoulder. I knew Jesus said if anyone asked for your coat, give him your cloak also, but what about your cross? I just held on and tried to talk to him. He appeared to be in his late 40s, strong, apparently mentally deranged and drunk. Finally, he stopped his struggle and said he would be back soon to kill us. He then raced down the sidewalk. We decided that the best place to be was any place but AmericanWalk6here, so we walked fast and zigzagged on different streets. Half an hour later, we had almost forgotten about him as we walked along Las Felix Boulevard near Griffith Park. Then ahead coming directly at us, was the man with a big two-by-four with a huge nail driven through it. He was screaming, “I’m going to kill you!” There we were, Jim, O.J., Jessie and me with a cross and a madman trying to kill us. This was my team to cross America. They would sing and I ‘d preach, and they ‘d help me carry the cross.

O.J. was a former alcoholic and nightclub piano player, strong and bearded. Jessie was a former black militant and tough. Jim McPheeters had been converted to Christ at HIS PLACE when his brother Charles was playing music there. Jim was a former Marine who had just returned from Vietnam.

I had grown up on a cotton farm in Louisiana and worked at our sawmill in the swamps. I knew we could lay the cross down and take care of the man, but deeper than that, the man’s nails could pierce me. It seemed the Lord was saying, “If you are going to carry the cross, are you willing to live in the way of the cross? Is this a wooden board in the form of a cross or a life to live with the cross?” As the man rushed toward us, the words of Jesus rang in my ears. I said, “Fellows, we can’t touch him. I’ve never used violence and we can’t begin now. If we live, we live, if you can’t take it … run. If we die, we die … but we can’t touch him.” The man started to hit me with the board. I was saying, “In Jesus’ name, in Jesus’ name,” and did not move. Jim stepped between the man and me, ready to accept the blows. Looking at the man he said, “In Jesus’ name, I love you.” The man was raging. He seemed not to be able to move his hands, but just stood there shaking, his face a mixture of hate and fear. “Fellows, let’s pray.” I laid the cross on the sidewalk, wrapped my arms around it and knelt. The others joined me, our heads bowed. We were in the hands of Jesus. In the name of Jesus, let this man know You love him, we sound unbelievable to some, but as I prayed I said, “Lord, if I live, I live for You. If I die, I die for You.”

AmericanWalk7I was free. Joy flooded my soul. Peace was mine. The Holy Spirit bathed me in joy, love and gladness from the bottom of my feet to the top of my head. I was weeping, smiling and laughing. I could nearly feel the nails sink beneath my ribs. No matter, I was free. In a few minutes I heard a sound of weeping coming from the foot of the cross. I looked up. The man was on his knees weeping, the spiked board on the sidewalk. I walked back to him. ‘ ‘Sir, God loves you, Jesus died for you. Ask Him into your heart.” “Get out of here!” he screamed. “Leave me alone!”

I tried to talk more but he continued to scream. “Go on, God is with you! Take the cross and go away!” I picked up the cross and walked away, never to see him again.

Each part of this walk could be a book within itself, so I must seek to share the things that will give you a brief but true description of life as it is on the road with a cross.

The Team

When we left December 25, 1969, our plans were to arrive in Washington. D.C. July 18th or 19th, 1970. The walk was estimated to be 3500 miles. Our general eastward route led from Los Angeles to Phoenix, then through the mountains to Gallup and on to Albuquerque, New Mexico, across to Amarillo, Texas, over to Oklahoma City, then through Tulsa to Springfield, Missouri, and on to St. Louis. We would cross the Mississippi River into Illinois, Indiana to Louisville, Kentucky, then move on to Cincinnati, Ohio, Dayton and Columbus, over to Wheeling. West Virginia, then on the way to New York we proceeded through Pittsburgh and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. We walked south through New Jersey, Philadelphia, Baltimore and finally Washington, D.C. It took us about six and a half months.

The first day I started walking in sandals. This had been my common footwear on the Strip. But by the end of the first day’s walk my feet were blistered. The next day they were worse. I had to buy some walking boots and, though they were better, my feet blistered, were bloody, and I was in terrible pain much of the walk across America. I wrung blood out of my socks several times, smiled, put my shoes back on and walked on down the road. It would be years later that I would find the best shoes.

The weight of the cross, the pulling of the cross and banging along the rough roads has had a great effect on my shoulders. After the first day, my shoulders were so sore they could hardly be touched, but I ‘d grit my teeth, put the cross on and continue. We bought some kneepads and put them on the cross to cushion my shoulder, but as I went on I prayed and asked the Lord to heal it. Before we got to Phoenix I threw away the pads and my shoulders have never blistered again.

“Jesus didn’t have a wheel on His cross.” How many times I’ve heard this. I ‘m happy to answer that question. About a month before we were to begin our trip, I needed to find out how fast we could carry the cross in one day. We took the cross down from the wall, drove it to the Mojave Desert, and on a small back road walked for a couple of hours with the cross. We discovered our speed was about four miles an hour. That way we could anticipate our arrival time in Washington. D.C. However, we discovered something else. The cross was wearing away on the pavement. About once a week I would have to replace the long beam of the cross because it would have worn off. Wood against pavement and rocks loses out every time. A wheel was necessary, not to make it easier, but to save the cross. We then mounted two wheels on the end and later I was to use only one

On the crosswalk was my family and children, Gina, Joel and baby Joy. Also walking with me and driving our car was O. J. Peterson, Jessie Wise and Jim McPheeters. In Oklahoma Ramsey Gilchrist joined us on the walk.

Our first day’s walk ended in Pasadena. We parked the trailer in a supermarket parking lot on the main street and were awakened early in the morning by workmen wanting us to move. They were putting up seats in the parking lot for the New Years Day Rose Bowl Parade!

Our travel was gone like this. Two of the team would drive the auto with the trailer ahead about the distance we expected to walk in a day. They would find a place to park and get things set up. Then they would return in the “Flower Wagon” where the others were walking with the cross. We kept our lunch in the car and water to drink plus Jesus stickers and gospel tracts. We walked an average of 24 to 30 miles a day. A lot depended on how much talking to people we did along the way. Of course in towns and big cities we went much slower but throughout much of the country there were miles and miles of open space especially in the west and mid-western states.

AmericanWalk8Los Angeles to San Bernardino, California, was one constant city! There were miles of houses, gas stations, shops and people. Cars would stop and the occupants would ask what we were doing. Then we would share Christ! Each day many people were receiving Christ. Newspaper articles had been printed about the story with a picture of the cross and many people were eager to know more. All along the way there were gatherings of people on the roadside or at hot dog stands where we would stop and preach and talk. It was a constant witness. People wanted to see the cross and would blow the car horn and wave. Along the road we would stick Jesus stickers and leave gospel tracts. We walked the old U.S. 66 highway that led through the center of many cities. The fresh clear feeling of the walk was truly a comfortable feeling to me. I felt at home on the open road. The cross, the Bible, the preaching and talking, the family and open air! What more could one want!

After San Bernardino we began the fantastic desert area. Although it may seem strange to some, our problem in the desert was not heat but cold and wind. In the winter it is very cool and the wind is strong. We had to wear coats and try to protect our faces from the sand during the sand storms. Sometimes the blowing sand was so thick you could not see at all, yet at other times it was perfectly clear and you could see the snow on the high mountain peaks in the distance. We loved the open feeling of the desert. Each night we had a different sunset in the golden western skies. Often we would build a fire for supper and praise God for his rich blessings.
We were tired after a day’s walk but overflowing in God’s rich love and power. It was a constantly changing world around us. Almost every night we were in a new place. One night we would be in open country parked in a clear place among the bushes, the next night we would be parked by a gas station or in a city beside a nightclub.

We were living and walking among the people of the land and it was a rich, exciting and sometimes sad experience.

Trash and filth increased more when we reached some of the eastern areas of the country. Polluted streams that once jumped with fish were now black in waste and with foam floating on top. After miles of beautiful country it was now scattered with stupid advertisements. We found everything you could imagine scattered along the roadsides. Clothes, carports, screwdrivers, shoes, food, paper. It seems that the roadside is the American dump heap! Beauty mixed with trash, it was constantly changing.

