A pastor and his daughter set out to hike 800 miles. What happened would test their faith

Arizona Republic (December 25, 202) by Karina Bland

Pastor Luke Barnett stood at the pulpit at Dream City Church in Phoenix, dressed in blue jeans and a black sweater, his smile big. You’d never know anything was wrong.

“I’ve missed you so much,” he said into the microphone. The 3,600-seat church was more than half full, his parishioners on their feet, their hands in the air.

Luke was raised in church, the son and grandson of pastors, a graduate of the private Christian Vanguard University of Southern California. He became a pastor at 23 and the senior pastor at Dream City Church in 2011, taking over for his dad and growing it from one campus to seven.

Luke thanked his parishioners for the cards, letters and cookies they’d sent.

“It’s great to be back home today,” he said.

Twelve weeks earlier, Luke and his daughter Annalee had set out to hike the Arizona Trail to raise money for a church project.

On that hike, something happened that tested even his faith.

Annalee Barnett was 17 when she saw a picture taken on the Arizona Trail.

She thought it looked beautiful and was determined to hike it, 800 miles through mountains, canyons, desert and forests from the Utah border to the one with Mexico.

Only about 100 people tackle the entire trail each year.

Three years later, Annalee still hadn’t found anyone to do it with her.

She was home in Scottsdale from Southeastern University in Florida, where she was on the golf team and studying journalism. She was about to be married.

Annalee, now 20, decided to go it alone.

She presented her plan to her father. No way, he said. He’d go with her.


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