Paris, 1972 – In front of me, the Arc de Triomphe stood in splendor at one end of the famed Champs Elysees. Some ministers in Paris had come on the highway and invited me to preach. They gave me a date and time to meet them at the Arc de Triomphe. They had phoned the news media and had asked a few friends to meet me.
I walked the last few blocks after parking the rusty of Volkswagen bus I lived in. I expected only a few people, but when I arrived at the designated place there were thousands of people waiting and music was playing. I thought it must be the Salvation Army brass band. Every follower of Jesus must have come to greet us!
Napoleon had begun building this memorial and now it was being used for a Jesus rally. I was excited! I had difficulty getting through the crowd until I found an underpass. I pulled the cross close by my side as the underpass was too low to keep it on my shoulder. As I started up the stairs to the Arc people crowded the way, but moved aside as they saw the cross approaching. Up I went and then I saw soldiers in a long line from the street to the Arc de Triomphe. As I grew closer, the soldiers saw me and let me pass.
At this point, I knew something must be wrong. A beautiful red carpet covered the stones and the soldiers were standing at attention with guns. Crowds of people were pressed together in excitement. My motto is: If ever in doubt…do it! I stepped out on the carpet. What a sight! A big cross and a man on the red carpet with soldiers in bright-colored uniforms. I smiled and raised my hand in the one-way Jesus sign, then yelled, “Jesus t’aime! Jesus t’aime.”
Photographers and television cameramen were crowding around to record the event. Then, as I arrived under the archway plainclothesmen grabbed me, pinning me to the stone wall. People were yelling as though it was an assassination attempt. It was quite a disturbance. “What are you doing?” a man demanded in his French accented English.
“I’m carrying the cross around the world.”
“Well, where are you coming from with that thing?” he demanded.
“California,” I replied. “Is this the Jesus rally?”
“The Jesus rally!”
“No, It’s a memorial service for the Unknown Soldier and President Pompidou is due here any moment.”
The finally got me turned around and moved me back in the underpass. Afterward the pastors who had invited me to the Jesus rally found me. “Oh, we are so sorry; we gave you the wrong day.”
For days after people were coming up to me and saying, “Oh, we saw you at the Arc de Triomphe.” Or, “Oh, you were in the news!”
An unseen blessing. And I even got to walk on the red carpet!