What a joy to be among these beautiful people. I arrived on a flight from London in a cold, pouring rain. I came through customs and immigration with no problems. Ethiopia has a communist government and two major civil wars going on. It appears the government could lose the wars. I went to a hotel and slept till 4:00 p.m. then I took a walk outside the hotel. There were swarming crowds of children. Addis Ababa is filled with more children than I have ever seen anyplace. As I walked, about 20 to 50 kids surrounded me, holding my hands, my legs, or just hanging onto me. There are boys every few feet running along with their shoeshine stands. A lot of men and even the children speak English, and they were so eager to talk about Jesus and to pray.
There is almost nothing to buy except in the local markets.
Everyone that I spoke with said that it would take from one week to two months to get permission to even go outside the city. A man that works with the United Nations said it takes at least two weeks for him to get permission to travel outside the city.
I went to the tourist office at the hotel and was told there is no way to travel outside the city; the regular tourist office said the same. I felt the Lord was telling me there was a way to do it. I went to the main NTO (National Tourist Office) and spoke with the lady at the desk. I told her I was on a walking trip around the world (I did neglect to mention the 12-foot cross) and I wanted to walk in Ethiopia. I then asked to speak to the manager. You always have to get the top person because the ones in the lower offices would say no because they are afraid they will get fired or be in trouble. Whatever the top person says, yes or no, is final. Mr. Cumunga called me into his office, I explained my mission, that I was walking for Jesus, for peace, and love and to share the message for Christ. I told him walked on foot and I had been walking around the world for twenty years and I wanted to walk in Ethiopia. Before he could say yes or no, I pulled out the map of Ethiopia and laid it on his desk and said, “Where would you recommend that I start and where would you recommend that I finish?” He looked at me and he looked at the map in amazement. “What I would like to do,” I continued, “ is to rent a car and hire a driver that could also interpret for me so that I won’t run into any difficulties.” He looked at the map and said, “Well here,” pointing to a place about sixty kilometers outside the city. “I think you should go down this road towards Kenya.” I said, “That’s great, I would like to leave in the morning.” He picked up the telephone, called someone and then said “We will be happy to provide you with a car and a government guide, but you must pay in U. S. dollars, American Express is okay.” I answered, “No problem.” You need all kinds of documents to travel but all I know is that by God’s grace I would have a car and a driver and Jesus is sending me forth in Ethiopia. By God’s grace the walk will be under way tomorrow.
Great day, glory, praise God, God did it, He accomplished the impossible. This morning a driver arrived to pick me up. I checked out of the hotel at 8:00 a.m. and we were soon on the highway. We went through many army checkpoints along the road, but at each place, the driver just waved and continued to drive. We drove to Mojo where I motioned for him to stop. I took the cross beams, which were wrapped in my sleeping bag, out of the car unwrapped the bag and began to bolt the cross together. The driver was overcome with amazement. He knew I was going to walk but he didn’t know that I was walking with a cross, but he became excited because he is a follower of Jesus and he fasts for a month each year. It’s a different kind of fast because he eats at night. He is hungry for the word of God, as he loves Jesus. Before I got the cross bolted together, a group of farmers had gathered around me and I began to share the message of Christ. (My driver was also is a very good interpreter.) After I carried the cross a short distance there was a roadblock. My driver had driven ahead and was waiting there. I gave Jesus stickers and gospel material to the soldiers at the roadblock, but none of them asked for any other information.
Later we went through another roadblock and in talking with my driver, I discovered that the car we were using is for top government officials. It has a stand at the front of the automobile for the flag. The car has a red tag which means that it is not a private car but government vehicle and the numbers reflected the driver’s his position in the government and all the officials at the military check points seemed to recognize him. He said he had taken officials through this way before. God had gotten me in contact with the right person. I don’t need any of the normal passes necessary to get through these areas. With a black Mercedes government car I now have free access down the highway. Almost everyone here is stopping, cars and trucks. Most traffic is humanitarian aid vehicles.
In the villages and towns, people are swarming so much it is impossible to pass out the stickers. So now I give out the stickers to only small groups. I walked today to Kolsa. I left the cross at the town office of the communist party. This man seems to have contact with all the communist officials. Everyone is smiling and waving and greeting me and the driver has gotten excited. We have been talking and praying together and he has become a real witness. Whenever I get near the car, he comes running back to me. He takes the cross off my shoulder when I come to the car and he puts it back on my shoulder when I leave. All the people here seem to be very poor, but many seem so happy to seeing the cross. Where we stayed tonight, I able to take a shower and I had a big battle with mosquitoes, spraying the room with the mosquito spray every now and then. What a day, the cross on the road in Ethiopia.
Along the way the children call me “fatha” for father in English. The English once controlled this country. A large a number of the people speaks English. But even these that don’t speak English call me “fatha, fatha, fatha”. It is so sweet. I was up early this morning walking in the pouring rain. It is the rainy season. The crops look very good and everyone seems to be working. There doesn’t seem to be any lazy people. All morning I saw hundreds of donkeys carrying loads headed towards the local market, people carrying everything. Also all along the way there were cows, goats, chicken, sheep. It was a sight to behold. All these animals going down the road in the middle of the traffic. It was hot today. It is a very high altitude of about 7,000 to 8,000 feet. People are all about me, it’s almost impossible to walk. The word has spread and everyone wants Jesus stickers, but it is just impossible to give them out. They fight, push and shove and many follow me for miles just begging for a sticker and when I give someone a sticker people just come pouring out of the fields, car, trucks and buses stop, people who want to talk to me, to offer me a ride, or stopping to get a Jesus sticker!
When I reach a village the people begin offering me their local food. Many times it is fish with all different kinds of things thrown in with it. It tastes good, but I have no idea what it is. All the food is local. There are very few shops. Even if you get to a shop there is nothing to buy, no canned foods, no candy bars. About the only thing that you can buy is local beer and Pepsi Cola. All along the roadside, I have been buying roasted peanuts in the shell. I seem to be living off peanuts.
Today was a good day. Hot this afternoon. Raining this morning. Up early and on the road by 7:00 a.m. I was walking along the road. An old man weak and very, very thin came to me. But as I approached with a group of children walking with me, he came up and wanted to carry the cross. I was sure he would collapse if I gave him the cross but he kept insisting. He could speak no
English, but he would pat his shoulder and point for me to put the cross on it. I finally decided to put the cross on his shoulder. I put the cross on the old man’s shoulder and put my hands under the cross in case he fell. He took a few steps and then did a little skip and sped up a little bit. I grabbed him, thinking he was falling, but he kept on walking at a faster pace. After a little distance he did another skip and skip up a little more. I thought he was going to fall, but no he was only warming up, like the warm-up laps at the Indy 500.
Suddenly he took some fast small skipping steps and then zoom he was off, racing down the highway. I was in shock and I had to run to catch up! On and on he went with a small group of boys from the ages of 10 to 15. We ran past sheep, goats, donkeys, cows, and chickens being driven along the road. I could not believe it. It is a well-known fact that East African runners are the top long distance runners, holding most of the world’s long distance records. The runners have grown up in the high altitudes. I was breathing hard in the very thin air. I couldn’t believe that this old man was about to outrun me. I ran up beside him waved my hands and said slow down! He must have misunderstood because he speeded up! He ran faster! After awhile one of the boys, in short pants and bare feet ran up beside the old man, patted his shoulder and the man passed the cross off to the boy like a relay baton and off ran the boy. I really needed a rest, but no, one after the other the cross relay went on. I was out of breath, I yelled stop, but the racers just smiled and speeded up. I think they thought I was encouraging them to go faster. We must have been a sight to behold as on we went. Finally I made a desperate attempt to catch the cross, at full speed I caught up, lunged to grab it and pulled it to a stop. The old man was still in the race. I could only laugh if I had not gotten it stopped the cross might still be going through the highlands of Ethiopia. This afternoon it happened again, but I was prepared to stay in front and not let the cross pass.
We left the cross overnight at another communist party village headquarters. I am so tired, a good long day of walking, preaching, witnessing, and also running. My interpreter is getting better, he said, He said, “You have made an evangelist out of me.”
