The Soviet made Cubana Airlines plane began its slow descent towards Havana. I could see Miami, Florida in the distance. At last, the long flight from Basel, Switzerland was coming to an end. The cross was soon to arrive unannounced in Fidel Castro's Communist Cuba!
Just over a week earlier while I was in South Africa, God told me how to get into Cuba and everything to do while there. The plan was to go in as a simple tourist, with a tour company that specializes in communist bloc nation tours.
I booked and paid for the flight and hotel room in advance. At the airport I was to receive an entry permit and avoid the normal visa requirements...if it worked! That was the unknown. What if I don't get in? What will happen when I get the cross in the baggage area? How do I get to the hotel? What will happen when I'm spotted carrying the cross down the roads of this island nation?
It was Jesus, the cross, me in another land. I only knew the Glory of God covered me. Would I spend my time on the roads or in jail?
No problem! It was gloriously unreal. A German speaking man
was at immigration to greet and help me through... but I spoke no
German - but I did come in with a German tour company! No
questions were asked at immigration, they stamped me in for a
two weeks tour! On to customs where the cross was the last
baggage to arrive. The tour director rushed me through customs
with not so much as a word, then out to a waiting taxi where
getting the cross, even though it was unbolted, into the Mercedes
auto was a big problem! I was then off on a two-hour drive through
the countryside to the famous beach resort of Varadero.
It was like a ride back in time. The Soviet airplane seemed twenty
years old. The autos on the Cuban roads were almost all 1950's U.S. models. The streets were mostly empty on this Sunday night and no shops were open.
As I lay down in my hotel bed that night I could hardly believe it. I opened my Bible and my hand was at the verse, "The Lord is with thee, thou mighty man of valor" . .. Then Gideon said, "Where be all his miracles ". The Lord looked on him and said, " Go in this night... have not I sent thee ". Judges 6:12 - God gave him a miracle, and God promised that to me also, He had done it, and would do it. I lay praying about carrying the cross, asking where do I start, when, how far will I get - one step, one mile, one day, how soon will I be jailed? God said to me about carrying the cross, "You'll get tired"! I went to sleep in peace. There is glorious beauty in knowing that you are in the Will of God, at the right place, right time, God arranges everything. He is in charge and I must depend upon the leadership of the Holy Spirit every moment. Oh, how wonderful to live this life. Laying that night in Communist Cuba I said to God "I care not to live any other way!"
Excerpts from my diary:
You can never take this day away. God did it. I carried the cross in Cuba. I started from the sparkling waters of the Atlantic Ocean at Pointe de Hicaus. It was hot but as water dripped from my face I could not contain an exploding smile. The cross, my road companion for decades was resting on my shoulder as I walked, Oh Praise you Jesus! The cross is in Cuba.
Four Italian tourists on bicycles stopped. "The Jesus cross man" they said. "We saw you last year in Italy."
I came upon a big construction site. The workers began to gather, many making the sign of the cross. They gave me ice water. I witnessed to them in my poor Spanish, showed them a photograph I carry of me with Pope John Paul II. They were so excited. They had me autograph their shirts, wallets, paper, hands, everything. It was great to see the Cuban people welcoming the cross.
In the later afternoon a car with two men and one lady stopped. They had the biggest smiles ... ever!! Yet they were also weeping, and making the sign of the cross over and over. They said, "Matanzas", which was the next city and I answered, "Si". They could not believe their eyes. I tried to talk to them but they could not speak, they only cried and constantly made the sign of the cross. I began to smile and cry as I began to feel their emotions. As their old 50's car drove off in the distance, I knew that just for them, it was worth the trip.
As I lay in bed at 12:45 a.m. praying, I asked, "Lord, why have you blessed me so much?" He replied, "Because thou hast been faithful". I wept in humility. How can this be for a sinner such as I? The Lord also told me to keep walking toward Havana, He would open the way. I must walk on and not stop as long as the way was open. I feel complete rest.
What a day! Unreal. Yesterday there were no police problems, today after only ten minutes, the police arrived. Four officers from the "Ministry of Interior" and "Immigration". They formally asked for my documents. I gave my passport, hotel papers, tourist card, then showed my photo album with me and the cross in Moscow, China, Libya, and with Yasser Arafat, the Pope, Billy Graham, etc. Their attitude began to change a bit to friendly. They talked on their radio, left one officer with me and drove off with all my documents and pictures. Every twenty minutes or so, more officers would arrive and ask more questions. I was struggling to answer and understand in Spanish. After about two hours an official came and welcomed me - saying I was free! You are welcome in Cuba, you have religious freedom here. Yes, you can walk on to Havana! They said this was the first cross carried on the highways in Cuba since the revolution. They were smiling and waving me on. I left in a state of shock. When I arrived in Cuba, I was only praying to take one step, or go one day, I had not even thought of the possibility of going the 83 miles to Havana.
