Redemption on Wheels

May 2, 2004
Outside Magazine
Outside magazine, April 1996

Redemption on Wheels
By Todd Balf and Paul Kvinta

While the sight of a longhaired man carrying a cross at Eastertime may be a little disconcerting, don't worry: The fellow tromping around Madagascar this month with a 12-foot-tall rolling crucifix has but a vague connection to any impending second coming. But God does seem to have a give-and-take relationship with Arthur Blessitt, the pilgrim who according to the Guinness Book of Records has walked more miles than any human ever. In some ways, the Divine seems to protect the effusive Floridian. "I've never had a parasite, diarrhea, or even athletes' foot!" claims Blessitt, 55, who for 26 years has hauled his cross through 228 countries and to audiences with everyone from Yasir Arafat to Pope John Paul II. Then again, God has also "tested" Blessitt: He has survived a firing squad in Nicaragua, a stoning in Morocco, and an LAPD choke hold. Finally, the end seems near. Only 50 countries are left in his mission to visit every nation by the year 2000. So what has the wanderer learned from 31,209 miles? "There's love out there," he says, "in unexpected places." Indeed. Half of the churches Blessitt has approached have refused to keep his cross overnight--but no nightclub has ever balked.

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