Dirt Tracks 1: The Desert Trail
At the northern tip of the Red Sea, as the sun rose over the mountains of Jordan to the east illuminating the vast sands of Egypt to the west, I stood at the apex of three countries with my back to the sea and looked up at the mighty Negev.
I took my first step on a journey that would last for months, through hundreds of miles of dirt tracks and desert trails and felt an intense mix of both wonder… and fear.
If I knew then what I know now about this journey, maybe I would never have set off. Days of being cooked in the inescapable desert sun and nights of lying awake in the freezing hours of the night lay before me.
Wild dogs and wolves waited in my path and not a drop of water could be tasted for miles. The ravines, like my throat, were dry as a bone. Yet for all the trials on that road, I saw an indescribable beauty in the Negev, in the starry skies above and in the hearts of the people below.
Like any naive traveller, packing their bag in a hurry a few hours before leaving to catch a flight, I threw in a ton of unnecessary tat, happily telling myself, ‘I’ll be needing this.’
How wrong I was.
On that first anxious morning, I lugged an enormous back-pack up the first ridge which was crinkled up into a cloudless sky by vast and merciless deserts on every side. I suddenly regretted taking everything I owned, bar the kitchen sink, as I summited the first peak and discovered endless peaks beyond, bigger and darker, stretching into the hazy horizon.
Why did I do this?
Just over two thousand years ago, a refugee child made a similar journey on the way home from exile in Egypt to his family home in the village of Nazareth in the region of Galilee. I wanted to know what that journey felt like, the challenges and triumphs in the wilderness.
That boy was seemingly a nobody back then, Ye’shua was his name, common at the time, an innocent child in a cruel world, a refugee forced from his home by a paranoid puppet king, unknown for decades by the military superpower that would later nail him to a tree in his early thirties. Yet this Roman empire would later collapse like every superpower eventually does, while the child would grow up to change history more than anyone who has ever lived.
Has anyone so influential ever started life so vulnerable?
On that scorching Tuesday morning, I tasted a small drop of that vulnerability.
I had a few saving graces. There was a vague trail through the desert so I knew people had walked these paths before me and for the first week, I never walked alone. My good friend and fellow Cornish brother, Pete, had taken a week off work to join me on the first frontier of the desert.
We were both very aware that the trials of the road were nothing compared to the threat Jesus and his young parents faced on their journey all those years ago, not to mention the dangers encountered by millions of refugee families who have been forced from their homes over the last few years in the heat of war. Neither of us encountered anything like the suffering endured by real refugees and we don’t pretend to. But out of solidarity for those millions, and curiosity for that one child, I made this journey to raise money for the refugees who have walked possibly the darkest path of all, having fallen into the hands of human traffickers.
If you want to sponsor this journey, then 100% of your contributions will go to the A21 Campaign, who are working right now on the front-lines of twelve countries across the world to rescue displaced men and women who have been taken advantage of by traffickers intent on making a profit from those who are most at risk.
My own expenses form no part of your donation. 100% of the funds raised will go to A21.
I write this post from Jerusalem, 260 miles into the journey.
As I reflect on the road I have walked, 4 memories stand out… 3 challenges and 1 enormous blessing…
Up next… Dirt Tracks 2: The Refugee Road