Keith Wheeler- a cross and a collarbone

Keith walks around doing what he simply calls “serving God, loving people.” He started in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Good Friday 1985 and thought it was going to be a one-time event. But he felt God wanted him to continue carrying the cross around the surrounding towns, then the rest of Oklahoma, and on into surrounding states. And then he just kept walking- and carrying the cross.

The clavicles are long thin bones that lie at the base of the neck, sitting just beneath the collars of a shirt, thus the common name, collarbones. They connect the sternum or breastbone to the shoulders on either side, thus creating a T or alternately a CROSS on the front of the chest.

The clavicles are 2 thin curved bones at the top of the chest that attach to the breast bone in the center forming a CROSS.

Keith Wheeler has a groove in his collarbone. I do too, a result of breaking mine when I was 8 years old. Keith’s isn’t due to trauma, at least not accidental. Keith’s notch is from carrying a literal cross across his shoulder.

On my collarbone I have a funny groove. I have about 1.5 inches(3.8 cm) of bone growth from bearing the weight of the cross on my shoulder all these years. That’s what the wood of the cross has done to my body. Yet, when we take up HIS cross it also shapes us – it shapes our heart, our attitudes, our actions…even the expressions on our faces!

Keith’s Facebook post

Since 1985, Keith has walked around the world-literally; he has covered over 27,000 miles on all 7 continents. It’s hard to know how many countries, since names and boundaries change, but it’s at least 180. And on every step he has taken, he has carried a 90 pounds, 12 feet by 6 feet cross draped over his shoulder.

in Saudia Arabia

But it really isn’t about the cross. Keith walks around doing what he simply calls “serving God, loving people.” He started in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Good Friday 1985 and thought it was going to be a one-time event. But he felt God wanted him to continue carrying the cross around the surrounding towns, then the rest of Oklahoma, and on into surrounding states. And then he just kept walking- and carrying the cross.

Carrying the cross on Lewis Avenue in Tulsa by the Praying Hands statue at ORU

He has carried 3 crosses. The first cross was lost by an unnamed airline. He retired the second cross after 22 years, having carried it up Mt. Kilimanjaro; it now sits in his study. He currently carries his third cross. He takes it apart to pack it in a ski bag, protected by padding. There is a wheel on the end of the cross, not to protect him, but to protect the cross; he tried other ways, but nothing kept it from getting damaged as it dragged on the ground.

Keith Wheeler went to Tulsa to attend seminary at Oral Roberts University, ORU, without knowing it is a seminary, or as he decided to call it, a cemetery. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life, so he tried several things-youth pastor, radio announcer, gym teacher, coach. He even trained to enter the Olympics as a pole vaulter. (He laughingly says it isn’t hard to be the best at something few people try.)

A television preacher he was listening to said he believed God wanted someone to go to South Africa and carry a cross, but no one had been willing to go. Years later, one night Keith was alone in his room and in his heart felt God tell him to carry a cross in Tulsa on Good Friday.He thought this surely couldn’t be God, but felt these words burning in his heart,

“Anyone can carry a cross–think about Simon of Cyrene; he carried Jesus’ cross. Anyone can die on a cross–think about the two thieves on either side of Jesus. Only One, however, could die for the sins of the world… and that was because of love. I want you to take the cross and identify that message of love along the roadsides of this world.”

at the site of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines that killed 6000 people and displaced 4 million.

Keith points out that only once in the Bible did Jesus tell someone to be “born again” (John 3:3). But on multiple occasions, he said his followers must take up a cross and follow him.

Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38 NIV

So, he did, and still does- in Tulsa, where I saw him one morning as I drove to work, and all over the world. When he travels, Keith never knows where he will sleep or what he will eat. He depends on God and the “kindness of strangers.”

He has suffered physical injuries-broken ribs and a punctured lung. He has been arrested, jailed, beaten, and put in front of a firing squad.

confronting policia

Once while walking in the dark in Uganda, he fell into a pit, and quickly realized it was a sewer full of human waste. It was too deep for him to climb out -until he realized he could climb out using the cross.

a COVID time-out

Nothing had ever stopped Keith from travelling and walking-that is until the world was plunged into a viral pandemic in 2020. From January to March he walked in Tuvalu, the Northwest Territories Canada, Brazil, and Paraguay but after returning to Tulsa in March of 2020 Keith did not leave the country for 9 months, instead walking in Oklahoma and other states.

In March 2021 when it was possible to travel internationally again he went to Paraguay. On the way home he began feeling unwell, and “developed the sniffles.”

On March 21, 2021, he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

To be continued..

In part 2 of this post, I’ll share from a conversation I had with Keith before he and his wife Nicole left for Paraguay right before Thanksgiving 2021. It’s hard to “interview” Keith because he doesn’t like to talk about himself. He prefers to talk about the “heart of Jesus” (John 13:23). But in our chat, he shared with me how COVID affected his health, ministry, and mission.

Nicole and Keith Wheeler, “carrying the cross around the world”

Until then, please visit Keith’s website, and follow him on social media, and watch some of his videos on YouTube. I’ve used several photos from the Wheelers’ collection, used with their permission here. Find many more on his site and social media.

No one pays Keith and Nicole to do this, and they rely on the generosity of friends for funds to travel. In appreciation for using his story, I have made a donation to his ministry. If you feel so inclined consider helping them at this link or here

Checks made payable to:
Keith Wheeler Ministries
PO Box 702706
Tulsa, OK 74170

exploring the HEART of health around the world

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

Don’t forget to check back in a few weeks for part 2, and maybe even a part 3. Subscribe by email for notification and also watch on my social media pages.

a world globe with two crossed bandaids

Doctor Aletha

How you can bless OneChild

If you already sponsor a child elsewhere, or support other charitable causes, please continue. But if you aren’t, or are able to take on something else, I recommend OneChild without reservation. Check out their website and see if OneChild can be a blessing to you.

The Christmas Gift Fund

The Christmas Gift Fund allows the OneChild Hope Center staff to purchase a gift for each child in the program. For many of these children living in the depths of poverty, it may be the only present they receive this Christmas. So that every child receives a gift, all donations are combined and distributed equally to children registered in our program.

  • $35 will help provide a gift for 1 child.
  • $70 will help provide a gift for 2 children.
  • $105 will help provide a gift for 3 children.
You can bless a child this Christmas at this link.
How Jesus blessed children
 
But Jesus said, 
 
“Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.”
 
And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Holy Bible, New Living Translation copyright 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. All rights reserved.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
 

 

How I bless children

My husband and I have had the privilege of blessing children here in the United States and on travels to other countries. In the collage above I’ve shared photos of us in VietNam, Mexico, and El Salvador serving on volunteer medical teams.

But we also bless children without even leaving our house. Through monthly financial support we have helped children in India, Mexico, Honduras, and now Ethiopia go to school, get medical care, and receive regular meals through an international organization named ONECHILD.

Like many similar organizations, OneChild, has seen a decrease in donations this year due to the financial hardship that the pandemic caused. But the children’s needs have not decreased and neither has the organization’s commitment to taking care of them.

“We advocate for children in poverty and they are paying (and will pay) a huge price for the economic and social policy decisions being made in the US. It’s our job to speak up on their behalf.”

Scott C. Todd, PhD, President of OneChild

 How you can bless OneChild

For a monthly commitment of $39 U.S. you can help a needy child. If you’ve been wondering what you can do to help in this crisis, you can start making a lasting difference in the life of a child and family. If at any time you need to stop, OneChild will understand and still appreciate the investment you made to support their work.

OneChild doesn’t stop with receiving your donation. You receive a photo of your sponsored child and regular updates written by the child; you may get drawings, and pictures of their family and activities. The featured image at the top of this post is one side of a postcard sent in response to a letter I sent my child.

If you already sponsor a child elsewhere, or support other charitable causes, please continue. But if you aren’t, or are able to take on something else, I recommend OneChild without reservation. Check out their website and see if OneChild can be a blessing to you.

HOPE CENTER TOUR

sharing the HEART of faith, hope, and love

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

 

Dr Aletha

 

1 Corinthians 13:13, photo from the Lightstock.com collection (affiliate link)

 

 

 

 

 

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