Arthur Blessitt says his near-40-year journey carrying a 12-foot wooden cross around the world was more than an evangelistic trek-it was a lesson in living by faith.
Evangelist Arthur Blessitt finished carrying his 12-foot cross to every nation of the world last June, but that doesn't mean his nearly 40-year journey to spread the gospel around the globe has ended.
"I felt Jesus speak to me and say, ‘Lay the cross down,'" he told Charisma. "And I didn't know if I'd ever pick it up again. But then I heard Jesus say to me, Now I want you to release the cross."
He believes releasing the cross partly means spreading his passion to preach the gospel to the masses. With the March 24 release of the documentary titled The Cross: The Arthur Blessitt Story, the charismatic evangelist hopes to do just that.
"When you finish [watching the film], our prayer is that everyone would either fall at the foot of the cross or take up their own cross," Blessitt said.
Now 68, Blessitt first came to prominence in the 1960s when he spent his time witnessing to hippies, bikers, strippers and drug addicts on Sunset Strip. Then in December 1969, he sensed God leading him to take the giant cross that hung above his Christian coffee house and carry it on foot across the U.S.
He has since logged 38,102 miles-traveling to 315 countries and all seven continents. His journey was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records lists as the "World's Longest Walk."
"Far too often religious differences have caused the cross to become a symbol of conflict," Blessitt said. "Part of my mission over the years as I've walked around the world has been to help people understand the cross for what it truly is: the ultimate symbol of God's love for all humanity."
Blessitt has gone into 52 war zones, and he has raised the cross in China and North Korea. But he said his greatest memories are the times when he was spending time with people in their homes, sharing the gospel and receiving their hugs. He said he misses "the little children running after the cross, the people praying, the people reaching out their hands to touch me, to touch the cross."
The Cross producer Matt Crouch, founder of Gener8Xion Entertainment, said the film is not meant to make Blessitt seem larger than life, but to show that he's just the opposite.
"The movie's about the world's reaction to the cross and [Blessitt's] reaction to the cross," Crouch said. "What will face every person watching the film is, You will have a choice either to reject or accept God's calling. What will you do? ... [Blessitt's] not Superman; he's everyman."
Blessitt said throughout his journey, he learned to hear God's voice more clearly and to walk by faith. "I had good theology as a young preacher, but walking around the world has made me live it," he said. In the early days of his ministry, he said he sensed God saying, "I'm grounding you to powder so I can blow you where I will."
His faith has been tested every step of the way. In Spain, he says God told him to give a bullfighter his coat, his only source for warmth. And in Africa, he battled doubts about his calling when a missionary told him he'd never be able to walk across a continent rife not only with ethnic conflict but also disease.
"The sovereignty of God is that if He wants me to walk tomorrow, He'll have to keep me alive," Blessitt concluded. "As time went on, I learned to [rely on God]. Jesus said: ‘Go to the Iraq border. Go to Saudi Arabia.' And you reach a point where you realize only God can get you there. It's total trust.
"People perceive you to be bold," he added. "But you're just walking with Jesus."
Blessitt said he used to keep track of the number of people who came to Christ during his travels, but the crowds got too big. "I pray with people, and God knows if they meant it or not," he said.
Crouch said God is always pushing the least likely people to do the most important tasks. "Arthur had a stroke before he was to take the cross across America," Crouch noted. "Who can qualify as the least likely? That's the message for audiences."