In 1987, American warplanes swooped over the Mediterranean Sea bombing Tripoli and other sites in Libya in an attempt to kill Colonel Mohmar Ghadaffi and his family. Bombs were dropped on his residence and one of his daughters was killed. President Reagan had forbidden Americans to travel to Libya. But on Palm Sunday, March 27, 1988, Joshua and I stood with our two crosses in Green Square, Tripoli, Libya after having carried our crosses openly through the country. Hallelujah! The impossible is possible! We are here at the invitation of the Libyan Government itself.
We were invited by Dr. Ali A. Treiki the Permanent Representative of the Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the United Nations to visit Libya and carry the cross. I’d had the privilege of meeting Dr. Triki in New York City. In the first meeting with him he gave Joshua and me immediate visas to enter and carry the cross openly in Libya. I’d had the privilege of seeing Dr. Treiki several times since our trip to Libya. I have been honored to be Libya’s guest at the United Nations
Reception for U.N. Ambassadors for several years. Dr. Treiki is just one of the most wonderful leaders that I have ever met anywhere in the entire world. He had twice been Foreign Minister of the Libyan Government and he has treated Joshua and me with the greatest honor, kindness, respect and helpfulness. On his official stationery, Dr. Treiki has written a letter in English and in Arabic saying:
“To Whom it May Concern:
“The Permanent Mission of the Socialist Peoples Libyan Arab Jamahiriya to the United Nations attests that Arthur Blessitt is known to this Mission and that he is proceeding on a journey on foot around the world. Thus we hope that he would be provided with all possible help, and facilities.”
The first day: This is great, so awesome that I can’t describe it. No problems. The people here are incredibly beautiful. I sit inside the Land Rover pop-up tent with my feet sticking out. I’m parked at the seaside. Joshua has gone into town with a young policeman to visit his home and family. People have just brought tea, given us plenty of water and even French cheese for us to eat. Joshua is spending most of his time driving the Land Rover in front of me with our food, water, gospel materials and supplies and I am carrying the cross.
When we first arrived at the border, the border officials took our passports and the letters from Dr. Treiki and the Libyan Ambassador in Tripoli. The officials then led Joshua and me into a very nice room and served us tea and a scrambled egg sandwich. Everyone was so kind. We kept waiting for them to give us papers to complete. After a long while I asked what papers we needed. They said everything is fine; all you need to do is go! We went back to the Land Rover loaded with gospel material and cans of gas the barrier was raised and Joshua drove through. Libyan tags were put on our Land Rover and we waited as I expected Customs to inspect our vehicle. Libya is believed by Western countries to be a tight and strict place. I said “Don’t you need to look in the Land Rover?” “Oh, no, no, no,” So I asked “Which way is Tripoli?”
I thought that there would be an escort or some security guard; police or someone would be meeting us at the border to guide us, or to watch us. No one appeared. The guards pointed down the road and said ‘Tripoli’! In a state of shock we started off. No escort, no guide, we were completely on our own!
At about 12 o’clock I started walking from the border. It was so hot that I had to pour water on my head. The water was so salty we could hardly drink it, but I had to drink it anyway. After walking through the afternoon, we got near to a small town, Bukamash. “Joshua, drive up to the town and see what there is, maybe we could spend the night there. Then drive back and tell me, check a place to park, or see what is happening up in the town”. He said, “OK”, and he drove off to town. When he got to the edge of town he saw some men and a couple of boys standing there by the road, and they stuck out their arm just moved their hand, sort of pointing their hand down. Joshua thought they were just waving. He drove right through them and went into town, drove around, looked, there really wasn’t anything there, just one little store, that had only cold drinks. Joshua turned around and came back through, up to the edge of town. The men were all standing in the road, and they did their hand sign again. He thought they were waving. He waved, real big smile and drove right through it a second time. He came back to me and told me what he had seen and I told him to go up and find a place in town to park and I’d be there in an hour or so. We will spend the night, so open the pop-up tent up and get things ready and we’ll eat. Joshua turned around, went back and there out in the middle of the road this time were the men with guns. Joshua decided he’d better stop when he saw the guns and the men in the road not moving. They stepped up to the door and could speak English. They realized that Joshua thought they were waving. The men were local police that had set up a roadblock and they were trying to get him to stop. They were in regular clothes, not in uniform. It was a wonder that Joshua didn’t get shot. Joshua began to talk with them and made friends. The police told us we could park the Land Rover at the roadblock. They were very nice and kept coming up talking to us. I was sharing with them, showing them pictures about the cross and everyone was happy that we are friends of Dr. Treiki. Joshua slept inside the Land Rover and I slept in the pop up tent that is mounted on the top.
At 11.00 p.m. the most awesome powerful sand and wind storm that I have ever known in my life struck, it was wild! We were parked right under a tree and there were electrical wires that were running above us. I prayed that the electrical wires would not fall on us. The wind blew, the sand was blowing inside that tent, I could hardly breathe and had to wrap my nose. The Land Rover was shaking, sand was flying, I thought for sure the tent was going to fly off. Finally I crawled out, got down to Joshua inside the Land Rover and he was so sleepy after the long day, he hardly woke up! The thing was rocking like the ship in the Drake Passage! But he was sleeping away, so finally I thought well Lord, if Joshua is sleeping like that I guess everything will be ok. So I got back out, crawled back on top, prayed. I didn’t think our main danger in Libya would come from the sky!! From a sand and windstorm!
Another day, on the road in Libya:
Still strong wind blowing, sand sweeping across the road. We are in an area of the
Berber People who have their own language with Arabic as their second language. We met a man at a gas station who invited us to park there, and he invited us to his home for tea and dinner. His house was full of men to greet us. We had a great
meal, the men eat together the women only bring in the food; they don’t eat with
the men. Joshua was so sleepy. We finally got back to the Land Rover about
11.00 p.m. tired and exhausted. Our biggest problem in Libya is the friendly people.
Everyone wants us to eat or to drink or to sleep at their house. It was awesome.
On the road people honk their horns and wave, its just glorious. I am carrying the
cross down the main highway of the country heading towards Tripoli.
* * *
Sabrata: Awesome! A long walk with people waving, honking, and stopping to talk. It’s been three days and we have had no bath, but sure do need one! Joshua really wanted a bath. He drove in to town to try to find a place where we could take a bath but found nothing. A red car drove up, two men were in it, one spoke good English. He asked if there was anything that we needed. I said yes, a hotel for a bath and laughed! He said that we could sleep at the police station. I asked about a bath, he said, “Oh, get in.’ We got into the car with the man, left the cross laying up against the Land Rover and he drove us to a brand new hotel by the Mediterranean Sea with a beautiful view, sand, palm trees, sea and vivid sunset. There are old Roman ruins all around. The hotel building is completed, but no furniture has been moved in. I showed him the letter from Dr. Treiki and he asked us if he could take the letter and he went away and in a little while came back, returned the letter to me. He arranged for us to stay in the hotel. They brought in a bed for me, another for Joshua. We had a cold shower. We were the only two people were staying in the hotel. This is one of the finest views in the world. The old Roman ruins and a ultra new hotel mixed together – what a place! They even brought blankets and sheets. We had dinner with the man who arranged everything, for hours we sat talking and sharing about Jesus, reading from the Bible and talking about the message of Jesus Christ. I must admit that they have some of the best food in the world.
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This is just another glory day on the road in Libya. At noon today we had lunch in the home of a very nice family. All the time people are waving and honking, its very hot and I’m very tired. The roads are good with wide sides a lot of sand and small bushes. By God’s grace we will soon reach Tripoli ‘En Shallal’, which in Arabic means ‘whatever God wills’.
Praise God we arrived in Tripoli today. We had heard from the Libyan Ambassador in Tripoli that the Grand Hotel Al Kabir in Tripoli was the place where dignitaries stayed. We didn’t really know whether we were supposed to stay there or not. When we arrived in the city we came first came to the big Green Square which is where Colonel Mohmar Ghadaffi led the revolution that in 1969 ousted the Libyan king who had been supported by the British Incidentally, 1969 was the same year that I began carrying the cross. It was just a glorious moment to stand there at the Square with the crosses on our shoulder.
The Square is something like Red Square in Moscow. It is the focal point of Tripoli. Policemen came up and spoke to us, congratulating us and excited about what we were doing, nobody bothered us at all. When we got to the hotel we went to the desk, they asked who had arranged our visit because it seemed normal people just didn’t stay there. Of course there aren’t any tourists or travelers in the country anyway. We showed them the letter from Dr. Treiki and they checked us in and gave
us a beautiful room, its really a wonderful lovely hotel and I asked about paying for it, they just took a copy of the letter from Dr. Treiki and gave us the room keys. Tonight Mr. Saleh Shomakhi, the representative for Dr. Treiki in Tripoli and works in the foreign office and had been an ambassador himself in many different countries came by just to make sure that everything was arranged for us. He was also one of the most gentle and kind people that one could ever meet. For the next few days he provided us with anything that we needed or wanted.
During the days we were in the city we carried the cross around Tripoli. No one told us not to, we would leave from the hotel with the cross; our Land Rover was parked in front of the hotel. We would go wherever we wanted. We were absolutely and completely free to witness and share Christ. During the next days we also met with the leadership of the Islamic Call Society and with Mr. Ali Sharif, also with the Dr. Professor Heeli Elmeri who is one of the leaders of the Islamic Call Society. The Islamic Call Society is kind of the evangelistic wing of the Islamic movement. They welcomed us. The hotel was where most of the news media representatives stay when they are in Tripoli. There were television and newspapers reporters from all over the world to be taken to hear a speech by Col. Ghadaffi that would commemorate the withdrawal of the British Forces from Libya. We did a story and photographs for Stern the largest German magazine also for West German television. The reporter told us that they all had to have someone accompany them whenever they went anywhere, they just couldn’t wander around the city freely.
Col. Mohmar Ghadaffi was making a speech in Tubruk Air force Base where a famous World War II battle was fought with British General Montgomery against Rommel. General Patton was involved in the fight as well. This holiday was to commemorate the 1970 date the British left the base. Mr. Shomakhi arranged for Joshua and me to fly about six hundred miles from Tripoli to hear the speech and also to meet Col. Ghadaffi. When we arrived at the base in the middle of the desert, it was hot and sunny. People had been bused in from around the surrounding areas to celebrate. There was cheering and chanting. Finally, Col. Ghadaffi arrived and went up on the platform. He spoke for two and a half hours.
Joshua and I were literally only feet away from him, I actually could have reached out and touched him we were so close. As a matter of fact Joshua did actually bump
into him when he was arriving. Because there were so many heads of state and
other dignitaries there, the person who was arranging to get us to speak with
Col. Ghadaffi was unable to do so. It just didn’t work out and later the next day
Col. Ghadaffi sent a message to us, welcoming to us to Libya and commending
our walk around the world and saying he was sorry and that there was a mix up
and that he didn’t get to meet us. But it was indeed a great honor to have been
taken to meet him and I still pray that one day I will have the privilege of speak-
ing with him face to face.
* * *
It was another wonderful day in Tripoli. We went to the Museum and the Director
of the Museum took us on a personal tour even to the areas that are not open to
the public. We spent several hours discussing the Bible and the Koran. I gave
him a Bible and he gave me a Koran. We had dinner tonight in the home of
Dr. Shomakhi and his wife and family. It was wonderful to be in his home and we
have become very good friends.
* * *
Today we were ready to the hotel, when I went to pay the hotel bill I was told there is no bill! You are the guest of Dr. Treiki and everything is taken care of! Everyone was so wonderful. When we left the hotel all the staff and personnel was shaking our hands and encouraging us and wanting us to come back. I left so much of my heart in Libya, and take so much of the beauty of people in my heart away. I must say one thing about my time in Libya – I have never been treated better anywhere, I never had one person come up in hatred, speak about hating me or Joshua because we were American or speaking in any bitterness toward us at all. I just couldn’t imagine if Libyan planes had killed one of President Reagan’s children and if a Libyan had come to walk across America carrying a large Koran that the response would have been the way the Libyans responded in love to us.
During the entire time that we were in Libya wherever we were, we were never able to pay for anything. The only other time that I have ever been taken care of in any similar way was by the P.L.O. in Lebanon. They would never allow me to pay for anything when they had arranged it.
Joshua and I set off driving through the Libyan desert headed toward Ghadamis, the old historic caravan trade center then on into Algeria and Tunisia.
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Sahara desert: The desert seems to go on forever, endless, romantic and powerful. The roads were flat with sand sweeping over them, not a bush in sight. There are ancient ruins along the way especially in the dry mountain area where the road winds sharply with no curve barriers just a steep drop off down the mountainside. We carried the cross today in Ghadamis. Far more people lived here in the past than the present. We carried the cross through dark passages under ground where people live and shop. It’s cooler and protects you from the wind and sand.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt