It was in the midst of the war in 1974 when I carried the cross into this country. The experience was memorable and the memories vivid.
This was part of my walk with the cross across Africa in 1973-74. I crossed the border into Zimbabwe from Zambia up near Victoria Falls.
There were many wild animals along the way and we even made a detour into one of the game parks to see the elephants and lions, etc.
My family was with me in the Land Rover pulling a small caravan to live in. The people in the country were very responsive and friendly. We drove to the capital to begin the cross walk. I planned to carry the cross through the country through Bulawayo and on to the border of South Africa and on south. My children on this trip were Gina, Joel, Joy and Joshua.
At the time I was in Zimbabwe, the white government was fighting the native African freedom fighters, which were seeking independence from the white ruled government. At that time, the country was called Rhodesia and the capital was Salisbury, now it is called Harare.
Also the government of Rhodesia would not let me sell my Land Rover with out paying the import taxes, which was the value of the Land Rover. They wanted it for the Army. In defiance I paid the taxes and then gave the Land Rover away to a mission group to be used for the Glory of God.
I will never forget the morning I started out with the cross. I had announced to the newspaper that I would start at a certain point. The press was there and the news was on the front page of the paper. I only had a short walk the first day to the heart of the city. The next day I carried the cross in the area reserved for the native blacks workers. There were tens of thousands of men without their wives and families. It was a horrible sight to behold. The men poured out to greet the cross and me. I preached to thousands upon thousands as the army waited in the distance. Men were coming to Jesus and that was what mattered. I told how I had been carrying the cross through Africa. It was a message of hope, love and salvation.
I stayed for several days going from one area to the other before starting off across the country. At night I would go to the bars where the white solders were drinking. I led many to Jesus and some even came out on the road to visit us later. My son Joel would go with me and sleep on the chairs as I witnessed late into the night. His presence with me was a powerful message in itself.
It is so powerful to talk to men at war. I have done it around the world. They even think I am courageous! Ha! They would not carry a cross down the road without a gun!
As I was walking out of town we passed a large fair. We decided to go in. I will never forget looking at the ladies and gentlemen showing their cats. Oh, how they loved them and cared for them and rubbed them and groomed them. This is lovely, but outside were the black people and I remembered thinking ‘How can they care for their pets so much and yet mistreat people so horribly.’ When I spoke to a few white people about it they could not even understand what I was talking about.
Down the road and across the country we went with the cross. Preaching in churches and villages and along the roadsides. It was a glorious walk for Jesus.
I was carrying the cross along the highway one day and needed to go to the ‘bathroom’. Of course it was just the natural way that was available. I left the cross leaning against a tree. I could see a beautiful stream of water not far away. It had a small sandy beach. I waded through the tall grass about as tall as me and squatted down along the sandy beach. In a few moments I saw the tall grass stirring and heard a sound. To my total amazement directly in from of me was a huge crocodile with its mouth open. I screamed “Jesus, Jesus,” and leaped to the side. The crocodile charged over where I had been and into the water! It was one to the most shocking and frightening things I have ever experienced. Yet I stood laughing and saying ‘wow’! Then I had to wonder if that croc had a buddy waiting in the grass for me. Ha. After a prayer I mustered up the strength to dash back through the grass, back to the cross and road! The living end to one of my best road stories! On this trip, my children, Gina, Joel, Joy and Joshua were a witness and a great joy. Living with me and the cross in another war torn land.
To make a long story short, the South African government refused to give me visa unless I signed a paper stating that I would not preach to the black Africans or stay with them in their homes or villages! For two years, I had been living in Africa with the natives. I would never agree to such a vow. So I was denied a visa and would end the cross walk at the border. Just over ten years later I did get a visa to South Africa and they were fighting the same type of war.
After reaching the border of South Africa we drove back to the capital and flew back to United States. I had carried the cross in Africa for two years. Kissing my beloved Land Rover goodbye! Got it in England years ago and then gave it away to a mission in Rhodesia and had to pay the import tax to keep it from being used in their army.
Jesus did it. All glory to God.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt