I would like to say at the outset that the response to the crosswalk in this island nation was one of the most memorable that I’ve experienced around the world.
My wife, Denise and I arrived at Tarawa a day later than plan-ned from the Marshall Islands. We did not know anyone and did not expect anyone to meet us. When the airplane arrived at the little terminal there was a huge crowd of people. We thought they were waiting for others on our flight. But no, it
was us they were waiting for. They had heard on a radio program we did from the Marshall Islands that we were to carry the cross on Tarawa. Some people had been waiting since yesterday!
An immigration officer said, “Let me be the first to welcome you to Kiribati! You have been in our newspapers and on the radio. See the crowd outside? They are waiting for you!”
Everyone was shaking our hands. Outside at least a couple hundred people were waiting. I bolted the cross together and lifted it up! The crowd cheered and clapped. I then preached and many came to Jesus. I lay on the ground and kissed the ground and prayed. I looked down the road and thousands of people were lining the highway as far as I could see. I told Denise to get a ride to a hotel with our bags and then come back to me along the way.
Truly ‘the Glory had come’. As I carried the cross people were everywhere. Traffic just crept by. Many abandoned their cars and trucks to come to the cross. After a while the police directed the traffic to side streets and told me to just go down the center of the road!
There were groups from 5 to a 100 at about every hundred feet or so. People were kissing the cross, kissing me, touching me and wanting to shake my hand. It was so hot I was about to pass out. There were men, women, children, babies and old people. I preached again and again! One policeman came to help me move through the crowd then two were with me. They were kind and helpful. It was ‘Holy Chaos’.
One man came and put welcoming shells around my neck. Denise came back and joined me. It was simply glorious beyond words. I preached over and over, every hundred yards or so.
As it grew dark I arroved at our hotel. Crowds were still lining the road. At the hotel the police had to keep the people away so we could get to our room and sleep. I was totally exhausted. How wonderful to have given it all and seen people so eager for Jesus and the cross. My prayer was that first night. “Oh Lord let this never end’.
The next day. The police were there to help us leave at 8am. Denise and I carried the cross into a sea of waiting people as far as the eye could see down a tree-lined road.
From my diary: “My eyes have seen the Glory!
This day was truly awesome, glorious, powerful and again Holy Chaos, Jesus confusion! A small bit like Jesus coming into Jerusalem and the children shouting in the Temple. You would have to witness it with your eyes.
We had one or two police with us at all times. One or two motorcycle police and two police cars trying to assist us. They were so kind and nice. No problems. The crowds were just overwhelming the cross and the police.
The walk was past one tiny village after another. Every person, I think, in every village came out to the road. We were given drinks and food of every sort. We moved along stopping to preach today a total of 20 times. We empted every school we passed. The students just ran to the road to surround the cross. Thousands prayed to receive Jesus today.
Coming into Bairik the crowds were even greater! There were people several deep lining both sides of the road. People were climbing the trees to get to see the cross. Children by the hundreds were following the cross and us. I was so hot. My face was red and I was about to pass out. When I sat down people just surrounded me and I could not get fresh air. I thought ‘what a glorious way to die’.
I thought this was Holy Chaos to the max but then we got to Betio. There was even more people and more confusion around the cross. People were everywhere from the trees to buildings. I was about to pass out again from heat and exhaustion. I was pouring sweat and my head was in great pain. My legs were weak. But I prayed and was determined to make it to the end of the island and to downtown. The people overwhelmed the police and they simply gave up and redirected traffic. They did not want to use force because this was all for the Glory of God and it was people excitement.
My eyes were burning as the sunscreen had now gotten in my eyes. The people seemed a blur but I pressed on. We reached the end of the island and a truck took us back to the hotel.
At the end of a Glory day I took a shower and a pain pill for my head and fell asleep. My wife Denise and I had experienced something most people never see in a lifetime.
Oh, I love you Lord Jesus!
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt