The alert on my cell phone sounded, reminding me of the ‘Arthur Blessitt Street Ministry at Hollywood High’ event tomorrow. Arthur Blessitt is a street preacher who has carried a 12′ cross in over 300 countries around the world. In his ‘Cross Walk’ he has logged over 40,000 miles on foot. In so doing, he holds the Guinness Book of Records for the longest walk. All this he did while sharing the love of Christ with people he met along the way. Many have been saved and healed through his ministry.
I have a vague recollection of Arthur from the ‘Jesus Movement’ of the late 1960’s and early 70’s. I was a young man interested in finding the next party, not finding God. However, because Arthur seemed a little off-kilter, a bit strange and very hippieish, he caught the attention of many young people.
I got saved in 1977 and got radical for Jesus. I was working in the movie industry and began to share Christ with my coworkers. But I was very shy (still am). So I would usually wait until someone started a conversation related to spiritual matters before I would speak up. However, I discovered I could represent Christ through my art. For example, in 1979, I worked as the stand-by painter on the movie ‘Stir Crazy’. During my lunch breaks and idle time I would make sketches of the action. Near the end of the movie, I put together a book of drawings (above) and gave a copy to the cast and crew. I still have my autographed copy, which was signed by Sidney Poitier (upper left), Richard Pryor, Gene Wilder and others. The book contained scripture verses on many of the drawings. Soon after the show wrapped, I got laid off and didn’t work on the producer’s lot for many, many years. Hmmm
Street Ministry in Detroit
I continued to sketch behind the scenes. Fast-forward 20+ years. I got a call in 2001 to work on the movie ‘8 Mile’ staring Eminem. I put together a watercolor kit that allowed me to paint outdoors. We usually worked six days a week on location in Detroit, so on Sunday’s I would attend Marvin Winan’s church in the morning and painting outdoors in the afternoon.
One Sunday afternoon I went to a burned-out (1967 riots) section of Detroit, set up my easel and began to paint the blackened mansions in front of me. I was soon joined by a young man from the projects behind me. When I turned the conversation from art to God, he grew very inquisitive. He got filled with the Holy Spirit. Immediately, he began to call out to people he knew walking across the dusty field we were standing in. As they came over by one’s, two’s and more, he said to them, “You need to hear what this man has to say.” He then turned it over to me and I would share a brief message on salvation. Many people received Christ that day.
One might think I would have caught a vision on that day what God had put in my hands. However, it took another similar event to convince me that plein air painting was a gift God had given me for His purposes. More on that later and how Arthur Blessitt would help bring my street ministry into focus.