I am no longer a man who walks along a lonely road. In one year, fifteen thousand miles have passed beneath my home’s front window. Those miles brought conversations with strangers who soon became friends and now I am blessed to call family. We met the most extra ordinary people. I crawled my way up a desert mountain outside of Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico with a man who was braver than most heroes ever hoped to be. He has fought for his family with bruised knuckles, sharpened steel and faced the refiners’ fire. He took to the forests with his family where he felled trees, stoked the woodstoves for warmth and built himself a life of love. I met Adam Wegman for the first time on Padre Island, Texas where the National Park was turning into its wild west.
The Government Shutdown had an unintended consequence which the bus bound road gypsies soon exploited. Driving through the open and empty gates visitors were greeted with signs of warning about the “UNPATROLED Areas of the park.” The countries National Parks were officially free and unregulated so a small community opened up on the beach where the boondocking campers planted stakes, lowered jacks or dug in, to the scenic spot. Adam, his wife, and three children had spent the last eight months painstakingly converting a 40 foot School Bus into an actual home.
A full-size residential door greeted you as you walked into a custom wood-paneled space of unique wonder. A smoldering woodstove just behind the driver’s seat was casting off its warmth and filling the seating area near the kitchen. Their children flooded out as we first met them and began pulling various shoes from cubbies and bikes off trailers.
The Wegmans like us had merely begun their journey on the road. They joined the continually growing number of families who are unplugging from the rat race nonsense. Where day after day families are greeted with more debt, bullies and bad influences both in schools and work. The constant race between worlds steals their present giving them less time to be together.
This is forcing parents to make costly decisions to safeguard their families from the dreams of liars. No longer do the younger generations believe the lies our parents were sold. The American Dream was always waiting around the corner, right? As we matured we learned nothing was waiting but debt, and inert degrees which proved useless. Many who once sought to make a difference instead compromised with corporate jobs that paid better but ultimately led us deeper into despair.
While the years passed, we saw families ruined because they chased this well-marketed masquerade. Instead, of becoming another notch in this necrotic noose, we chose to do something drastic. We stared down our desires and drove out the fears of failure and went searching for a life of meaning. Soon the scales of deception fell from our eyes and we saw a new world of creation is waiting outside the walls of want.
Day by day we began to set our selves apart from the promises this world falsely provides. Each day we abstain from their games shaves the subtle and crafty scales from our eyes. We see hiding behind the promises of fashion, feminism, and fame is a dagger of deception waiting to kill our covenants and bury our beliefs. The world is a maze designed to steal, kill and destroy everything of wonder, delicacy, and delight. We flee to the mountains of madness and battle the pains of realizing we’ve all been deceived. Desperately, we go to our friends and families begging them to see the truths we’ve learned. But soon they return to their comfortable sands of ignorance.
Then we come to a decision where we must choose whether to stay or go. Do you stay in the systems of corruption? Or do you run into the wild and see if The God of Creation still brings water from rocks or manna from the sky? Chelsea and I cut the cords once mooring us to the shores of secure income, neighborhood nonsense, and obligatory corporate holidays. We joined the wild westerners who are rich in experiences, but poor in screen side entertainment.
When I sat down with Adam on the side of a muscle strewn beach in Texas, I saw these riches and grew wealthier by the minute. The smells of salty air were cut by crisping coconuts, eggs and pancakes as breakfast was served. Batter splattered on sizzling propane stoves and drew the attention of three Pelicans who came swooping down to investigate. Within minutes I’ve cracked open cans of sardines and salmon for everyone to feed to three beaks clacking up and down.
Just as the moment builds, I see the something I’ve been seeking. Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a glimpse of it. Looking closer I can just make it out of the mists hugging the bay. The pearl of infinite worth is here hiding in behind the moment’s authentic life, provides. Two men led their families through obstacles of stuck tires, frozen pipes, and doubts about their abilities. Yet they persisted to fight for their children to see their pearls are waiting in the lands of unexpected encounters. Chelsea and I spent hours, then days and weeks with this family from afar. We decided after a week going our ways we would meet up in the eastern side of Texas where we could launch out across America’s most dangerous deserts.
Visions of raptors stalking the lumbering Brontosaurus peppered my mind. As the miles rolled by we passed checkpoints where pirates still pillage, kidnap and ransom Americans day after day. Just before we made the trip across the eastern edge of Texas, we had numerous people warn us to do whatever possible to avoid driving through El Paso. To strategically detour around this deadly choke point we elected to travel north into New Mexico and risk crossing the deserts of White Sands Missile Range instead. Along the way, we could spend two days at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. This superb marvel held within its coffers the largest publicly known cavern in North America.
Adam and I were always on a quest for a free place to sleep so our wives would spend hours hunting down places off various old forums, apps and websites. These were places some guy had parked at once back in 2008, but no one knew if it was still worth the travel. Located less than ten miles from Carlsbad was a precarious dirt road that snaked its way to the top of a mountain. The road was unmaintained and a terrible idea for anyone whose vehicle does not have 4×4 carved into steel somewhere on the frame. We both had plenty of determination and not enough wise experience to go ahead anyway.
Within two hundred feet our rigs were bouncing off of three-foot rock dips. The edges of those stone crumbled and carved steel off our RV’s frames making those spine shaking screeches of nightmares. Before I could convince him to turn back Adam drove higher and higher still. Climbing eventually more than a half-mile towards the top. I ran the rest of the way with him to the top where we summited a mountain without a name.
To the east fires pockmarked the landscape where thousands of petrochemical wells sucked the marrow of the earth and belched out the poisonous leftovers. To the west were miles of the cracked and creviced mountains where we would soon go. We look down to the families who’ve flocked together around our RV now too small to make out. They will be putting back the pans, and pieces of fruit which bounced out as we fought for the summit. Our wives are there, raising our children on the side of the desert road. Teaching them lessons about how to hold a fork, sit at a table be respectful and love even the oddities of life.
Because we choose to live this way our families are not so easily entangled with the snares the world so craftily creates. We instead battle through the challenges of living in a tiny space, finding a place to get water or dump our urine. We wash the same four bowls three times a day and have to go reset breakers when our power suddenly shuts off. All along the way our wives are still there, they’ve not forsaken their families and left us for careers, comforts or the illusion of a sitcom romance. They work harder than any person I know to raise their family in a strange and peculiar way. They teach the world and their children lessons by the way they bandage the bruises of their husband’s hearts, the scraped knees, and soggy jeans. They are women whose characters been shaped by their commitment to live with and raise their rare and precious fruit.
My whole life I wanted to know people like this family I shared a month while traveling to destinations unknown. They taught me how to weep with those who weep as they prayed for our marriage and we prayed for theirs. They showed me how to be patient with their children when they had the same discussion for the fiftieth time. They loved deeply, fought fairly but overcame their oppression by their faith in the One who called them to the road.
This family changed mine, they left us with the impression of their conviction and a willingness to persevere. They are a strange family, a lovely family and so too are those wanderers who are looking for a refuge out there whose builder is not a man but God.
The great pearl of wonder, you see is trapped behind those serpentine scales civilization provides. Those pearls are hiding in farms where children go gather snacks from the grass beneath orange trees, not boxes on aisle three. Its tucked between the sand of a creek waiting to be unearthed. You must go find it no matter the cost. Whether you’re rich in possessions or rich in debt, doubt, and disbelief; sell everything which has its hold on you. And just maybe that will be enough for you to learn the pearls of greatest worth are the simple truths all around you. They are scattered amongst the men and women, the children and old who have been waiting all this time for someone to help them see the truth. They are stuck between cubicles, crammed into traffic or recently let go. There are longing to loosed from their screens of solitude by a hand of hope. Go out and uncover their worth, dust off their cobwebs of cowardice. And when their road gets bumpy fight for their new-found freedom. Live a life of peculiarity and offer the befuddled spectators a chance to see authenticity is not a word but a walk.
These strange loving people altered my perception of what is wonderful. The cost I had to pay to learn this lesson was paid by my prideful belief that I could be the one who provides. I am not the man I thought I would be, and neither is Adam. We led our families into the deserts of the unknown wilderness because we weren’t willing to sacrifice our children for the sake of a better position at work or place in ministry. When bosses told us to put our marriages on the back burners, we left our resumes with vacancies instead of our beds. We tried to provide through the means of a system where the money comes from selling our pearls for the sake of air conditioning, sterile food, and doctors of deceit. But no matter how hard we tried…. the world with its promises just would not provide. On the side of a strange Mexican land, I saw the God of Adam will always provide. Whether it was food from the pantry of widows, or donations from people who live in their cars; our families have stored up faith in their furnaces that will burn brightly for all the weary world to see.