ONE STEP AT A TIME
The sounds of the city night fill my ears and the memories of today fill my mind. My aching, pained body and my blistered feet remind me of my humanity.
I never dreamed carrying a cross would be like this, Lord.
Oh, I need you, Jesus. Have mercy on me I’ve never been a sportsman and now I’m heading across America. I’m thrilled! I feel the excitement of the unknown and I’m ready to take the Jesus Movement from coast to coast. It’s also frightening but I will not be deterred from your will.
You are with me and your presence is enough. It’s been a wild day,
but people prayed and I can still smile.
I love you, Lord.
My emotions almost overcome me as I lie tonight by the sea. The walk is complete and I am alive.
I will miss, oh, I will miss, the long walks with just you and me along the roadsides of the world,
Lord. You, Jesus, have been my constant companion and I can hardly conceive of living without
our intimate times on the road or at night on the roadsides. There is nothing like being with you
with the wind in my face in a distant land or feeling your presence in the midst of danger and conflict.
It’s been a long journey around the world, but my heart feels young and my body fresh. You
know, Jesus, I feel better than I did that first day thirty-eight years ago.
Today at early dawn you asked me to lie on the cross. I did not want to do this, I never had before, but I obeyed you. You reminded me of the Scripture, “I am crucified with Christ nevertheless, I live, not I, but Christ lives in me." Galatians 220 – my paraphrase)
As tears washed my face, I cried so hard I could hardly breathe. You said, “The world
is open to you, you are free to carry the cross and minister Jesus in the entire world,
wherever I lead you.”
As of the publication of this book, I have carried a cross more than thirty-eight
thousand miles through 315 nations and island groups on all seven continents of the
world. That number includes every sovereign nation and every major island group in the world. The Guinness Book of Records has recorded my walking milestones since 1996, when it recognized me for making “the world’s longest walk.” The Guinness World Records 2000: Millennium Edition dedicated a page to this achievement, including a picture of me carrying my cross.
Over the past four decades I have visited sacred sites and bloody battlefields. I have been applauded as well as pelted by stones. I have shared Christ alongside Billy Graham and twice preached to crowds of a half-a-million people. I have been arrested or thrown into jail two dozen times.
I have slept in the presidential suites of fancy hotels as well as a pigpen in Colombia. I have survived numerous auto crashes. Snakes, baboons, elephants and crocodiles have attacked me. And I have been hauled before a firing squad to be shot and killed.
Recently someone asked me, “How did you walk around the entire world.”
“One step at a time,” I replied.
Throughout my life, I have heard hundreds of people talk about the dreams they wanted to pursue, the projects they wanted to complete, and the things God called them to do. But many times these projects don’t go forward. Why?
Because people don’t take one step at a time. They don’t break big things down into small, simple steps. As a result they are soon o overcome with the insurmountable challenges that face them, and they give up.
Experience has taught me that when God gives us a vision for what we should do with our lives we need to break that vision down into simple steps. That’s what happened to me. And I believe that if you will dream big but start small; your dreams will come to fruition. Let me explain what I mean.
Reaching an Unreached Generation
In the 1960s God called me to minister to hippies, Hell’s Angels, runaways, drug addicts, teen prostitutes, flower children, would-be actors and rock stars and other young people who were part of the emerging youth scene in Hollywood, California. Answering this call was an important step for me to take.
In 1966 and 1967 young people staged “love-ins” each Sunday at Griffith Park. I would talk to them about Jesus as they sat in the grass listening to bands, taking LSD and drinking.
One Sunday a young man asked me, “Why don’t you present your message from the stage?”
“They probably wouldn’t let me,” I said, looking toward the platform where a psychedelic rock group played loud, screeching music.
“Sure you can,” he said. “I run the program. You can have five minutes.”
I spoke briefly about Jesus from the platform and was greeted with warm applause. I invited those who wanted to hear more to meet me under a nearby tree. About fifty came over to talk with me.
This was my first big step in becoming known as “the minister of Sunset Strip.” And as I would see throughout my life, when I reached out to people in love with the message of Jesus, many would listen and respond.
I walked the streets of Hollywood, talking to kids, feeding them, and allowing twenty or more to sleep on the floor of my apartment at night. I also preached at some of the nightclubs on Sunset Strip, including Gazzarri’s, and musicians such as Andrae Crouch and The Disciples, Charles McPheeters and The New Creatures, Sharon Peck and The Sunshine Sisters and Jimmy Owens Singers would perform.
I was ministering to the lonely, the embittered, the lost and the hopeful who flocked by the thousands to sunset Strip each week. But I felt we needed a place of our own. My prayers were answered in March 1968 when His Place opened in the heart of Sunset Strip in a rented building next door to a topless go-go club.
His Place had wild stage lights, fishnet material on the ceiling, a quiet prayer room and a pool table. But something was missing: there was no cross. I felt we needed a life-sized cross hanging on the wall near the stage so that everyone who walked in would be immediately affected. Young people stoned on drugs or drunk might forget everything I told them, but I felt certain they would never forget the cross.
An electric company in Santa Monica gave us big wooden cable spools, which we used as tables. We also got some large wooden beams that were used for light poles. These beams were soaked in creosote to preserve them. I felt they would also make the perfect “old rugged cross” for His Place.
But even before we finished putting the cross together from the rough wood, we witnessed the impact it would have on the young people on the strip.
From Hell’s Angel to Heaven’s Child
After drilling a hole and inserting a bolt, we realized that we didn’t have a wrench to tighten the bolt. Just at that moment I heard the roar of a Harley-Davidson. Looking out the front window of His Place, I saw Tom, a local biker, getting off his chopper. I knew Tom from my times of sharing Christ with the Hell’s angels. He was as tough as they come, with strong shoulders, a bushy beard and long hair.
“Hey, Tom!” I called. “Do you have a wrench I can borrow? It will only take a minute.”
“Yeah,” he said. “I got one.”
I reached to take the wrench, but Tom had another idea. “I’ll do it for you,” he said, following me into His Place. But he froze in his steps once he saw the cross, which was twelve feet tall and six feet long, lying on the floor.
“What’s that?” he asked.
“It’s a cross.”
“Hey, man, you do it,” he said, backing away from the cross.
“Okay,” I replied. “But will you come back tonight and see it on the wall?”
“No, I’m not coming back,” he said, shaking his head and staring at the cross.
“Well, come back sometime,” I said. “Jesus loves you, Tom. This cross is not the message of death, but life. Jesus died for you and rose again. You can have real life in him. You can be free inside.”
“No,” Tom sighed, “I don’t want nothing to do with the cross.”
“Hey, man, you are already a part of it,” I said. “Your wrench tightened down the center bolt!”