BA man carries cross around the world

Friday, May 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A Broken Arrow man saw the violence in the Middle East first hand. He's back home after taking a 12-foot tall cross to the standoff at the "Church of the Nativity" in Bethlehem.

News on Six Reporter Emory Bryan has his story. “I am a simple pilgrim trying to follow Jesus." Keith Wheeler doesn't consider himself a preacher - or a peacemaker, but he manages to do a little of both. His passport is filled with stamps from 125 countries - where he's walked 14 thousand miles carrying a big wooden cross.

He's walked through countries in both wartime and peace - and just returned Wednesday from a trip to Bethlehem. "I went because I think God called me to carry the cross." Wheeler says he felt called to go to Bethlehem, to the Church of the Nativity - where Israeli soldiers had a group of Palestinians surrounded. He says the soldiers and the citizens welcomed him and his cross. "Here we are with a 12 foot wooden cross and the soldiers are saying you are welcome, you would have thought I won the super bowl, it was that kind of welcome."

Wheeler started walking with the cross in Tulsa 17 years ago. He says he didn't go to Israel to support one side or the other - just to carry the cross, and a message. "People's children have been killed, men, wives have been killed and raped their homes have been destroyed on both sides, so who's right and who is wrong? The only thing that is certain is God's love. To me the message of the cross is a message of peace, a message of hope."

Wheeler spent 4 nights camped 100 yards from the Church - just outside the Israeli checkpoint. He doesn't know if his trip made a difference - but is convinced going there was God's intention for him - and because of that - he had to go.

Wheeler heard the news that the Palestinians had come out of the church - just as he was leaving Bethlehem. He leaves on his next overseas trip in three weeks.