The dust cloud extended hundreds of yards out in front of them, like a lingering jet stream hovering just above ground. A rusted, old pickup truck rounded the high sand dune next to them and within seconds was pulling up next to the traveling caravan. The window rolled down and a curly-headed thirtysomething stuck his face out, the sun reflecting off his Aviator sunglasses.

“Nice pack string! Where you guys going?” he hollered above the loud rumble of the engine.

“We’re crossing America,” Tim yelled back. The kid didn’t miss a beat.

“What for?” he continued to holler, seemingly unaware that he could turn off the motor to have a conversation at a decent decibel level.

“We’re missionaries. We’re asking people to pray for the nation.” Tim got a little louder at the end to be sure he was heard.

“This isn’t my truck,” the guy hollered, motioning downward at the vehicle. Tim slowly smiled, looking the truck over and then back at the kid.

“Alright,” Tim responded, chuckling to himself at the random comment and his priority to interject it.

“My ranch is right over that hill. You guys can come over and water your horses and stay in the ranch house.”

Nearing late afternoon, Tim knew they would be looking to stop soon. He glanced back at Lynn and Leif and then accepted the offer. An hour later they stepped inside the main ranch house of Star Peak Ranch. The young guy introduced himself as Taylor Freeman and showed them the place, explaining that the large, luxurious travel trailer parked out front was his living quarters. His father, the most prominent trial attorney in the state of Nevada, owned several nearby ranches and Taylor was in charge of overseeing them. Twenty minutes later Tim was joining him on a ride into town for supplies, this time in a truck he was proud to be seen in. It was evident to Tim that Taylor had been drinking, no matter how subtle he was at keeping it hidden. Nevertheless, he let Taylor do the driving, fully aware that his driving abilities would remain mostly unaffected. His unfiltered rambling, however, would not.

“When I ran into you earlier I was on my way back from the dump, which I’ve never been to before, because there weren’t any ranch hand available at the time to take care of it, which is a fairly rare occurrence. Under normal circumstances I wouldn’t be caught dead at the dump. And I had never driven that beat-up junker of a truck either. It’s a work truck specifically used for hauls to the dump. I would never take the chance at scratching this baby with all that scrap.” Taylor barely paused to inhale between sentences. He was fumbling over himself to pass off the irregularity of his actions so as not to be associated with a lesser image or lower status than he felt he was worth. Tim just smiled and listened, understanding all too well the pride involved with driving a nice vehicle.

“The average cutting horse we have on our ranches costs $700,000. I’m worth way more than that old pickup, I assure you,” Taylor continued.

“It’s alright, Taylor,” Tim interjected. “You are going to find no judgment from me about your worth based on what you drive.”

They arrived at the trading post in Winnemucca and walked inside to find a large area marked off for construction. Taylor began chatting with the owner and introduced Tim to her, explaining who he was. The woman perked up at the description of their journey.

“You’re a missionary?! That is wonderful! I’m a Christian, myself. My name is Dusty,” she smiled warmly, shaking his hand. “How are you funding this trip of yours?” she asked.

“God always provides what we need. Whether in the form of work or simply undeserved provision,” He answered. “I’ve been a contractor for over 25 years.”

“Have you ever built a branding bar?” she asked, glancing at the construction area of the room.

“No,” Tim responded.

“Would you like to?” she asked without missing a beat. Before Tim could give an answer, Taylor quickly chimed in.

“Yep, he can do it. He can stay our place and we’ll give him a truck and he can drive back and forth up here from the ranch. We’ll keep their horses and they can stay at the ranch. We’ll take care of everything,” Taylor stated, decidedly, smacking Tim on the back.

Tim looked back at the woman. “When do you want me to start?”

“First thing in the morning,” she replied, still smiling. “I’ll see you then.”

Over the next week, Tim and Leif worked at the trading post building the branding bar during the day. Tim started off each morning with Bible study and prayer with Lynn and Leif before heading into the day. Each night after dinner they would study the Bible together again. Taylor’s nightly ritual, however, was to get smashed drunk. Which somehow, ironically, didn’t seem to impede him from curiously asking questions.

“You folks sure do love that Bible, don’t ya?” he asked as Tim flipped through the pages after dinner on their third night together. This night’s discussion was from the book of Matthew and Taylor’s intrigue got the best of him. After listening to the reading and asking several questions, the wheels seemed to be turning in his head, somehow escaping a total drowning in his rising intoxication levels.

A week later, Tim asked Taylor if he would like to join Leif and him on a moonlit horseback ride. They set out after dinner and enjoyed the full moon beaming down on them. It was the first night that Taylor wasn’t readily able to drink after dinner, and the sea of questions quickly flooded onto the two men that Taylor had been stewing in for the last week. Upon returning to the house, he requests to borrow Leif’s story Bible to help aid him in understanding some fundamentals. Tim explained to him the basic differences between the Old and New Testaments and advised him to stay out of the Old until he had studied the New somewhat.

“Start in the book of Matthew,” Tim suggested.

The next night, Taylor had several friends over for a cookout. After dinner was over, the group sat by the fire and Taylor stood up in the middle of them as though to give some sort of speech. He set his beer down and took a deep breath before addressing the group.

“I’ve learned some things these past two weeks. God sent those people to our ranch.” He pointed at Tim and Lynn sitting in the corner across from him. “I didn’t meet them in the desert by coincidence.” Taylor started to get choked up and bit his lip to keep the tears at bay. “It’s because of them that I met God and now know who He is, and that He loves me.”

The tears quickly spilled out onto Tim’s cheeks as he watched an emotional Taylor confess that He had met Jesus. Suddenly the pathway through the desert became flooded with intentional purpose in the hindsight of the confusing direction. What had felt so meaningless for so long was now overflowing with joyful gratefulness that God would send them to the isolation of the desert so that He could tell Taylor Freeman that He loved him.

There could have been no greater reward for this horsemen couple. No sweeter words to hear than that their hard labor and trust were reaping the benefit of a life won to Christ.






Previous–Episode 11: The Desert
Beginning–Episode 1: The Funeral