Our pattern all the way across the country would be to speak to individuals along the roadside and to people who stopped in cars. Then we would have spontaneous Jesus rallies in the bigger cities along the way and to speak in churches when we were asked. We would challenge the church people to come out into the streets and witness for Jesus. We crossed through some beautiful farmland alongside the Colorado River and there Jim and I carried the cross across the river bridge between the State of California and Arizona. The bridge is narrow and isn’t made for foot traffic! There was a strong wind blowing and we began to laugh as the big trucks rushed by, just missing us and the wind about to blow us off too. “If we fall over the side of the high bridge, should we hold onto the cross or turn loose?” Thank the Lord we didn’t have to find out!

AmericanWalk9Arizona : We were now getting into some rugged mountain areas and the roads were bad all the way to Phoenix. A new freeway was being built through the area but it wasn’t open yet. But by walking along the construction path we could save miles so we decided to do this. It was a lovely long walk to Phoenix. Beautiful country and fresh air, almost no towns and few people to talk to but lots of time to pray and study the Bible.

One night when we were about twenty miles from Phoenix we were parked in an open space about twenty yards from the road in open country. It had been a long day’s walk and we had eaten early and gone to bed. Suddenly there were bright lights all around us. I tried to look out but was blinded by the lights. I slipped into some clothes and stepped out. At about the same time the other fellows came out of their trailer. “Up with your hands,” a gruff voice said and we saw men all around us with guns as they stood behind their cars with spotlights shining on us. “Jesus loves you,” I said and finally some of them approached us. Someone had reported that a band of Los Angeles hippies had arrived to settle in the country here and the sheriff’s department and local police had come to arrest us! Everyone had to come
out and they searched our trailer and autos. After a lot of questions and profanity they finally decided to leave us alone as we were not violating any law. Just as they left they stopped holding the shotguns leveled at us. As they drove away we had a special prayer of thanksgiving. At least we had gotten a chance to preach the gospel to almost 20 law enforcement officers. But none would take a gospel tract.

AmericanWalk10As we entered Phoenix an excited middle-aged woman met us. “Oh, thank God I’ve found you. When you were walking with that cross in California I saw you and wanted to stop and talk with you but my husband made me go on. I was so moved to see the cross. Can you tell me about Jesus? I live in the home just over there.” It was a wonderful visit. She had bought the newspaper every day to see if we were coming through Phoenix and now God had brought us to her doorstep. We explained that she could invite Jesus into her heart, repent of her sins and that right in her home she could pray and receive eternal life. She wept as she prayed with us. “Dear God, I ask you to forgive my sins. I believe in Jesus. Christ come into my heart and save my soul. Make me a new person. I want to follow you in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Oh, it was so thrilling. She cooked us dinner and called her husband and told him what had happened.

Now the road led to the mountains! We headed northeast from Phoenix up into the beautiful mountains. We walked through a large Indian reservation and the physical needs of the people were so great. After speaking to a group of Indians along the roadside a car drove up. It was full of Indians and they had a box of goodies for us. I tried not to take it and said that they needed it more. But they answered, “No, we are Christians and we want to help you on your way to spread the love of God. Please take this, it’s the best we have.” We all hugged the elderly Indian and with tears flowing down our cheeks we waved to them as they drove off. In the expression of kindness you could see the beauty of true love!

We climbed higher and higher to the small beautiful town of Payson. We spent almost a whole day there preaching, talking and teaching interested people. At night the police wanted us to leave the cross inside the jail for safekeeping.

AmericanWalk11They were so nice to us. The cross in jail! What did the men inside think? It was empty! The next morning the whole police force gathered to see us off and one man was converted to Jesus. From Payson to Holbrook is fantastic country. Huge timber and deep snow. The nights were clear and the moonlight reflected off the snow making it almost as light as day. It had snowed a lot but the road itself was clear so the walking was good. There was danger on some of the sharp curves and steep cliffs that we had to be near if two cars or trucks met on the road. The weather was cold but not too cold. The walking kept us warm.

By now our feet and shoulders were broken in and were no problem. The second day of the walk out of Los Angeles my feet and everyone else’s were really in a bad way. I had to get some good walking boots. Our feet slowly got better after blistering and became hard and tough. Our shoulders had gotten so sore we had to use a pad on the cross but after a couple of weeks we threw them away because now we were in good shape and we could really walk fast and long.

New Mexico

AmericanWalk12Finally we arrived at the New Mexico border and started walking on the freeway! The captain of the highway patrol loves Jesus and had told his men to look after us and help us. The police stopped often and talked with us. We had a good witness in Gallup, New Mexico and oh it was cold along there. It was below zero and one morning 14 degrees below zero. We wore coats, boots, gloves and a hat but the roads were clear of snow. We crossed the Continental Divide between Gallup and Grants.

Albuquerque: It’s a beautiful city and at night on the overlooking hills you can see the sprawling city around you. At night it’s one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen.

Hundreds of young people and adults were at the edge of town to march in to the city with us. We taught them Jesus cheers, had them make Jesus signs and gave them Jesus stickers to give out along the way. It was one of the first, if not the first Jesus march held outside California.

We had a good walk to Santa Rosa and a lot of people stopped to talk along the highway. The newspaper and TV witness had covered the state.

AmericanWalk13We walked across northwest Texas and then into Oklahoma .

On Route 66 between Tulsa and Oklahoma City we walked through a town at just about nightfall. As we passed a pool hall I stuck my head through the door and yelled, “Get on the ball for God! Praise the Lord!”

We kept on walking. In a minute we heard something and looked back. Everyone from the pool hall was standing out front looking at us. So we turned around and carried the cross back.

AmericanWalk14“What in the world are you guys doing?” they asked. None of them had heard any thing about us. Their curiosity led us to carry the cross inside and lay it alongside a pool table. Jim sang a I preached. A couple of the men accepted Jesus and we prayed and set off again down the road. Some time later, well after dark, two cars stopped and the two men from the pool hall had gone home, got their wives and brought them back to the hall. Finding us gone they’d come down the road after us. They asked us to pray with their wives, too. We led them both to the Lord as well, so there were two whole families who gave their lives to Christ from that one short shout through those pool hall doors.

A car with the two girls in it stopped us as we were leaving Tulsa. They pulled up alongside as we carried the cross in a cold, driving rain. They were the only ones who stopped that day; most folks just drove on past in the wet sleeting afternoon.

We were dripping wet as we walked up to their open car window. Mary Hall and her friend smiled at us. “Hi, You’re Arthur Blessitt, we know. We’re not Christians, but we’ve seen you on television. We saw you carrying that big cross and we wanted to get you something to eat. We bet you’re really hungry out in this weather.” They had hamburgers, cokes and French fries. They asked us to get in and eat, so we laid the cross up against the car and got into the back seat, dripping water all over the upholstery. We shared Christ with them as we devoured the hamburgers and fries. “Can we see you later tonight if we get a group of our friends together?” Mary asked. “A lot of them are taking dope and a lot of things. Would you talk to us all? We’re not Christians, but…” Of course we would.

After eating, they left and we walked on until dark. They drove out in their car and took us back to their house for dinner with their parents. Then a bunch of kids came over and we talked to them all night. Some would leave, to come back with other friends. Carloads came. We ministered until about seven o’clock the next morning. We led both of those girls and many of their friends to Christ. Then, that morning, I preached at the church in the little town.

AmericanWalk15We continued the walk through Oklahoma and into just the corner of Kansas , then to Joplin, Missouri. We took a day off there to rest. A church wanted to see the cross so Jessie put the cross in the witness wagon to drive it out for them to see. He was involved in a car accident and our car was completely destroyed and the cross was broken in half! The pastor of a church helped us find a carpenter and he worked on the cross and put it together with steel supporters along the cross beams. It increased the weight from 85 pounds to 105 pounds! We walked through Springfield and then on to St. Louis.

A man back in Tulsa gave us an old Rambler automobile to pull the caravan but driving it to Joplin, the motor burned up, so we had to abandon it on the roadside! Then another man gave us a 1952 Mercury. It had no muffler, no tail pipe, and no tag and burned oil like gas, but it would run so we took it and pulled the trailer!

We had a great march with the cross in St. Louis and across the Mississippi River.

In East St. Louis, Illinois we arrived at a little church where I was to preach that night. It was located on the east side of town in an area you could describe only as transitional, white moving toward black. When we got there we found the front door locked and nobody around. It was only twenty minutes or so before meeting time and we were puzzled. We tried peeking in through the front windows but they were stained glass and dirty so we could see nothing.

AmericanWalk16We sat in the car awhile, and then I tried the door again. Still locked. I beat on it and called, then walked around to the side. Not a soul around. No cars coming up.

“We must have the wrong place,” I said to the fellows. “Well, let’s wait until seven thirty.”

Just then we heard some organ music and people singing.

“How in the world did they get in?” we asked each other.

I went back to the front door and beat on it some more. Still nobody came. We all started walking around the church searching for some secret entrance. Finally we spotted some old buildings out in back and a man standing by a doorway to one.

I went up to him. “Praise the Lord, brother! When are you going to open the front door?” “Are you the preacher?” he asked.

“Yes.” “Well, come on in.” So we all filed through.

“Wait till the pastor comes back. Oh, we’re glad to see you, Brother Blessitt.” “Well, thank you, but how do you get in here?”

It was dark back there, with a tiny light burning over the back door. The place resembled a dungeon, or maybe a mortuary. “We haven’t opened that front door in, ” the man began, “oh, it’s been years. This area is getting so full of blacks and criminals and Spanish folks! It’s just terrible. We’re building out in a decent neighborhood and we are going to move the church out there. It’s to the point where we have to guard our cars and guard thedoor. We just can’t let all these people in. You know those hoods.”

“You mean you don’t open the front door?”

“Oh, no, Brother Blessitt. People come in. They steal hymn books and create such a commotion. But we’re moving out to our new building, and –” “My goodness” I said. “The church isn’t supposed to run from the world. You’re supposed to run into the world. We need thieves, robbers, and muggers in the church. Better for them to be in church than running out in the streets. Open your door!”

“Oh, but you just don’t understand. If you were a pastor you’d understand what I’m talking about.”

So with that prelude I mounted the pulpit to preach. Out in front of me was a bunch of sweet little people, totally isolated, all living miles away from this church and waiting for the church to move out nearer them. They’d all just moved out and left the building standing. They were still attached to the church, but they weren’t part of it. There wasn’t one local person in the audience, just a little enclave holding on until they could sell that property and put the money elsewhere.

I forget exactly what I said those folks that night but I know what I was thinking. “This is the very epitome of what is irrelevant about the gospel and so many churches. They’ve shut out the very world they’re supposed to take the gospel to.”

We had a good walk through the rolling-hill county of Illinois and into Indiana . The roads on Route 460 that we took across were very bad. They were narrow and there was little place to walk! Much of the time we had to jump into the ditch. The early dawn of spring was now here and it was beginning to warm up and it sure felt good.

AmericanWalk17Ramsey Gilchrist, who had joined us in Oklahoma City, was carrying the cross with me as we came through to a small village in Indiana. It’s not a city, not even much of a town, just a gas station and a store.

Hardly seconds after we arrived three men came out of the gas station’‘ store with a can of gasoline. I was walking on the ditch side of the road, huffing and puffing, so Ramsey opened the conversation. I wasn’t paying too much attention to him, trying to catch my breath. I didn’t hear the threat hurled at Ramsey.

“We want to burn that cross and we’ve got the gasoline here to do it. So you better get out of the way or we’re gonna burn you, too!” Ramsey turned white. He didn’t know what to do and turned to me, assuming I’d been listening. But my mind had been elsewhere, and so when he turned, I looked over at the gas station and said, “Hey, let’s get a Coke.”

It was Sunday and I felt generous as well as thirsty. I saw all the men with Ramsey and smiled, “Hey, men, come on. Let me buy you all a Coke. It’s on me. Come on, Ramsey.”

