Our first filming location was the arid Judean Desert. We filmed in waving grasslands, where Bedouins herded their goats. We stood on the edge of a rocky canyon. And we spent a day at the ruins of Qumran – the place where the Dead Sea Scrolls were written.
Later, we drove to a bowl-shaped valley of bright white sand that reflected the sun in all directions, as if we were inside a light fixture. On one side, though an opening in the valley wall, we could see rows and rows of gleaming, white sand dunes retreating into the distance. It was beautiful, and totally blinding in the noonday sun. When we filmed Carl, the host and producer there, one crew member had to hold a shade over his head, while two others stretched out a black cloth at his waist level to block the reflection from below. All that just so Carl could open his eyes!
At the Jericho road – the one in the parable of the good Samaritan, some Bedouins taught us to properly wrap the headscarves for our costumed characters. The Bedouin people are so impressive. Living in a place as hot and unforgiving as that desert has to take skill, and a lot of strength.
On our third and final day in the desert, a rainstorm rolled into the valley, which is very rare in April. We had to keep moving to keep the strong winds from ruining our audio. We were filming down in a canyon, sheltered from the high winds, when the rain finally hit. We had to run out of the canyon, both to save our cameras, and because Aran, the in-country producer on our crew, warned us that the rain could cause a flash flood. Later, we learned that there had really been a flash flood that night, and that nine people had been killed. Not for the last time, I was thankful for Aran’s incredible knowledge and wisdom. That man is a blessing from God.
We moved to the Dead Sea, to get away from the rain, but had to stop early because the storm wall was minutes away. We stashed our cameras in the car, and stood on the shore, watching as a visible storm cloud, shaped out of sand and radiating lightning, roared toward us across the Dead Sea like a shape-shifting monster. We stared in awe until it was almost on top of us, and then we jumped into the car, and watched as the air around us became a swirling maelstrom of silt, thunder, and lightning.
That night, we had planned to do night shots, but we couldn’t. There was too much rain. With the storm, and a few other setbacks, we were now far behind schedule. Too far. Worried, I sent a text message to Lynelle back in Walla Walla. We might not finish, please pray, I told her. Then I said a prayer of my own. “Maybe you don’t want us to finish this,” I told God. “And if you don’t, that’s OK. You see farther than we do. But if you do want us to finish, we’re going to need a miracle.” Looking back, I was thinking too small when I asked for just one miracle. But that didn’t matter. God never thinks small. And the ride was just getting started.