Keith Wheeler-a Cross and COVID

No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

If you missed part 1 of this series, you may want to read it first.

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…

In it, I introduced you to Keith Wheeler who has walked around the world-literally; he has covered over 25,000 miles on all 7 continents. He can’t say how many countries, since names and boundaries change, but it’s at least 180. And on every step, he has carried a 90 pounds, 12 feet by 6 feet cross draped over his shoulder.

Keith does this because he loves Jesus, and he wants people to know that Jesus loves them too. In his own words,

“I love God and I love the people of the world. To me, ministry is simply the overflow of a life lived in love with Jesus. I feel that Jesus has many servants but very few friends. It’s one thing to be called a friend; it’s another to actually be a friend. I want to be His friend.

2020-a travel interruption

After trips to Tuvalu, Brazil, the Caribbean, and Northwest Territories, Canada in early 2020, Keith’s travels were interrupted by the pandemic in March. For the rest of 2020 he walked through the Tulsa Oklahoma area, near his home and even made it to Washington, D.C. where he encountered some people he knows from Tulsa.

Keith in Washington, D.C.

I’ll tell you more about his 2020 activities in the next post of this series.

2021- travel resumes; then another interruption

He travelled to Paraguay in March 2021 despite difficult pandemic travel restrictions.  By the time he landed back home at Tulsa International Airport he was feeling unwell. Over the next day he continued “feeling a little puny”, with a sore throat and stuffy nose. He consulted a physician who recommended a nasal swab viral test-and so on March 21, 2021, Keith was diagnosed with COVID-19.

A special time with Jesus

On Keith’s Facebook page from March 21 through 28, 2021, he described his “COVID timeout”. He did a series of videos from his study, where he keeps his second cross that has been retired. He spent much of his time there, to remain isolated from his family. He called this a “special time with Jesus.”

In November 2021 I visited with Keith by video to talk about his life, his ministry, and specifically his COVID-19 illness. As I mentioned in part 1, it’s hard to interview Keith about himself, because invariably he turns the conversation back to Jesus. But that’s how he lives his life, so to meet Keith is to meet Jesus.

This part will be in interview format with me as AO and Keith as KW. It is edited for clarity and  I’ve inserted some background information for context.

The interview-November 2021

AO: Keith, how did you feel when you learned you had COVID-19? Were you a little mad at God, after all you caught it while you were travelling on his behalf? Did you worry that you might die of COVID?

KW: No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

AO: Keith, what was COVID like for you? How did you manage the symptoms?

KW: I had sniffles, a sore throat, and chills. I lost my sense of smell; and I still don’t have it for bad smells. The worst was my mental focus was off, so much so I couldn’t read.  I was sleepy and slept a lot. I kept myself hydrated, took vitamins, and concentrated on breathing.

AO: And what about your wife?

KW: Nicole was out of town when I got home from Paraguay and got diagnosed with COVID. So I had time to sanitize the areas of the house I had used and moved upstairs before she returned.  

She would leave meals at the bottom of the stairs, I would come down, take it back up. I would sit at the top of the stairs eating and she sat at the bottom, so we could still have meals together. When I felt up to it, we went outdoors for walks-she walked on the sidewalk and I walked in the middle of the street, 6 feet away.

In his COVID timeout videos, each day he said he was “doing well”, and by the 24th,  he was “better”. By Sunday March 28, he ended isolation-fitting since that was Palm Sunday, the day Christians remember Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey; a week later he would be crucified on a cross like the one Keith carries. (John 12:12-14)

By Good Friday, April 2, 2021, Keith was back out on the road, carrying the cross in Florida.

I’m sorry I haven’t posted much since my Covid “timeout”! Lots of fun things have been going on… As we carried the cross in Florida on Good Friday so very many precious, beautiful people came to the cross…

Of course, the pandemic was still active, so when necessary, Keith masked up-in his own style of course.

HAHA! WAAAY better than the “standard” blue face mask!

Keith and I talked about lessons learned from the pandemic and his thoughts on the division that has rocked our nation this past 2 years. He calls this a “season of adjustment” in which we have “missed the presence of Jesus.” I’ll share more about that in part 3, as well as a unique encounter right here in Tulsa.

Exploring the HEART of health with Keith Wheeler

I know you are intriqued with Keith’s unique approach to service, so please come back in a couple of weeks for part 3 in this series.

a world globe with two crossed bandaids

Doctor Aletha

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.

Keith and his 12 foot cross
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.

Keith Wheeler
Keith 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.

an encounter with the 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
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

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

This post was shared at

Grace & Truth, a weekly Christian link-up

Keith Wheeler-a Cross and COVID

No, I wasn’t mad at God, I know that bad things happen to everyone. Jesus said that whoever wants to save their life should lose it, (Luke 9:24) so I know that either way I would be with Him. Jesus is my hope, my confidence, and peace, in all my life, including COVID.

Keep reading

PEACEMAKING THROUGH CONFLICT

There’s enough strife and tension in our world today. My prayer is that I be a peacemaker. I don’t desire to be known for my political stand, but my identity as a follower of Jesus and my stand for His Kingdom! Keith Wheeler

Keep reading
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