What a day! Pouring rain, I got very wet. At about 10:00 a.m. I stopped, changed clothes and then went on. Had a great response. This morning, Mohammad, a boy who spoke a little English was walking with me in the rain. He said, “I can’t go to church, I am a Muslim, but I can carry the cross,” and he took the cross and walked with me through the pouring rain.
Every communist party village chairman comes out and shakes my hand and congratulates me on the walk as I pass by. My driver is always going before me preparing the way so that I will not have any problems.
I have a great friend today who has been walking along with me on the road, the sweetest little boy, I call him Langano after the lake near where we are. He is also Muslim and a great cross carrier. He wants to come back and see me tomorrow. I pray that he does. I left the cross again at the village chairman of the communist party headquarters. Great crowds are following me, from village to village. Today a lady ran from a village to see the cross and to hear me. She shouted, “Hallelujah, hallelujah,” and pointed to heaven and her heart and the cross. She was saved I am sure. I do love these people, they are wonderful, and I pray for Jesus to give this land peace, there is so much war here.
Today was a good day, crowds of people were following the cross, and it is just glorious. I am now in a predominately Muslim area, but the response is great. Today in one large town, there was some kind of sports day and everyone was out running. My little boy, Lugano was with me again and as we arrived the crowd was singing, clapping and dancing. They wanted me to join in with them, so I carried the cross, surrounded by people stretching for a mile or two down the road. It was just one of the most wonderful experiences that I have ever had. Many people wanted to carry the cross today. Perhaps twenty different people carried the cross for short distances. It was hot, very hot. I left the cross tonight at a very poor little mud and straw hut with a goat sleeping inside. I led the people in prayer and they were just so precious. I have very little in my backpack but I am going to give part of my supplies to this sweet, wonderful poor family that is so full of love. The Holy Spirit is truly working here in power and glory. I can only say thank you Lord, I am tired but my feet are fine and I feel very good except that I can’t get much food during the day so I get weak. Tomorrow I am going to try to find some more peanuts to carry with me during the day.
What a wonderful day. I walked about twenty miles. I took a few things to the poor family where I left the cross last night, but mostly I gave them money. It is one of the greatest blessings of
my life to be able to carry some money and to give it to poor people from time to time. Most of the people receive me not knowing that I have anything to give. A lot of people today were walking with me as I carried the cross; a lot of them carried the cross. It is very hilly but it beautiful country. I left the cross at another local communist party headquarters today. They are all so nice to me and so welcoming of the cross, even had some fish for dinner. People are so friendly. It is a miracle.
Tonight my driver said, “Who gave you permission to go everywhere?” “You must have all kinds of papers.” I told him that I didn’t have any papers at all and he was totally shocked. He wanted to know how I had arranged to travel without papers. I told him I work for God. He hadn’t quite figured out why he was escorting me and that I had no papers. Everyone has to have papers, but of course, no one has asked for them, so this is truly a miracle of the Lord to go through this area. There are a lot of military roadblocks, but I haven’t seen any direct fighting.
What a pleasure it is to be able to live for Jesus my Lord and to carry the cross on the road, God did it and He has accomplished the impossible. The Lord is good to me. I sit in this hotel room that costs $2.50. I always treat my driver the as I treat myself so this is for a double room. He said he had never traveled with anyone that had him stay where they stayed. Usually he has to find his own place.
Glory, God did it, made it happen. Today I witnessed to so many, went through a beautiful area, it is raining and everything is green. This area is where many refugee agencies are headquartered. It seems that the only business in Ethiopia is aid and war. Both are booming and this town Awasa appears to be the headquarters for both.
Weeks later in London, England I went to meet His Imperial Highness and Her Imperial Highness the Emperor and Empress of Ethiopia. It was a visit of about two hours and was so wonderful. The Crown Prince was also there. His Imperial Highness is handicapped by a stroke, but they were so happy that I had carried the cross through Ethiopia. He is the son of the former Emperor Haile Selassie who was deposed. I shared with them and showed them pictures of my pilgrimage through Ethiopia with the cross. They were crying and when it came time to pray, Her Imperial Highness lay beside on the floor me as we prayed with our faces to the floor. I have never seen such humility from a person of such renowned prominence.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt