People stared as Arthur Hollands walked through the Financial District in New York City. Many of them took pictures, some pointed. A few were bold enough to come up and talk to him.

After all, someone carrying a life-sized wooden cross walking down Wall Street does not happen everyday.

Over the last 18 months, Hollands — a Japanese evangelist and former martial arts champion — has carried this cross and trekked from Santa Monica, California to New York. He came into Manhattan last Friday and finished his route on Saturday at Long Beach.

Though people do come up and talk to Hollands, this is not the point of the walk.

He hopes that just seeing the cross — a symbol of love and peace — will encourage the people he passes along the way. “My whole thing is ‘don’t talk, just walk, show the cross, let the Spirit flow.’”

Hollands considers his walk a success. “I think a lot of times people measure things by result…. The whole thing for me is just walk across the nation, country, just carry the cross and show people and just lead as that, so I don’t know what’s going on in people’s hearts, but it saturates, it’s like a germ, it just goes all over the places. So I feel very satisfied with it in a sense.”

Arthur Hollands heads towards Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge (Credit:  Toyo Kawai )

Arthur Hollands heads towards Manhattan across the George Washington Bridge (Credit: Toyo Kawai)

The cross, which is made of Japanese cedar wood, weighs about 70 pounds. It has a small wheel on the bottom, which allows him to prop it up on his shoulder and roll it down the street. Hollands was not concerned when a man walked by and called the wheel “cheating” —some people just look at things pessimistically, he said.

Hollands left Santa Monica on March 17, 2014, traveling with a photographer/videographer to document his journey. He walked about 20 miles a day, six days a week. He walked roughly the first 2000 miles straight, which brought him to Springfield, Illinois on August 22. Then he went back to Japan for about eight months for speaking engagements, before picking the walk back up in Springfield.

It took about a month for Hollands’ body to get conditioned for so much walking. He got blisters, the blisters peeled off, then he got blisters again. However, over time his body adjusted. “You can train so much for this… but in order to get used to it… you’ve got to carry your cross and walk.”

Hollands in Times Square, NYC (Credit:  Toyo Kawai )

Hollands in Times Square, NYC (Credit: Toyo Kawai)

When he was 20, Hollands moved to the Unites States. His father is American, his mother Japanese. They met when Hollands’ father, an ex-marine, was in Japan. While living in the United States, Hollands was “heavily involved” in the martial art of judo, ranking third in the nation in his weight class at one point He was also involved in Sambo wrestling – a mix of wrestling, judo and jiu-jitsu. He was a two-time national champion in Sambo wrestling and also won a silver medal in the Pan-American championship.

However, Hollands began to look for meaning for his life beyond athletics. “I think when you start thinking about your life, when you lose more than you win… I think that caused me to start thinking about [sic] is my life consists of only athletics or sports? There must be something more than this.’”

He went to Huntington Beach in California and watched the sunset. It was there that Hollands, who has a Buddhist background, came to sense that there must be a creator God, or gods. Less than a week later, Hollands’ judo coach invited him to church, where he became a Christian.

About a year and a half later, at the age of 25, he entered full-time ministry with the Athletes in Action program of Campus Crusade for Christ, now know as Cru. However, he broke his neck in a wresting accident, and changed to working with “internationals.”

Eventually, he felt called to go back to Japan, where less than one percent of the population is Christian. “You’re talking about Jesus chasing for one lost sheep. In Japan you have to chase 99 sheep, so the worker is needed there.”

Hollands has done a similar walk in Japan. “The Japanese like walking, so about 1000 people walked with me,” he said.

On Brooklyn Bridge, NYC (Credit:  Toyo Kawai )

On Brooklyn Bridge, NYC (Credit: Toyo Kawai)

What is next for Hollands? He will do a similar ‘cross-walk’ in Taiwan. After Japan, Korea and the United States, Taiwan will be his fourth country.

For Hollands, these walks are a “silent message.”

“For Christians, they see the cross and they say ‘thank you,’ and those people who are not necessarily Christians they still get encouraged.”

See what Hollands learnt on his journey, plus his thoughts on journalism and ‘tattoo evangelism’ here: