ON THE ROAD
Wow, what a radical and awesome woman I am married to. Today Denise flung off her Islamic headscarf and put on her hat! With a defiant smile she said to me, “I’m going to wear my hat today.” I sat in stunned silence.
She is no fool, she knows the possible consequences. I wondered where we would be tonight: dead, imprisoned or celebrating. Denise got more attention today in Iran than the cross and me. I prayed for her and Jesus gave her mercy and protection. The people loved her. I never know what she might do next! But, Lord, I am so blessed to be loved by her and to be able to love her. She is such a free spirit in Jesus.
Jesus, you broke traditions and norms. What a great example to follow. God, you have been so good to us. Even walking through the city market with the cross with Denise wearing her hat, you blessed us and protected us. Here in this ancient and historic land we lift the cross and Jesus up. We love you, Lord, and thanks for giving us the opportunity to share your life and salvation with others. Keep us, Lord, in the palm of your hand.
Joel and Joshua
I felt totally helpless looking at Joshua about to pass out and I was too weak and dizzy to help him. But you gave us a little shade under that tree. In a parched and dry land, water came forth in the form of ice! Joel came bearing a miracle! Oh, my Lord, thank you for the water. I don’t know who can understand the feeling of leading my two sons through the desert with only a cross and our backpacks. But few can know the bond of love and unity that comes when walking in the valley of the shadow of death. I am so proud of my sons. I pray they live long enough to become adults. They have faced so much with me on the roads of the world and I love them dearly. Thank you, Jesus.
God created the earth and all that is in it and “saw that it was good.” Yet it did not stay that way. How sad. Often some things in life do not turn out as we dreamed they would. This happened in one important area of my life.
After many years of struggles, discussions and prayers my first wife and I agreed to officially end our marriage. We both vowed to God we would not discuss our personal difficulties with other people. We left all our judgments and hurts at the feet of Jesus, where they belong, freeing us to face the future.
I have chosen to focus on the blessing of the six wonderful children God gave us. As I write this, I am also the grandfather of ten. How glorious.
The presence, strength and love of Jesus were and are sufficient to meet every need. I remember many months when my Bible was my pillow at night. Through it all Jesus led so gently as he stripped, washed, cleansed, healed, empowered, blessed and filled my life.
Divorce is not the result of success, but of failure. We both tried but failed. I’m so grateful for God’s grace and its ability to overshadow our sins and failures. The cross provides the power to forgive and restore, not only in terms of salvation but also in every area of our lives.
I am grateful for the wonderful people who, over the years, have joined with me to accomplish God’s purpose for my life. The team has come together naturally and I have been so blessed to have received the help they have given me.
Marrying Denise has been yet another example of God’s grace and kindness to me. She has helped me continue pursuing God’s calling for my life. We married in 1990 and during the next decade we walked in about sixteen or seventeen nations a year.
Typically Denise dropped me off with the cross at a given point, drove ahead in our Land Rover and waited for me. We would set up for the night in one of a number of settings. Some places were safe and comfortable while many were not. But Denise never complained and she met every circumstance and challenge by my side.
I want you to know, in Denise’s own words, what this journey has been like from her perspective.
A Heart for Jesus and for Missions
I grew up in England and was educated at an all-girls school in a Catholic convent. From the time I was a little girl I loved hearing stories about Jesus. But I did not know him personally.
As I grew up, matters of spirituality consumed me and I was drawn to the occult and many New Age beliefs. But my life was empty and filled with despair. In July 1983 I was sitting cross-legged in the grass at Wimbledon Common. “God if there is more of you than I have ever been told, then show me now – or I will end my life,” I cried aloud. I was sobbing and rocking back and forth with my head in my hands.
A woman approached me tentatively and asked, “Are you all right?”
“No, I’m not!” I cried back to her.
This dear African woman, Yvonne, introduced me to her husband and they told me about Jesus – that he was real and that I could know him. I was absolutely thrilled to hear this, and I accepted Jesus into my life that moment.
My life was transformed. After so many years of wandering in the darkness, I was now in the light. The love of Jesus infused my soul and I felt a deep sense of lasting joy that is still with me today.
My desire was to be a missionary, but because I didn’t have a Bible school education, I was rejected. I was so disappointed. I lived in a Christian community that took in people from different ethnic groups. Many were from Africa, Asia or Europe. I would have a dream of traveling to Japan to tell people about Jesus and then another dream of going to India to tell people there about Jesus. I couldn’t make up my mind where God was leading me. I thought I was being indecisive.
I wanted to go to the entire world, but ended up with a job in a large and prestigious British company. My training there prepared me to deal with persons from all walks of life. Both ordinary people and important dignitaries came through our office and I learned to work with all of them. I learned how to be organized and to handle many details simultaneously.
Little did I know what God had in store for me – Arthur Blessitt!
Arthur came into my life and my longing to be a missionary was soon to be realized. I would be traveling the world for the rest of my life, taking care of details and organizing many aspects of our travels. God prepared me for this most unusual life that Arthur and I have.
The Wedding With the Cross
Arthur and I married in London in June 1990. The church was lovely and many of my family and friends were there to celebrate with us.
We made a joint vow that day to God and to each other to carry the cross in every nation by the year 2000. That may be considered an unusual part of a wedding ceremony, but it meant so much to us. “It’s my calling, too,” I often explain when people ask what I thought of Arthur’s life calling.
Arthur’s cross stood behind the altar and could easily have been mistaken for one of the church’s fixtures. Then, the ceremony ended, Arthur walked behind the altar and grabbed the cross so he could carry it down the aisle with us. I smiled and thought to myself, My dear friends and relatives probably think he’s tearing the church apart.
The three of us – the cross, Arthur and I – walked down the aisle. We’ve been doing that ever since: Arthur walking with the cross on one side and me on the other.
Our life of adventure, following Jesus, had begun. Arthur and I work together beautifully. It’s so exciting and rewarding to not only do what you are called to do and love, but also do it with the person you love. I am deeply blessed!
Rising Above Fear
Because Arthur and I are often in dangerous situations, people frequently as me, “How do you cope with fear?”
All I have to do is think about my experience at Wimbledon Common. I didn’t see Yvonne again for almost a year. But at a meeting with some friends, I noticed this familiar looking African woman. It was Yvonne!
Yvonne told me something that day that changed me. She had been afraid to approach me when she saw me rocking back and forth there in the grass. My behavior made her think I was sniffing glue. My head was down, my hands were covering my mouth and nose, and I was sobbing and rocking. Because there were so many glue sniffers in London at the time, she assumed I was high and might respond with anger if approached. But rather than giving in to fear, she came up to me.
Imagine what might have happened to me if Yvonne had given in to her fear. The moment I heard Yvonne share her story, I promised God I would never let fear stop me from telling someone about Jesus. And God has made me live that promise. There is a world full of people living in the kind of darkness I was in that day at Wimbledon Common. Jesus takes care of my fear; I trust him and go forward.
A Somali Fighter Woman
There are a few stories about me that Arthur loves because he thinks they reflect who I am as we travel with the cross. Here’s one of them.
We were trying to get into Somalia and the only way was to fly into Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) and make a connection there. Because I am a British citizen, I had no trouble getting into Dubai, but Arthur needed a visa and didn’t have one. The airport authorities in Dubai agreed to let him into the airport, but they kept his passport.
A few days later when the flight to Somalia was due to leave from another airport in the U.A.E., the authorities refused to give Arthur’s passport back to him. Arthur was sitting on a bench outside the airport concourse with his head in his hands. So I went to the parking lot and met the two Somali men who were to assist us with the trip to Somalia. I asked the men, as they sat in their van, to speak to the authorities to help Arthur get his passport so we could leave the airport. They didn’t make a move to help and I thought they were getting ready to drive off.
I ran in front of the van and planted my feet firmly in front of their vehicle. I stared at them and they knew I was not going to move. Finally one of the men changed his mind and hopped out of the van. “Right!” he said, as he headed into the airport. I motioned to Arthur and said, “Follow me.”
The man succeeded in getting Arthur’s passport returned to him. But then he and the other Somalian started to leave us stranded at the airport. I stopped them and told them that they had to give us a ride into town. God gave us favor. We got into the back of the van and the drive took off.
One of the men turned to Arthur and said, “Sir, I like your wife. She not like white Western woman. She Somali fighter woman!”
The Somali Fighter Woman in Iran
“It was nothing less than an act of revolution. The woman was wearing a hat.”
That was the first sentence in an article written by Elaine Sciolino in the New York Times, February 8, 1998.
It was January 1998 and we were in Iran where Arthur was carrying the cross. To combat the cold, the buildings were heated to a steamy temperature. As a woman visiting that country, I was to dress fully covered and was not even allowed to take off my coat.
We were going on a day tour to view some ancient monuments and I decided to wear a hat – even though women in Iran had not been permitted to wear hats that revealed any part of their hair since shortly after the revolution nineteen years earlier. A hat would be cooler than the scarves I’d been wearing. It was also my bit for women’s emancipation in Iran.
At the ancient site, a woman stared at me. She approached Arthur and asked, “Who is she?”
“That’s my wife,” he replied. “Who are you?”
She told Arthur she was a writer for the New York Times and asked if she could talk to me. As we talked, she expressed her surprise that I was wearing a hat rather than a headscarf and that I had not been arrested! I told her, “I know I’m only one woman, but God is with me. I believe I have God’s protection.”
She had to admit that I had God’s protection.
I know that God won’t let anything happen to me until he has fulfilled his purpose for me. God stirs my spirit and gives me boldness and favor, and I simply say, Lord, your will be done.
A Very Special Blessing
As Arthur and I travel the world, I am so touched by the children we see and meet. I love to be with them, hug them and tell them about Jesus.
Arthur has six children and in 1998 he and I started talking about having a child of our own. I had just fallen in love with so many children in so many countries. It seemed so natural when God led us to adopt Sophia from another nation. We were thrilled and blessed beyond belief.
Sophia joined us as an infant and has traveled with us from the beginning. Life on the road is normal for her. She has to be one of the most well-traveled four-year olds in the world, and she loves to meet children in different countries.
We have tried to teach Sophia to appreciate how much she has and to realize that so many children have so little. Recently she was with us on some islands in the Indian Ocean. We bought gifts for the children and Sophia distributed them to a roomful of excited little ones. It was wonderful to see her experience the joy of giving.
Now that Denise has told some of her story, let me introduce you to my son Joel, who is my second oldest child and is now forty-two years old. Joel is on the staff of the church where we worship and where our office is located. He will share what it was like to grow up in a family in which his father carried a cross around the world.
All six of us kids traveled with Dad. We trekked throughout the world together and were homeschooled. It didn’t seem unusual because that was the life we knew.
When I was about four or five, we made our first trip overseas. We traveled in Africa, England, Spain and Portugal. That was the first time I realized that we lived differently from most people. We made new friends everywhere we went, but I saw that they lived in one place and didn’t travel around as we did. I actually preferred our life; and when we did spend about a year in England, I missed being on the road.
Seeing God Provide
Dad has already filled books with ways God has worked in his life and in ours, but one trip stands out in my mind. My bother Josh and I went with Dad on a trip through Jordan. I was about thirteen at the time and excited to be in on this adventure. We were traveling on foot with no vehicle dropping us off and driving ahead to pick us up. Our only belongings were in a backpack that hung on the cross.
We were walking in 115-degree heat in a valley between Jordan and Israel when we ran into trouble: we ran out of water. There was no one around and no shade. Dad and Josh both started to show signs of dehydration. They felt faint and our plan to move forward until we found water wasn’t working. Just when I thought they both might collapse, we saw a grove of trees. We managed to get there and Dad and Josh gratefully fell down in the shade.
I was doing okay but I knew I had to find help. I went to the nearby road and tried to flag down passing vehicles. It was in the middle of Ramadan, the month in which Muslims don’t carry food or water because they are fasting. So, even if people wanted to help, they had no water with them.
Finally one car stopped that had a cooler of ice. Those people may have been cheating a little on their fast, but I was so grateful. I held out my shirt, filled it full of ice cubes and ran back to Dad and Josh. They sucked on the ice and put some on their heads. Soon they were all right and we were able to go on, praising God for his provision.
Some Strange Things Along the Way
Eating was often an adventure in itself. I think the strangest thing I ever ate was in the Bahamas: we were served fish and given the “honor” of eating the eyeballs! I ate them to be polite, but it wasn’t pleasant. There we a lot of times in Asia when I had no idea what I was eating. But I never got sick.
The strangest thing I ever saw occurred in Spain when Dad was preaching at an outside rally. All of a sudden riot police came storming into the crowd, beating everyone to the ground. I was thrown down and other people fell on top of me. I was scared and didn’t know what had happened. In the middle of the chaos, someone pulled me away from the mob. All I could see as I was being taken away was the cross falling down. I thought my dad was being killed.
Missionaries we knew were protecting me and I ended up in a church where people being released from jail were gathering. Dad walked in and hugged me! He was safe and even the cross was okay. The riot police had put it back up and were guarding it.
My dad is the most faithful follower of Jesus I have ever known. He is truly determined to do what God is telling him to do. I can say this because I have walked with him for thousands of miles and now, as an adult, I watch him just keep on going. I wish I were half as committed as he. I know of no one who has reached more individuals with the love of Jesus than Dad. He is amazing!
The Journey Continues
There are so many family members and other people who have helped me accomplish my life’s purpose. I am grateful to God for each of them.
Denise, Sophia and I are the major team travelers now. Denise still drives and cooks, and now she takes care of Sophia, too. I still carry the cross. We are not alone. We have each other; and always, always we have Jesus. Praise his name!