We ran across to the store, with these three guys following along behind. I leaned the cross up against the building and went inside. I spotted a Coke machine, the kind where you raise up the lid. “Ya’ll want Cokes? Or something else” I hollered. Everybody wanted Cokes. I opened the bottles and handed them around, put the money down on the counter and said, “Praise the Lord. Let’s step outside. Over here where it’s cool. I moved into the shade.

There were some steps and I sat down and turned to the three men with Ramsey. “You know, Jesus can really make a difference in your life if you really know Him.” I started sharing Christ with them until I noticed they were all just looking at me with strange, astonished expressions on their faces just staring, not drinking their Cokes.

Finally one of the three men said, “You’re a bad… aren’t you?”

“A what?”

“Just a real bad guy.” And he walked over and turned over his gasoline can and let the gas spill into the street.

“What in the world are you pouring that out for?” I asked.

“I’ve seen some tough men in my day, but you’re the toughest. We come out there on that road and told you we’re gonna burn your cross and you, too, if you got in the way. And we meant business. And you look us straight in the eye and don’t even flinch. Just “Hey, guys, lemme buy ya’ll a Coke.’ And sit down and start preachin’ to us. “Man, I can’t touch you.” He shook his head.

I was in a state of shock by then. I didn’t dare admit I hadn’t heard their initial conversation with Ramsey. So I just said, “Well, praise the Lord, let’s have prayer. Would you give your heart to Jesus?”

That guy shook the last drop of gas from the can and looked at me. “Yeah, I sure will. I sure will.” The other two wouldn’t follow his lead, and he scolded them. “You guys are somethin’ else.” Then he turned to me “There’s a little ole’ Pentecostal church here and I know the preacher. Let me call him and see if I can get you all to preach there tonight.”

AmericanWalk18Kentucky : A crowd of Christians met us at a bridge over the Ohio River including the news press. I was immediately given an emergency message. The U.S. Army had invaded Cambodia in the war in Southeast Asia. There were campus protests breaking out all over the nation. Many students at Kent State University in Ohio had been killed by National Guard troops.

We had a huge Jesus March and rally in Louisville. It was a powerful walk with the cross into the city. Then we had our greatest welcome on the walk across America! Glory. I preached at Freedom Hall to about 8,000 young people.

I also spoke at the main chapel building to the ministers at Southern Seminary.

The country was exploding in protest and anti war rallies. I was to preach at a church in Lexington. The University of Kentucky is located there. Before the night meeting I could hear the noise of the marching and protesting as I sat having dinner in the church. Jim McPheeters and I felt Jesus tell us to go to the students. Inside was the church people getting ready for the meeting but outside was the world of students. As we arrived the police and troops were about to attack the students. I asked to speak and then I stood and spoke to the military and the students. I had a prayer and at the end the military attacked the students. A huge riot broke out. Police grabbed whomever they could catch. Jim was arrested. We had to bail him out of jail. I also preached a late night meeting that very night at Asbury College arriving after midnight to a large gathering.

It was a long difficult walk across Ohio .

AmericanWalk19The U.S. Army had invaded Cambodia in the war in Southeast Asia. There were campus protests breaking out all over the nation. Many students at Kent State University in Ohio had been killed by National Guard troops.

At the University of Cincinnati they were having a huge demonstration when one of the officers in the president’s office had called for me to come and speak to the students at the mass rally in the football stadium. They were afraid violence would break out and many people would be killed there. The student leader had agreed to give me five minutes.