Later in the afternoon a motorcycle policeman stopped. Smiling so big. He wanted to shake my hand. He knew everything about me and wanted to see the photo of Pope John Paul II and me!
I was asleep about 8.00 p.m. when the door opened. It was the maid with the security police. The head of the government for the area wanted to see me. I dressed and went downstairs where the Hotel Public Relations Manager was to translate. The official welcomed me to Cuba and hoped I was fine, he went on to explain that he was now aware that I was a very famous person and they want nothing to harm me in Cuba. "The traffic is very dangerous on the road to Havana so we want you to walk to here", he said, pointing to a map. I could see it was an out of the way place in the sugar cane fields, about a days walk. I knew they were trying to get me out of public view. "Oh no," I responded, "I've been on the roads for twenty years. I walk carefully and I want to go to Havana". I refused to budge. I said in a friendly way, “Let me tell you why I am doing this.' I gave my testimony of how Jesus called me to carry the cross in 1969 on foot across America and around the world. I really preached the Gospel. The interpreter interrupted me, "I know one man like you, he speaks about Jesus this way as his Savior and Friend, and I'll bring him to you later this week.' We left with me saying, "Come with me on the road tomorrow on the way to Havana". This war is being fought in the heavens. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
A man who was a tractor driver stopped, he was so full of emotion so happy to see the cross but he was saying if I was Cuban I could not carry it. He is a believer and goes to church. His excitement was overwhelming but as other tractor drivers arrived - he left. The fear of the people is evident. The police keep me under constant surveillance. There are always one or two marked or unmarked cars following me. If more than one person stops to talk, the police arrive and stare and the people quickly leave. That is how they intimidate. They have not tried to forbid me to witness, only they let their presence be evident and few people will stop.
When I arrived in Havana City several officers from the
Department of Interior and Immigration welcomed me and then
kept a close watch on my activities. Their fear grew as the
population increased. But I had made it, all Glory to God, from
Varadero to Havana! Eighty-three miles. The cross has gone
across through Cuba.
At the edge of the downtown area I could see the crowds of
people ahead. Government officials arrived and congratulated
me on my walk and then clearly informed me that the traffic
conditions in the city center were too great for me to carry the
cross. They were also afraid that someone might ridicule me, as
religion was not open in Cuba. They suggested that I end the walk. They did not order me to, but I felt that the fear of a huge crowd gathering and getting out of control was so much that they would not permit me to go on.
The Communists overthrown in East Germany, Romania, Czechoslovakia and elsewhere was too much on their mind. I started listening and praying. I thought God did get the cross into Cuba; the cross was carried for eighty-three miles into the city of Havana. This government had officially agreed it was my right to express my faith in Christ in this very public way. An historic breakthrough had been made for public witness. The way was open for others. They had invited me back next year to carry the cross in another part of Cuba. To destroy all the good will for a conflict did not seem prudent. I felt peace from God that this was where to stop. I told the official how happy I was to walk through Cuba for Jesus and to carry the cross as a witness of the Salvation there is in Christ Jesus our Lord. I explained that I was happy to end my walk here. The relief was evident, they were smiling and happy saying, "God Bless You"! We could all leave having completed our missions!
I stood looking at the huge white statue of Jesus that stands high, overlooking the entrance to the Havana harbor. How significant that this atheist, communist nation has not torn it down. It is in clear view of the downtown area. The arms of Jesus are open, reaching out, calling the people of Cuba - Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest. The blood of the Jesus, martyrs of the past will yet bring forth fruit, a mighty harvest. The church is dead in the land, but faith is in the heart of the people. As I left the airport I felt triumph at what had been done and great sadness that I had to leave the people. Yet the way of the pilgrim is the road and it winds on, but every place leaves its mark in my heart and mind. It becomes yet another burden to bear and another beauty that I experienced. I can only say "Dios te Bendiga", "Viva de Cuba" en el nombre de Jesus Christo. Amen.
The cross was carried in Cuba! Jesus did it. All Glory to God.
God bless Cuba!
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt