“What is possible
Is yet to be known
I lay with my face to the ground and kissed the earth as prayed for God to bless the people of the U.S.S.R. I spoke the name of Jesus again and again as I so often do and I could feel the Glory of God covering me.
As I rose to my feet a startled group of people had stopped and looked on in wonder, shock or curiosity. A man and a twelve-foot cross in Moscow! I took hold of the cross and lifted it to my shoulder, as I have thousands of times around the world. Yet this moment was different! A life -long dream to openly witness for Christ in Moscow and to carry the cross had been answered!
I had no fear, only one overwhelming determination, to take one step with the
cross in Russia! The 100th country where I’ve carried the cross in the 1,000th
year of Christianity in this land, one step with the cross! One step Lord, for
Jesus! For the believers here, for a declaration that the cross is carried openly
through the streets of the communist capital of the world, that atheism has not
conquered the caring Christ of the cross.
How was I to know that on Christmas Day, 1969, when I took that first step
with the cross on Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California, that nineteen years later
I would take another “First step – in Moscow”. Jesus said, “Go into all the world
and preach the gospel to every person.” Since I was a child that had been my commitment and God given dream.
In Punta Arenas, Chile, on January 10th of this year just before I left to carry the cross in Antarctica God spoke for the first time to me about Russia. I quote the exact words as I wrote them on a paper and put it in my daily diary. “I will lead you into Russia, but first you must go through deserts to get there! Let nothing deter you from the path before you or you will never see the land you want to God.” I want the cross carried in every land and I have chosen you to establish this mission.” What an awesome revelation. God would get me into Russia, but first I must go to the desert. He later revealed it was the Sahara in North Africa, where my son Joshua and I carried the cross in Libya, Algeria and Tunisia.
After the North African walk I took a walk in Iceland. Afterward I was at the airport ready to fly to Greenland when God spoke. The date was May 28th, 1988 – “Don’t go to Greenland, go now to London.” I changed my ticket and flew toward London. High in the air over the cold North Atlantic, God spoke again as I sat with thoughts soaring through my mind. I knew God was at work, but what now! Where am I going? What am I to do? I have always found that I must be sensitive and obedient to His Spirit without question. The revelation of God was: go to London, arrange a trip to the U.S.S.R., take a tour from Helsinki, Finland, you must arrive by the end of June! What a shock, but it thrilled me in anticipation. God would do it, He alone.
Now God was saying, “Do it.” How could one man and a twelve -foot cross go about getting into Russia?
In London, a Finnish travel service got me a train ticket to Helsinki and on to Moscow for a five-day trip. They secured a visa for me. Everything, even room and board was included.
On the way to Finland, I stayed in Basel, Switzerland to pray with my great friend, Johannes Czwalina. He felt I should look a bit more priestly! He gave me one of his black tee-shirts with a collar also in black. He put a silver cross with a beautiful ruby in its center around my neck. Then he gave me a black coat. With my blue jeans – what a sight – but we felt it of God, so I wore the outfit.
I felt peace and the glory of God covering me as I flew on to Helsinki.
At 5:00 p.m. the train bound for Russia was to leave. I was there, early and waiting. With great excitement, I got my ticket and visa. I started to get my cross on the train – no! The Russian officials said it must be put in the luggage compartment. I went to find the baggage car as time slipped away. No one could speak English, there they were pointing to the train station. Finally a Russian man grabbed me – and I ran with the cross to a baggage area. They hurriedly weighed the cross and I paid a few dollars and then we ran back to the train as the porter ran with the cross. They loaded it on and I stepped onto the train at my compartment and the train began to move off. I made it with only seconds to spare!!!
As I sat down in the compartment, I realized I had lost my handbag with my money, tickets, tour voucher, and passport. I only had my visa in my pocket! In the rush to pay the baggage for the cross I had forgotten my bag on the desk. What do I do? I go! I go! The Russian train named, “Tolstoy” rolled through the lush green Finnish countryside. In a few minutes the wonderful Russian man that helped me get the cross on the train came to me and handed my bag with the lost tickets!! Someone had run after me with them! Thank God.
I settled down for the three-hour ride to the border showdown. The Lord of Hosts was in control as we arrived at the Finnish border. No problem. Then the train began to roll toward the Russian border. You could see the military fortifications, and then we rolled to a stop in Russia. Customs and Immigration agents came on the train. Then we began to move toward Vyborg in Russia! The cross and I were in the country, for how long only God knew. But I felt we would make it. An immigration agent came and took everyone’s passports, later a customs man came by and made a quick look under the mattress and went on. Another customs man came and took the customs declaration, saw I had a piece of checked baggage and asked what it was. I said, “It’s a wooden cross”. He left. A few minutes later he came back and sat down, he was nice, well dressed young officer. “What is in the baggage department, “ he asked again. I said, “A wood (and tapped on the wood around the train window) cross (pointing to the one about my neck).” He asked if I knew anyone in Moscow. I answered, “No, I am just going there to pray with my cross!” He responded, “Fine,” and stamped the baggage claim slip and the customs form. He was so lovely, like an angel. Surely God will bless him. The cross and I were in Russia!!! No problems. God did it! God did it!
I changed money in Vyborg and stood on Russian soil for the first time. I lay
down and kissed the earth and prayed. I sat watching the people in the fields
and towns as the train passed. Then I lay on my bed, one in the four-berth compartment. What a life I have lived for God. Sunset Strip-Hollywood, jails, a firing squad, Poland, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, South Africa. Belfast, Chad, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Antarctica, Libya, China, on and on and now U.S.S.R!
One must follow the exact plan of God, sensitive every moment to the Holy Spirit and do exactly as he says. How do people live without hearing the exact voice of Jesus speaking? No wonder there is such confusion!
I could not be happier as I ride the Helsinki – Moscow train tonight with my cross. God willing I’ll awake in Moscow!!!
July 1, Friday
The early morning streets of Moscow were crowded as I lifted the cross to my shoulder and stepped off, one step then two, the impossible is possible! I slowly walked toward the traffic lights. A police officer was in a high booth overlooking the intersection. When the light changed I crossed the street and passed directly under the booth, then came to a passage underneath the street. I went under and was soon directly in front of the Foreign Affairs building. Walking past it I came to the famous Arbat Street. It is the only walking street in Moscow with no automobile traffic. The streets were crowded with people. I was waving and smiling to people as they looked on in stunned silence. This is the first big cross to be carried openly in the streets of Moscow in over 70 years!!! No one can ever take this away. The cross made it to Moscow! I was in a constant state of prayer as I slowly walked along toward Red Square. I stopped to leave the cross against a flowerpot and take photos of it.As I did this, a crowd gathered and I asked one man to photograph me with my camera. He smilingly did. Then the crowd got larger. Two policemen came up and I began to show the police and the crowd that had gathered a folder of large photos of the cross in Red China, Libya, Egypt, and Beirut with Yasser Arafat, Jerusalem, and me with Billy Graham and the Pope John Paul II. People began to pull crosses from under their shirts or blouses, showing me that they believed. There were many tear-filled eyes and smiles.
There I met Alex, a 15 year-old young man on vacation from Leningrad. He could speak good English, he joined up with me to help and show me the way. As we moved along, people were smiling or weeping or shaking my hand or pulling out their crosses. When I got to a place where there were art paintings for sale on a wall, a man calling himself Cambridge grabbed me, gave me a painting of himself and wanted to find Christ. I led him to Jesus. He cried. Others wanted Christ also personally. It was awesome beyond words. Finally I moved on past the Russian Defense Building with no problem then there before me stood the Kremlin! It had high brick walls with the beautiful red building inside. It was Friday and the Special Party Congress of the Soviet Communist Party was in session. A policeman stopped me. Alex explained everything and I showed him photographs from around the world. He waved me on. Then we walked with the cross along the Kremlin wall. Police and K.G.B. ran up to me. Oh, I thought, this is it! But after a few minutes of explanation and photos Russia – they waved us on walking away. We were free!! One of them said, “You are free to carry your cross, welcome to Moscow!” We continued on along the long wall with awesome and beautiful buildings and to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, with its eternal flame.
There we took photos, and a huge banner of the Communist Party with the Hammer and Sickle was on display at the edge of Red Square. The actual main area of the Red Square was closed for the Party Congress so we must come back another day but we had come to the Kremlin and to the edge of Red Square. Lenin is dead!
Seventy years after he tried to destroy Christianity, the cross is openly carried in
front of his picture! The Christ of the cross is not dead. He is victorious over all
attacks of Satan. The church is still alive! Atheism has not prevailed even in
Moscow. The crosses on the old churches still rise above the Kremlin and Red
Square. Crowds of people pull out their crosses from under their clothes, the
cross is carried and evangelism is done on the streets of the capital of Commun-
ism for perhaps the first time in decades!
I carried the cross slowly back to the hotel where the tour group was staying. It took
hours to get back as so many people were eager to talk
July 2, Saturday
What a day. The epic story goes on. I took the cross from the hotel lobby where I keep it, just walked into the hotel with it last night and they all looked amazed but no one said anything. Alex and I made a big circle of the city center today and went completely around the Kremlin and Red Square.
The Square was closed again today as the Party Congress is still in session. But the police did let me go into one section of it at St Basil’s Cathedral, the famous Church with its multi-colored twisting, swerving towers rising high with gold crosses on the top of each. There were bus loads of police parked everywhere and walking about. They would come up to me and feel the weight of the cross and look at my folder of photos from around the world.Tourists were kept out of the area, but they did let me go into Red Square. The police and K.G.B. agents were shaking my hand and saying welcome to Russia. “You are very famous”. Alex could hear them talking about me on the their radios. I was so amazed that Lenin and even Stalin had left the crosses at the churches in and about when they closed them down. There are more crosses on “public view” in the Soviet capital area than any other in the world. I think that surprised me the most. People everywhere continued to show me their crosses, many cried, shook my hand, and gave me their crosses or other religious icons.
* * *
July 3, Sunday
Glory! You would have to have seen it to believe it! A rally in the business street of Moscow! With the cross standing up, me and the people singing, me preaching, a press conference, then a Jesus march! Oh God, you amaze me!
I made my way through the crowded walking street with the cross and when I arrived at the pre-arranged place, there was a crowd waiting. Russian newspaper reporters, and a representative the largest national magazine, Cambridge greeted me and hugged me, tears pouring from his eyes. You are welcome. We were waiting for you! Alex was there interpreting for me. The crowd grabbed the cross from my shoulder and raised it up in the air and against the wall! I was amazed. The cross in all its rugged twelve-foot glory stood upright in the heart of Russia, the heart of Moscow, in the heart of the busiest street! All glory to God.
The crowd backed away as the photographers took pictures! Then someone handed me a guitar and everyone wanted me to sing. “Sing,” I am an awful singer, but at a moment like this – “Go for it!” I started playing the guitar and singing, “Hallelujah!” Now, I thought I was bad, but Cambridge, bearded, in dark sunglasses and with a bit too much wine, joined in. It was a wonder the birds did not fall from the sky!
The crowd was very large now and a wonder to all. After the “song” they wanted me “to speak!” Oh, well, I thought as I looked at their eager faces, why not! What better place to go to jail? I began to preach as one of the newsmen translated. I shared the good news of Jesus and how we could know Him and have everlasting life, how Jesus is our real peace. Then I prayed and led the people to pray and receive Christ. I was ecstatic! Salvation had come! Street preaching in Moscow. People rushed up to confess Christ or to speak to me. They began to ask questions and everyone crowded around to hear my answers.
One famous artist grabbed my hand, crying, and then he made a speech of welcome to me. “This is great hope to us to see the cross like this in Russia. Welcome.” He spoke for a while, finally he grabbed me, pulled from under his shirt a well-worn cross, and gave it to me!
One lady thought it would be impossible to see the cross lifted up in the
streets and hear singing and preaching about Jesus. For two hours I was
there in a bubble of Glory. People were smiling, crying, shaking my hand,
hugging me, kissing me, and kissing the cross. It was beyond words. “The
Glory had come.” I could die in peace, yet there is more!
The young man with the guitar had begun to play and sing as I began to move down the street. We were singing, “When the saints go marching in!” I was carrying the cross, the guitar singer on one side, Cambridge on the other and a crowd following! We had a Jesus march right down the main street of Moscow!
Alex took photographs and video film each day while we were walking.
I had to give him a short course on photography the first day, but he did a fine job! What a sight as we moved through the crowded street. Oh, how it tore my heart to leave here, but my train was soon to
I had to say goodbye to “my angel,” Alex, God had sent him to me. He came to Christ. How I will miss him. He said, “I knew you needed someone to help you, to interpret for you, to show you around. You brought the cross to us, I was not afraid to stand with you!” This one teenager who knew he could have gone to jail with me, or been affected for life put himself at the front line. He did what countless pastors, evangelists, feared to do! Only God knows how great is His blessing on this young man.
I will never forget what one woman artist said to me as we have neared the hotel. “We are artists, artists of paint, drawing, canvas, music, dance, etc., but you are greatest artist of all – you are an artist … of life! Helping people become beautiful, loving and Godly. Your canvas is the world and you are making it better. God bless you – we need you. Come back”.
At the hotel I went to eat alone, to absorb the impact of all I had seen. The waiter sat me at a table with another man. He could speak English! As he inquired about my visit I told him I was carrying the cross and about Jesus. “Oh”, he said. “I’m a Moslem, from another part of the Soviet Union, near Iran and Turkey.” I then showed him photos I had of the cross in Egypt, with Yasser Arafat in Beirut, the cross in Green Square in Libya. He was amazed and listened intently as I shared about Jesus. “I have something I want to give to you, wait fifteen minutes.” He dashed off, coming back with the gift.
“I’m a Muslim, I have no need of this painting, I want to give it to you. I am a Professor of Art and Antiques in the U.S.S.R., this is about 250 years old and a very fine work of art.”
It was a 4 x 8 inch painting of a man holding a cross in his hand. He appeared to be a pilgrim or saint. He had it wrapped in a bag and he seemed to not want other people to see it. I gave him my last book and a pamphlet of the cross around the world in photos. We shared the deep, inner bond that transcends words. We felt each other’s hearts. He was teary-eyed as he rose and left. I sat in silence.
Later, I unbolted the cross and wrapped it together with tape, and then we boarded the bus for the train station. After getting the cross on board and settling in my compartment, I was moved to another car, to a room where an English-speaking Russian welcomed me. He told me to leave the cross in the aisle of the train. He wanted to know all about my mission and about Christ! Finally I fell asleep as the train rumbled through the Russian night.
July 4, Monday
God did it! The fifth day with the cross in Russia! All I can feel is triumph! Near the border, Russian customs and immigration came on the train and collected the customs declaration I filled out when I came in. They never even asked about the cross but they stood about it looking and looking at me in curiosity. I could hear a word that sounded like “cross” and America!
When we arrived in Helsinki the Russian trip was ended. The realization of the great need I left behind gripped me.
1992: Yesterday we crossed into Russia from the Crimea on a ferryboat. At the Russian checkpoint the cross shocked the officials. They just looked at the passport and waved Denise through as I gave them Jesus stickers.
We stayed with some Russian Cossacks last night. There was a big birthday party and how they love to party. Today a family met us and now has us in their home. Both are doctors and so good to us. He had once worked in the West so he spoke some English and they had a washer and dryer. We will have clean clothes and we are eating like crazy. What love!
1992: After carrying the cross in all the former USSR and Siberia.
Today we carried the cross into Red Square and the heart of Moscow! I had been here in 1988 carrying the cross, what changes! Many Christian groups are in the streets singing and evangelizing. The cross did not seem to have the impact it did four years ago under communism but the people were still interested. We prayed with many to receive and follow Jesus.
When we were in Siberia, Denise felt she should carry the cross a little in Red Square. As we approached the huge place I handed her the cross and ran ahead to take photos of her. I felt the Lord tell me to stay back and let her witness alone. I did not want to as this is not my custom but I stayed away and watched. People came up and she talked and walked on across the historic square.
I felt elation that now for the second time we had the cross in the place that once was the seat of world atheism. How futile is the effort of man to rise up against the creator of the universe. There was a cluster of perhaps a hundred or so people between the Kremlin wall and Saint Basil Cathedral in Red Square. Denise walked by and soon reporters and television cameras were all about her. They were there to see a group of bicyclists going to ride to Barcelona, Spain for the Olympic games. The reporters saw something much more interesting, a beautiful, blue eyed, blond woman carrying a 12-foot cross in Red Square!
She did interviews for the main Russian television station that broadcast throughout the entire former U.S.S.R., also for I.T.V. for England that goes worldwide via satellite and for many newspapers. This was the crowning event in the epic journey through the former U.S.S.R. with the cross.
When we arrived back in England we had driven twelve thousand miles, half the distance around the earth and I had carried the cross six hundred fifty miles all in three and a half months! We went through 230-armed roadblocks inside the former U.S.S.R. with no auto permit and a visa for only five Russian cities and one in Ukraine. God did it and we never ran out of gas or food.
Every day Denise and I began our day in prayer saying:
” Yes, Lord, yes, to Your will and to Your way.” The Lord led us as to which road to take, when to stop walking, when to start, when to drive, where to park. Most of the time God even gave me the exact time to cross borders, etc. Every time we needed gas, God provided a way to get it and that was at times almost impossible. The Land Rover engine is still running perfectly.
The Lord led us through war and ethnic conflicts by giving us exact directions and the covering of His Glory. It was a constant walk in the Holy Spirit.
I will never forget the smile on Denise’s face as the USSR trip was coming to an end. Jesus had done it! All glory to God!
During much of 1992 my wife, Denise and I carried the cross through Russia and all of the former USSR. The USSR was just breaking up after the fall of communism. We only had a tourist visa for two weeks in Russia and no permit for the Land Rover and no visa for any of the other countries! Jesus got us through all the borders and checkpoints with no visa or permit. We made it through over 250-armed roadblocks. God led us to places to fill up with gas, as only a few gas stations were open the entire trip. We went from extreme cold and snow to the desert heat all in one historic and glorious trip. The impossible had happened. The cross was carried in all the USSR. All glory to God. Many were saved as the cross was carried in all of these nations.
Denise drove the 4×4 Land Rover. She would drive up the road a few miles and wait for me to arrive carrying the 12-foot cross. I would have something to drink and eat and then walk on. In most of these nations we would drive part of the way and then carry the cross a few days or a week or so. We had Bibles and gospel material in Russian and local languages. The Land Rover was also towing a small trailer with food and the gospel materials. We carried many cans of gas on the Land Rover and inside was a stove. We slept in a pop-up tent on top the Land Rover. When we left England we drove and went by ship to Finland. We crossed over to Estonia and made a complete loop around the USSR and then drove back via Poland and back to England. We drove almost 11,000 miles and I walked many hundreds of miles in the USSR.
In order we carried the cross in the following countries:
Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Ukraine, Trans-Dnestr, Moldova, Crimea, Abkhazia, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Siberia and Russia.
Jesus did it. All glory to God.
Pilgrim followers of Jesus,
Arthur and Denise Blessitt