This is one interesting guy. He surfaced at the very height of the Hippie Movement.
Those of you that are old enough to remember 1967 and the years after that know of this extremely strange phenomenon. So many of the young people across the US started moving west, particularly to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
I remember attending the Financial Analysts Federation (which later became the Chartered Financial Analysts) Convention in San Francisco at the height of the Hippie Movement. Such sites and experiences I had never seen and have not seen since. Many of the “participants” were called the “Flower Children”.
I remember going down to the beach there where so many of them hung out. These young ladies would walk up to me and had me a flower. Drugs were rampant, and they also had places like what we would now call coffee houses where they congregated. Many of the young women were going topless.
They were all so very friendly. I did not stay in the Analysts Convention hotel, so I would ride the cable car to that hotel. One morning this one very attractive young lady on the cable car was telling me how she had a job or act at one of the coffee houses. She pled with me to come see her at her “place of employment” that night. There was nothing planed that first evening at the Convention so I went.
The first thing that I noticed there was that guys were going to bed early on the grass around the place in their sleeping bags. They were carefully laying out their banana peels to dry beside their sleeping bags. They maintained that they could “get high” by smoking dried banana peels.
I entered that place and the young lady spied me right off and ushered me over to her table. As entertainment in this place they had acts to watch while you ate items from their menu and had your coffee. The young lady showed me her act on the marquee. Much to my surprise, she was the “Topless Girl on the Trampoline”. She got topless right away and started her bouncing activities on this trampoline.
When she came back to the table, she wanted to seriously confide in me this big worry that she had. She was very concerned that with all that bouncing, her breasts would shrink and she would lose her job. I really had no answers or solutions for her.
On that trip I had rented a car and drove through the Haight-Asbury District. That summer of 1967 was, what is now known as “The Summer of Love”, the enlightened, psychedelic period was at its peak. It most all started in Haight Ashbury that would attract over 100,000 people to the area, quickly becoming an epicenter for free thinking, creative expression, free love, free drugs and free food. Driving through there I was amazed at the sites and the people.
The whole thing quickly spread to Los Angeles, particularly to the Sunset Strip area before spreading back across the US and eventually around the world.
A couple of years later I was in Hawaii on the Island of Kauai. If you have seen the famous old movie South Pacific you have seen Kauai. Most of the movie was filmed there, especially the mysterious, romantic part about Bali Hai. Do you remember those haunting lyrics?………..
Most people live on a lonely island
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea
Most people long for another island
One where they know they would like to be
Bali Ha’i may call you
Any night, any day
In your heart you’ll hear it call you
Come away, come away
Bali Ha’i will whisper on the wind of the sea
Here am I, your special island
Come to me, come to me
When the young lieutenant gets to finally go there, the big entrance and welcoming scene at Bali Hai was filmed right on the Napali Coast of Kauai.
When I was there, at the height of the Hippie Movement, the very ultimate hippie experience was at the Napali Coast. Those few that could get there would walk the 10 miles of trail along the cliffs to the little secluded valley and beach in the center of the Napali Coast. There they would shed all their clothes and live in little huts that they made from materials from the jungle and cover them with banana leaves.
The Hippie Movement grew and grew in Los Angeles along the Sunset Strip. That is when young Arthur Blessitt surfaced. He was a very strong Christian and as he expressed it at the time and later…..”totally in love with Jesus”.
He opened a coffee house right there on Sunset Strip and named it “His Place”. Hundreds of young people flocked to it. It was two stories inside with an open mezzanine with stairs leading up. Arthur had a big 12-foot cross hanging at an angle overhead. Here, mostly at night hundreds and hundreds of young people started turning to Jesus. It was later called the Jesus Movement.
There was nothing at all on the mezzanine floor but one functioning commode right in the center. It was here that the young people would literally and symbolically throw their drugs in that toilet and flush them away from their life.
Others were involved in starting the Jesus Movement, but it mostly initially all started with Arthur Blessitt. It spread up and down the California Coast. Just look at Arthur preaching to the flocks of Hippies as they are turning to Jesus……………….
Thousands were being baptized each week in the Pacific Ocean. Further down the coast in Costa Mesa, Calvary Chapel exploded with growth. Five hundred new converts were baptized each month at Pirate’s Cove on the Pacific coast, as the church embraced a wave of hairy, hippy youth turning to Jesus.
Ted and Liz Wise were early adopters of the hippy revival in San Francisco. Ted was an arty beatnik, grafting on yachts and tripping out on drug highs. Meanwhile, Liz was a regular at the conservative First Baptist Church of Mill Valley. Reading the New Testament Ted says, “Jesus knocked me off my metaphysical ass!” Then, following a bad trip on LSD in early 1965, he responded publicly to a gospel invitation at Liz’s church.
Ted and Liz were soon spreading the word to their contemporaries. Yet, despite their best efforts to evangelize hippies through their more traditional church, the hairy bunch just didn’t feel at home there. They eventually pioneered an independent hristian commune, “The Living Room”, right there in Haight-Ashbury. Located in a 20 foot by 40 foot storefront, they offered food, rest and gospel chat. By the following year they were seeing 20 or more people making commitments to Jesus each week.
I have a friend from Germany who works in Public Health in Washington DC.
He originally received his medical degree in Germany but was very high up in The US Public Health Service. He told me that he sent a team out California to study this phenomenon. These young people who were highly addicted to drugs would be baptized in the Pacific, throw their hands up in the air to praise Jesus, and walk away without having any withdrawal symptoms. US Public Health Service had never seen anything like it.
The team from Washington validated what was happening, but I never heard what become of their study.
That young people led Jesus movement spread back east across the United States. Probably the greatest manifestation of it was EXPO 72.
That was an event that happened in Dallas, Texas in the summer of 1972. It is considered the largest one week gathering of people in the name of Jesus in world history. Many came for the event from around the Dallas/Ft. Worth area, but over 80,000 come from cities away from the Dallas area. They came from all over the US and even from other countries. I met military personnel who had gotten leave from their ships stationed off Vietnam and had bummed rides on military aircraft all the way to Dallas. When asked, they said (like most all the other folks) that: “We just felt that we were supposed to be there!”
I had a friend who was the main dentist in Prescott, Arizona who cancelled his appointments for the week and came and stayed at my ranch for the occasion.
Tens of thousands of young people came from churches across the country. Bus companies like Greyhound and Trailways completely sold out of busses. All hotels and motels in the area were completely booked and people took visitors into their homes. One night I ran into this black mother with several children who had no place to stay, so I took her home to the ranch for the night.
Many thousands of young people were housed in the dormitories of the universities in the area, such as the University of North Texas 35 miles north of Dallas. These groups slept in the university dorms, attended teaching sessions in the schools’ facilities, and then came to the Cotton Bowl for the evening services. Many of my Christian friends stayed up all night making sandwiches to feed all these visitors.
The Cotton Bowl in Dallas holds a little over 100,000 in its regular seating, but when all those seats were filled, the young people completely packed the whole space on the floor of the field.
The list of speakers were the top ones in the country for inspiring and leading people to know Jesus……..such as Billy Graham, and E.V. Hill, and Bill Bright and a host of others…..and of course Arthur Blessitt. Many of the nation’s top Christian musicians and singers were there, too.
Those evening services were just amazing. Many people there had never heard those Jesus Cheers that the host of young people were using.
This whole Explo 72 was started by those first young people at Campus Crusade. And, of course, Paul Eshelman was the main person in charge. There were whole special editions of the local news papers about EXPO 72. It was an amazing, what I would call, a “movement”.
Since it was the biggest thing that had ever happened in Dallas, the Dallas Mayor went down to its headquarters to observe how and why it was running so smoothly with all its complicated parts.
When he walked in and looked around and found Paul Eshelman, he exclaimed: “Why this whole thing is just a bunch of kids!”
To which Paul responded: “Mayor, who else do you think would dare to try such a thing!”
At this very time was when Campus Crusade had just come out with their little yellow book, The Four Spiritual Laws, which has proved to be one of the very best tools ever to lead someone to know Jesus and accept Christ. These were passed out to everyone, and there were many training sessions on how to use it most effectively.
I shall never forget going to one of those sessions in an auditorium and sitting behind a large group of Catholic nuns. These nuns were all meticulously taking notes on how to use the Four Spiritual Laws to lead people to Christ.
Whenever God’s Spirit just descends onto a group such as this, there are some very interesting and unexpected manifestations. The huge Fair Park Area where the Texas State Fair is held each year also contains the Cotton Bowl. Many people were there during the day for training sessions as well as for the big evening service. The City of Dallas has an absolute army of workers to clean-up behind such enormous crowds that leave mountains of trash there. Not this crowd. Those workers did empty all the trash containers each night, but they could not find so much as one piece of paper to sweep up in the whole place. They were just amazed.
I talked with some of the hotel people in Dallas. They were equally amazed. They said that when their maids came to make up the beds each morning and pick up the towels that are usually thrown around, every bed was already meticulously made up and every towel was carefully hung up. They had never seen anything like it.
The last event for this gathering was a huge outdoor service on the north side of downtown Dallas. No one knows for sure how many were there, but the crowd was just enormous. The sound system was set up to cover the whole crowd. Like all the other events at EXPO 72, you could just feel God’s Spirit permeating the whole place. It was a fitting conclusion.
The movement eventually moved over to the U.K. Much of their famous music scene turned to modern Christian songs.
Larry Eskridge, Historian at Stirling University in Scotland and later at Notra Dame, estimates at least 250,000 people become Christians. The evangelical churches in the U.K. are different even to this day as a result.
However, all this turning to Jesus almost did not happen. Go back with me to those very first days at Arthur Blessitt’s His Place on Sunset Strip.
So many, many young people were swearing off drugs, that Arthur’s His Place was beginning to make a major dent in the drug market in Los Angeles. It seems that a mafia group owned the building that Arthur was leasing. They decided that it would be in their “best interests” to cancel the lease and kick Arthur and all these young people out.
Arthur had to have a place to continue his work. He was not an authority on real estate; he was a dramatic witness for Jesus. He received wide-spread media coverage in that part of California for what he did. He chained himself to the lamp post right there on Sunset Strip and went on a fast. The young people would come at night and drape their bodies over him to keep him warm during the cold nights. He stayed and stayed, chained to that post.
Finally, the drug dealing mafia group backed off because of all the publicity, but not for long.
Now come back to Dallas with me. I am headed home to the ranch a little early one afternoon from Downtown Dallas. I am in my Buick sedan, but it is not going back to the ranch. I know this sounds weird, dramatic, and totally unbelievable, but it was headed to DFW airport and the American Airlines Terminal in spite of efforts on my part to the contrary. Simultaneously I had this overwhelming compulsion that I was to go to Los Angeles.
In those days they had those big signs as you went in the entrance to DFW Airport showing the next flights that were leaving and from what gate. I parked at one of those convenient spots in front of the gate for the next LA flight and headed straight to the ticket counter to buy a ticket to Los Angeles.
As I walked up, there was my pastor friend, Bill Smith, right in front of me. I have mentioned him several other places in this book. As I have already mentioned, many pastors talk about sawing the limb off and expecting God to catch them, but he is the only one that I know who actually lives that way.
“So, Bill, are you going to Los Angeles?”………”Yes.”
“Please tell me why you are going!”
And he says: “I don’t know, but I will find out when I get there.”
I told him that I thought I was supposed to go there, also; and he said: “I assumed as much.” So off to the west we went.
It was still afternoon when we arrived. I asked Bill if he now knew why we were here and he replied: “Arthur Blessitt needs us. Let’s go straight to His Place on The Strip.”
I had never been to Arthur’s His Place. I saw the big cross hanging ominously at its angle from the ceiling. I walked up and saw the toilet in the center of the mezzanine. And I shall never forget the big, tall dude who was laying there on the floor. He had “Jesus Loves Me” tattooed on his toes………..one letter on each toe. He was oblivious to anything around him as he was furiously writing in this notebook. I asked Arthur what he was writing about, and Arthur explained that he was writing personal instructions on what he considered the best way to cope with withdrawing from heavy drug use after accepting the Lord.
Then Arthur explained the desperate situation that he was in. It seems that the drug dealing mafia, the owners of his building, had returned with a vengeance. Arthur had an eviction notice to be out by that very night. He and the youth had prayed through most of the whole night before.
Arthur explained that it was not essential for him to have another coffee house immediately, but that he desperately needed a new address by the next morning for all their mail and telephones to be connected to that new address.
Bill Smith and I walked two blocks down and one block over to the lovely office building where so many of the top Hollywood actors and directors had their offices. Our good friend, Tennessee Ernie Ford, had his office there. Fortunately. Ole’ Ern’ was still there. He made some calls and directed us down to the leasing office for the building. I went over all the details with the leasing agent, and Arthur Blessitt had a fine, functioning office for the next morning in the most prestigious office building in LA.
The rest of the story…………….
You have probably heard about what I want to relate to you about Arthur Blessitt, since his exploits are now world famous. Arthur says that right there, that night, God spoke to him; not like some religious types say those words, but actually spoke. Arthur said that God told him to take that cross down and carry it completely across the whole nation.
Arthur put a little wheel on the bottom of that cross, put it on his shoulder and started to walk. Many Christian leaders came and walked with him, including Billy Graham. Books have been written about the plethora of adventures that he had, just amazing ones. For see, after he had walked across the whole US, he decided that God wanted him to carry the cross across every country and province and principality and island of the whole world.
I would encourage you to read one of the books about his adventures, but let me tell you just a little about his adventures with the cross here.
He has (as of this writing) now walked over 42,780 miles through 324 nations and territories and islands. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as “The World’s Longest Walk”.
He has carried that 12-foot cross and the one to replace it when it finally wore out, through wars, Christian hating countries, deserts and jungles.
He has actually faced a firing squad.
He has been in jail over 20 times.
He fasted for 40 days.
40,000 people walked with him across Communist Poland.
He has been on every major news network not only in the US, but most every other nation.
Pope John Paul II personally welcomed him to Rome and wanted his picture with Arthur.
During that vicious war in Lebanon when Yasser Arafat was cornered in Beirut and almost exterminated, Arthur went right through the dangerous lines to Arafat and told him how much he needed Jesus in his life.
He slept in Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s private home in Israel.
There is no telling how many just common people he met along the roads across the world and led to Jesus.
Going back now……….Just after taking the cross and walking across the United States, Arthur decided that God wanted him to walk across England, Scotland and Ireland.
Just before leaving, he held a rally in New York City in Duffy Square. A reporter from the London Daily Mirror came up and asked if he could follow Arthur around and take some pictures. And after Arthur had preached, the fellow wanted to know if Arthur was coming to England. When Arthur told him that he was going very soon to walk across the country, the Reporter wanted to know if he already had tickets and when he was arriving. Arthur showed him his flight that was to arrive on September 2.
Arthur said that he did not know a single soul in Great Britain. They had a long flight that was diverted to Holland till the weather cleared in London. What Arthur did not know was that on the very day of his arrival the largest news paper in England, The Daily Mirror, had a double headline entitled: Suddenly, Jesus Christ is more popular than the Beatles. Then it had a huge side headline: ARE YOU LISTENING JOHN LENNON?
It was a huge article about how popular Jesus was becoming and all about the Jesus Movement that was going to be sweeping across England, and that the “leader of that movement, Arthur Blessitt, was arriving in London that afternoon.”
Their little group was so tired, not having slept for almost 24 hours. Their children had been sick on the plane and smelled terrible and the men needed a shave and the women so wanted to clean-up and sleep.
They gathered their bags and walked out of immigration. Wow! They were greeted by a huge group of reporters and flashbulbs and other well-wishers. Arthur did not know a soul in England, and here he was the most popular guy in the country. He could hardly keep up with the multitude of questions that were thrown at them. They knelt and had a prayer.
One of the TV newsmen came up and said: “I’ll collect your baggage. We want you on ‘Nationwide’ tonight.”
“‘Nationwide’? What’s that?” Arthur asked.
“It’s the largest news program in all of Britain. It’s on BBC at six o’clock.”
“Oh, we’re all so tired. Could we do it tomorrow night?”
“No, no! We want you tonight! And we want you to be on twenty-four hours.”
“How many hours?” Arthur gasped.
“Oh,” he laughed. “’Twenty-Four Hours’. That’s the name of our late-night talk show.”
The news people loaded them and their bags into taxies and on to the TV station. Arthur and his wife kept protesting that they needed to clean-up, but the news people said: “No, please, we want you just like you are.
They all lay down in the studio and were soon fast asleep, but they were waked-up for the 6 o’clock “Nationwide” TV broadcast. The newscast was quite a show. They had them sing “God’s Not Dead,” and then Arthur’s son Joel led in a Jesus cheer. During Arthur’s interview he told the TV audience that we were in England to bring Jesus and His promise of Life, and that we wanted British followers of Jesus to move “out of the staid old buildings and into the streets and house-to-house sharing about Jesus and helping the needy. Jesus called us into the world, not out of it.”
What Arthur did not know was that Time magazine had just come out with its overseas edition with Jesus on the cover. That added to the Daily Mirror’s big story to its three-and-a-half million readers, plus the incredible two appearances on TV the night of their arrival made for the most miraculous welcome anyone could imagine. They hadn’t been there twenty-four hours yet and they were known all over Great Britain!
God took one man who didn’t know a single soul in the whole country and introduced him to the entire nation of 65 million people in a matter of hours!
The cross that Arthur had carried across the US was in such bad repair, that it was retired to Los Angles. He went to a lumber yard in London and made up a new one complete with the wheel on the bottom. This is the one that has been carried across the rest of the whole world.
His little group headed out across Great Britain and were warmly welcomed everywhere they went. They angled up along the North Sea and across Scotland and Ireland. They spoke to overflow crowds all along the way. So many churches there had been boarded up or were put to other uses. Arthur and his friends prayed at each one, that God would continue to awaken the country to Jesus.
When they had finished their walk, they returned to London and Arthur preached to huge crowds as the country was awakening to the Jesus Movement. He spoke in Hyde Park at an event called “The Festival of Light” to 70,000 people. It was on Saturday September 25th and was an awesome event. Arthur was the last speaker and he closed by leading the crowd in singing “the Lord’s Prayer”. People were weeping and praising God.
This all took place in 1971. Arthur later returned to England and spoke to large crowds all through the summers of 1972 and 1973. These were huge meetings. They were held in most of the key cities at football fields and large parks. Tens of thousands attended with thousands receiving Jesus as Savior. There was truly a national awaking at that time in Britain. The Jesus movement swept the nation. Arthur said that he considered it to be one of the most powerful events he has ever known.
So, Arthur continued on his odyssey of carrying that cross across the whole world. Here are just a few random excerpts of his adventures:
Near Baku, the capital of the Muslim nation of Azerbaijan, the engine of the Land Rover that was following him along the road just went to pieces. The block was cracked and the rods were twisted into grotesque shapes. They were hundreds of miles from the closest parts shop if there even was one in Baku with Land Rover engine parts. There were so very many divine interventions for Arthur. In this case there was a grizzly old bearded mechanic who took the engine completely apart, laid all the parts out on the desert sand and pounded those rods back into shape. Fortunately, he did have some piston rings that fit. Arthur said that after the old guy’s work, when he tried the ignition, that engine purred like a kitten.
Arthur went 11,000 miles across the many parts of Communist Russia. In so many places when people saw that cross they just burst into tears. They had thought they were the only Christians left on the planet with all that Communist persecution.
Of all the places he visited, Arthur told me that Bangladesh had the poorest people that he saw. It has the seventh largest population in the world and is a strongly Muslim nation. They were told that as Christians carrying a cross, they would not only not be welcomed but would face severe persecution. However, they were featured in all the newspapers with pictures of their cross. The people welcomed him so very warmly and were attentive and receptive to his evangelistic message.
In Cuba, the communist leaders gave him a hard time, but the people welcomed him, especially when they saw the pictures of him and his cross with the Pope.
In Cambodia, which I have already written about, Arthur arrived at just the most propitious time to lead many people to the Lord. In that viciously war-torn place, Arthur was so happy to be there to represent Jesus and it must have shown. At the airport a man rushed up to him and asked: “Who are you?” And Arthur told him his name, but the man said: “Who are you, your face is glowing!” Arthur did not miss that opportunity to explain why and witness to the man about Jesus.
In China, Arthur took that cross right up to the highest place he could find on the Great Wall. He saw many conversion experiences in China. On a remote part of Hainan Island, part of China, a man came up to Arthur and told him in perfect English that it was the first cross he had seen in 40 years and the first English words he had spoken in 40 years. He told Arthur that he had thought he was the only Christian left in the world. He had originally been reared by Christian missionaries from the US.
There is so much more to tell about the amazing adventures of Arthur Blessitt. He just goes on and on infused with his amazing love for Jesus. I don’t know where to stop.
Abkhazia “Awesome, today we crossed into Abkhazia from Russia. There is war in this area as Abkhazia is fighting to break away from Georgia. Denise arrived at the border before me and had already made friends with the soldiers on the Georgian side.”
“A lady waiting on the roadside wants us to park at their house. She showed us a small corner of her living room with crosses where she would sit with her family every few days. They had no Bible and no church. At night a lady schoolteacher that speaks English and I had the privilege of explaining about Jesus and the entire family cried and invited Jesus to be their savior. We gave them a Bible and gospel material. The big question from all the people is how we got into the country and how we got through the roadblocks. Everyone must have permits or be known to the men manning the checkpoints!”
There was no way Denise and Arthur could get permission to carry the cross across Pakistan and into Afghanistan. However, they flew to the area of Chitral and found people and a guide who considered it his mission from God to get Arthur across the very high mountain passes and trails. You can read about his amazing adventures there on his web site.
Arthur and his son Joshua were determined to carry the cross on all seven continents. That meant Antarctica, the seventh. They finally accomplished it, overcoming all kinds of’ obstacles and finally walking among the penguins and seals and leading people to Jesus even there on the seventh continent.
Over and over in Africa and other places, Arthur has had attacks from Satan, usually from people under the influence of Satan.
Arthur led so many people to Jesus in Belize. As in many other places, while he was preaching there. A man came in with a machete, determined to kill him. He first attacked the cross and then came after Arthur. The police came and took him away, but before Arthur was finished with his message, the Satan filled man came back and tried to kill Arthur again. Fortunately, the police were still around and grabbed him just in time. Time after time across the whole planet things just like this happened to Arthur. He knows more than most anyone how alive the devil is. Arthur seems to bring out overt opposition from the devil like no one else that I know of.
In the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan nothing is allowed but Buddhism, especially not a religious symbol of any other religion. However, miraculously, Arthur and Denise were able to get the cross into the country. They had a tour guide and a car and driver. It is very unusual for just two people to be on a “tour” in that country. They did not get to preach, but they led young men to the Lord anyway. It was necessary to start at the beginning with Adam and Eve and go through the whole story. The young men in their knee length traditional robes were moved to tears that Jesus had actually died for them. They had great, meaningful conversions in that high, Buddhist country. The converts even wanted to help carry the cross across the country, and the Police even waved to them along the road, as did the farmers who would leave their little fields and come up to greet them.
Arthur and Denise came to the Congo in 1996 just before their first big civil war broke out, not to be confused with many smaller ones earlier. They found the capital of Brazzaville in almost indescribable turmoil. They had the name of a Catholic sister which they finally found. She was known by so many there and was of great help to them. She knew more than most how much the cross and Jesus were needed there. She took them to a house for the blind. Arthur had great results there presenting the Gospel to those blind people through an interpreter that Sister Bridgett got for them. Arthur was moved to tears by the way they all wanted to lovingly touch the cross and then go out and lovingly carry it. He heard later that the blind people’s house was burned down after he left and many of them killed. Sister Bridgett was able to flee the county to the US, but actually went back later to represent Jesus there.
So, I have been going through these countries and skipping most and am only at the “C’s”. I won’t go though all the hundreds of other countries, even though Arthur has let me read his personal, hand-written notes from them. If you would like to pursue his amazing adventures in them, go to his website and click on “Countries”.
So, I am sure God would have otherwise intervened for Arthur. But it was certainly a privilege to be a part of God’s answer to the prayers of Arthur and the young people on that critical afternoon when they had to leave the Sunset Strip and help provide them with their needed place that they had to have by the next morning.
When God decides to make you part of an answer to a prayer like theirs, I can attest that you had better just “follow along”.