Several people spoke and some sang and read poetry. Some advocated peace. It was undetermined which way the tide would go. One man strongly urged the students to take to the streets and stop the city and close the campus entirely. Then it was my turn to speak. “I’m not a student here, but I’m young, I’m concerned, I’ve been invited here to speak and I’ve something to say that I want you to consider! Please look at the man Jesus. It’s easy to see the tragedy of this world’s hate, the greed, the war, the killing and injustice. It’s easy to see the wrong of the situation that is taking place in our world today, but I ask you – what do we do? Do we resort to the same devices as they, do we give hate for hate, death for death and in our effort to overcome them do we join them in their wicked acts. No! This cannot be the way. We must overcome evil with good, love with hate and injustice with justice. Jesus stood as a tower among men, even as he was God in the flesh. He showed us a better way! Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life”. We, as young people, can know Jesus, personally as Savior and Lord. We can show the world the better way, the true way. Sure we must change the world, but be careful not to become like it, we must not seek to escape from it, but make it anew in Jesus Christ. Let us leave here dedicated to be changed and to change the world but let us leave in peace. Too AmericanWalk21much blood has already been shed. Enough was shed at Calvary to last for all time. Repent, receive Jesus and live. May we bow our heads in prayer!”

I then prayed and the power of God seemed to cover the whole stadium. Then I prayed a prayer that they could pray in their hearts to receive Jesus. Then I closed and stepped way from the microphone. There was total silence, and a sweet calm. Finally the students in charge closed the meeting. The massive crowd began to slowly pour out of the stadium and back to their places in the city. I was mobbed by students telling me how thankful they were for my message.

AmericanWalk20The police kept harassing us. We were stopped often, questioned at length and would force us to walk in ditches. We walked the smaller roads as the police banned us from the freeway. Yet we witnessed in the small towns along the way.

We only walked across a small corner of the state of West Virginia . Wheeling, West Virginia, lies along the Ohio River surrounded with high hills. We could have walked around the mountains, but it would have taken much longer, so we went through it. On the freeway, the tunnel was one of those two-holed affairs, one for traffic in each direction. We decided to walk facing traffic. We got near the center divide, but we still had no room. We couldn’t carry the cross flat; we had to turn it sideways, with the beams vertical.

There was no walkway, because pedestrians weren’t allowed on freeways. Once inside the tunnel the roar of motors was deafening. Cars slid by us only skin thickness away.

AmericanWalk23I kept praying, “Lord, slow the traffic down! Slow the traffic down!” Believe it or not, traffic slowed. In a minute or so, not one car came by.

“Praise the Lord, Jim! Look what He’s done for us.”

We stepped out in the traffic lane, thinking we could hear oncoming cars in time to step aside. The tunnel had a slight curve in it so we couldn’t see the other end until we got almost to it. We peered out to see what traffic was ahead. There was a man out there with a red flag, stopping down all the cars until we walked through the tunnel. Somehow tunnel personnel had spotted us and sent word ahead to get that flagman out, pronto.

The moment we appeared a guy grabbed me and got us both off the freeway.

“What do you think you’re doing anyway,” he asked, “Carrying the cross.”

“Where’d you come from with that thing?” “California.” “And you’re walking through the tunnel?”

“There was no sign that said, ‘Do Not Enter’.” “Well, nobody would enter a freeway tunnel on foot. You’re not supposed to walk on the freeway.” “Well, praise the Lord, we made it.”

AmericanWalk22“You’re either a saint or you’re insane,” the flagman said to me. “There’s a slight chance you might be a saint, so I’m going to look around, and when I look back, if I even see you or your cross, you’re going to jail. So get down that road as fast as you can.

I smiled and said, “Jesus loves you.” He turned around and we took off running until we got over the next little hill.

We walked on across Pennsylvania through Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg and Easton then into New Jersey. One of the most moving meetings of my entire life was at Point Park as we carried the cross with many marchers.

Then a large crowd was waiting for us and the band was playing “Get Together.”

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
everybody get together
Try to love one another
right now

AmericanWalk24Newark, New Jersey , has had its share of race riots over the years. It has a heavily populated black area that is still skirted by cautious whites. Police stopped us as we walked into town and warned us. “The direction you’re going in will become the black area where we’ve had lots of trouble. You’re white except for that one black fellow with you, so steer clear of that area. We can’t be responsible for you there.”

“You don’t have to be responsible for us, but we’re not going to detour out of our way, just to miss some trouble.” I said, “That’s what we want to do, bring the cross into the most troubled areas to show that Christ is the answer to our problems.” “You could get killed or beaten up, and they could tear that cross to pieces,” the police warned.

“I don’t think so. Anyway, we’re going on.”

We prayed first and started on. All four of us walked through the hazardous area, not for protection, but so there would be more of us to witness.

We weren’t in the area long before we saw a group of blacks on the corner eyeing us. In a moment they came up to us. We told them what we were doing and began witnessing. I asked one big husky black to pray and accept Christ.

“No! I won’t do it. But I tell you what I would like to do. I’d like to carry that cross.”

“You’re welcome, Brother, ” I said. “You get right over here, with me.”

He hoisted his side of the beam to his shoulder and we walked right down the middle of the area where all the riots had taken place. And right along with us came some other dudes, each taking his turn carrying the cross. It was beautiful to watch them take turns.

After we were through, the big fellow said, “You know, I think I will try that prayer thing now.” He did, and Christ gained another brother.

AmericanWalk25We had no planned rallies in New York City but we walked through the heart of that great metropolis. We left our cars and trailers in a trailer park and carried the cross over the George Washington Bridge. From the start, our time in New York was something else. None of us had ever been there before and everything about the city overwhelmed us.

Everybody was in such a rush, people walking with heads down cars zipping by and zooming around. We finally had to get someone to walk in front of the cross and another in back to keep people from crashing into us. Few paid much attention, even though some did pray with us as we walked along. We had been given good news coverage in the papers and on television, but we didn’t make a big splash.

AmericanWalk26The New York Times had a reporter following us along the streets. I know he was amused at how lost we were among the forest of skyscrapers and the crowds along the streets. I’m sure he was even more impacted by our witnessing all the way down Fifth Avenue.

We were heartbroken as we moved into the poverty of Harlem, crossing suddenly from the rich and elegant housing along Madison and Fifth avenues into the crowded conditions there. We shared Jesus in the sin climate around Times Square,
and with the sad drunks lining the sidewalks in the Bowery. We preached everywhere, getting groups together wherever

But our biggest problem in New York was getting people to lift their eyes. All the time someone was bumping into the cross as we walked along. That’s the memory I have of New York. Millions of people so intent on their inward lives they didn’t know where they’re going. But there were some people who looked up and listened and gave their hearts to Christ and that, really, was our mission, to carry the cross into the streets of America and remind them of what Christ did for us all two thousand years ago, and that He is alive today. Well, in New York, we did manage to remind people at least those who stopped in their blind head-down rush through life.

From New York we went south through Trenton, Philadelphia, Delaware into Maryland and on into Washington D.C . where we a 24-hour Jesus Rally at the Washington Monument.

Thirty five hundred miles and 3500 adventures later. We arrived in Washington D. C. We had a glorious rally near the Washington Monunemt.

AmericanWalk29Then God called me to fast and pray for 40 days at the corner of 15th and Constitution in Washington, D.C. I leaned the cross against a tree in a kind of triangle between the White House, the Capitol Building and the Washington Monument in the very heart of our nation and went without food for 40 days. It was an awesome time of prayer and spiritual empowerment, as I stayed there day and night in the heat and rain with the poor and powerful of America.

To read of that fast please go back to my website link for Nations and look under U.S. and ‘Forty Day Fast’.

Thanks to all the wonderful team that crossed America with me. God bless you all. Thanks to the wonderful people we met along the way. Thanks to the news media and their wonderful coverage of the cross.

The Lord Jesus had been moving in glorious ways on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood and in the outreach accross America. We were calling ourselves ‘Jesus People’. The walk with the across America spread this from town to city all across the U.S. This soon exploded into what became known as the “Jesus Movement”! Historically this crosswalk was one of the keys to the spread of the Jesus Movement all over the nation.

At the time I carried the cross across the USA I did not know I would be carrying the cross on around the world. I went back to Hollywood, California to continue ministering on the Sunset Strip and also doing Jesus rallies and outreaches all over America.

It was only in the summer of 1971 that Jesus called me to go on carrying the cross overseas in nation after nation. I left within a few weeks for England and the world. The following will give a brief background of my life before I started carrying the cross.

Pilgrim followers of Jesus,

Arthur and Denise Blessitt
Luke 18:1