The officer in charge stopped him and they spoke again for a few moments. A group of soldiers gathered around looking at us. They seemed very surprised. Finally, the first officer who had spoken repeated that we were free to go.
"But, why were we arrested?" I asked.
"We are now all aware of who you are."
"But, I don't know the way back to my cross."
He turned and gave an order and the same two armored cars that had brought us here, drove us back. The troops talked to us and we shared with them about Jesus. Before we got out we had prayer and passed Jesus stickers around, which they stuck on their gun butts.
As we leaped out of the vehicle we were immediately surrounded by the children. They had gathered around the cross to protect it. We had been taken away, but now returned. We were heroes to the children and preached about Christ to them.
As Fenton and I walked along the street with the cross, a man stepped up and, in a clear, firm voice said, "We have been watching you. Don't cross that intersection or you'll die. You'll never come back alive."
He was trembling in anger.
"Jesus loves you," I said, offering him a Bible.
"You've been warned. Just don't cross over."
He turned and walked away quickly. Fenton and I looked at each other. We had agreed to make a large circle around the troubled area, and there was no turning back. We had agreed to take care of each others family if either one of us died. We knelt and prayed together. We had undertaken a mission and it lay before us. We had to go on.
Another time a man stepped up to Fenton and me and said, "Don't go back into the troubled area or you'll need this."
He handed us three nails each. Fenton threw his away almost immediately, but I kept mine as a souvenir.
We set up the cross in the middle of the peace line. Fenton and I were going to fast and pray for 24 hours. On one side was the Protestant area, and on the other was the Catholic side. In between were the British troops in pillboxes. There was barbed wire and barricades. At fifteen minutes to midnight we heard sounds of singing, and then saw three elderly ladies and an old, tall man zigzagging through the barbed wire and barricades. They were coming toward us. They were from a group called 'Christians in Action,' and were singing the wonderful song written by Audrey Meyer, "His Name is Wonderful." The words echoed through the night. Fenton and I, on that war-torn night, threw off the blankets we were wrapped in, and with no introduction, joined that little group. We formed a circle lifting our hands toward heaven, and joined in singing, "He is the mighty King, master of everything, His name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord."
We were all crying. Our voices were off-key, but the beauty was beyond words. It seemed as though angels were singing with us.
Small groups of people gathered on the Protestant side and the Catholic side, and some of the British troops stepped out of their pillboxes, jeopardizing themselves to sniper fire. The war didn't end, but at least for a moment there was peace! I could see the cross on a Catholic church in the distance, a cross on a Protestant church, and our cross in the middle. Three crosses in the midst of war. Something is wrong! In the midst of churches and crosses, we've lost the real Jesus in this land.
25. BILLY GRAHAM
I first met Billy Graham in the spring of 1971 in Vero Beach, Florida. He invited me to spend a day with him talking and praying. My friend from Fred Roach from Miami had flown me in his plane to meet Billy and his wife, Ruth. This was the beginning of a wonderful relationship based on mutual love and respect.
Billy Graham wanted to come to Northern Ireland in May of 1972. He planned for me to take him on the streets in the battle areas of the city so he could meet the people. I agreed on the condition that the news media not be alerted until after we had completed our walk. We had wonderful fellowship and prayer on Saturday, May 27.
Billy Graham and Arthur Blessitt. What a team! Only his private photographer came along with us. The greatest crusade evangelist of our time, Billy Graham, with perhaps the most radical street evangelist, Arthur Blessitt.
I gave him a supply of little red peel-off Jesus stickers that you could stick on. He pulled off the one I stuck on him to see what it read. He read the words, "God Loves You" softly and smiled, then stuck it back on himself rather low, just about stomach level.
"Oh, no! No!" I said. "Don't put it there."
"Because if you get shot at by a sniper, they'll use that red dot as a target. If you get hit, it'll take you all day to die, but if you put it here," I said, pointing to his heart, "you'll go just like that," and snapped my fingers.
He grabbed the sticker and stuck it over his heart. It stayed there all day. Soon, Billy Graham was feeling at home, putting Jesus stickers and gospel tracts in the pill boxes of the British troops, speaking to them about Christ and walking along the streets.
Around 10:00am I heard a shout, "Hey, preacher! Come over here and preach to us. It's Sunday morning and we're all inside."
I saw an old bombed-out building. Inside was an illegal bar with about 45 people drinking and smoking, their tables littered with empty beer bottles.
"I want you to meet Billy Graham," I said.
Most of them knew who he was, and they all stood and shook his hand. I turned to Billy and said, "I know this is not the usual crusade for you to preach, but I'd like to give you the opportunity to preach to these men."
He laughed and replied, "Oh, no, no, Arthur. You go ahead. "This is more your style. I want to hear you preach, I'll pray."
Just as I was about to begin, an old drunk called out, "Preacher, I want to sing a song before you preach. It's a gospel song."
"Okay," I said.
He began to beat rhythmically on the table, and then in his drunken voice began to sing "Devil Woman," not quite a George Beverly Shea song. It wasn't really a gospel song, but an old country song that was from the man's heart. The song started this off-beat Sunday morning in style.
After the singing, I read from John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
When I finished preaching, everyone in the bar applauded. Afterwards I said a prayer and invited everyone who wanted to receive Jesus to pray along with me. It was an indescribable situation. It was certainly memorable, Billy Graham sharing Jesus in an illegal bar on Sunday morning in the heart of war-torn Belfast.
"Billy," I said with a smile as we left, "Maybe you could get George Beverly Shea to sing that song, 'Devil Woman,' in one of your crusades."
We both laughed and we started along the streets again.
Billy and I knelt to pray in the middle of the barbed wire and barricades at the Peace Line. Our hearts were broken with the war, yet here were God's servants in the midst of the conflict, seeking to change hearts and hold forth hope, love and good news.
From the Protestant side we met a man on the street, and as Billy started to share with him about receiving Jesus, the man said to us. "Well, if I ever met Billy Graham I think I'd get saved. He's the only one that gets to me. I'd like to meet him."
I spoke up, "Sir today is your day of salvation. I want you to meet Billy Graham."
Billy took off his hat and sunglasses. The man fell under deep conviction. It was so glorious to see Billy kneel with a man and see the man converted to Christ. It was a wonderful moment.
I was carrying the cross in Belfast during the long year. A good Christian teacher and her class saw one of her young boys wearing a Jesus sticker. She thought she'd give a good witness to the class, so she asked, "What is that?"
"Oh, it's a wee badge."
"Well, where did you get it?"
"The man stuck it on me."
"What was the man doing?" she pressed.
"Dragging half of a barricade down the road."