Through every turn of the biblical story, God’s people are a wandering people. When they are rescued from slavery in Egypt, God sends them into the desert, where they wander for a generation. Jesus and his disciples wander from town to town. In fact, some of God’s most important truths are imparted to people with dusty feet as they travel on the road.

With his trademark thoughtful introspection, A. J. Swoboda boldly suggests that wandering is not an absence of faith but a central component of faith. In The Dusty Ones, he leads the restless, the frustrated, and the curious on a spiritual journey to uncover the answers to questions like

  • Do I wander because I’m failing or because God has left me?
  • Is the desert something I can overcome?
  • Why is God sometimes “hidden” in the Bible?
  • What do I do when the end seems nowhere in sight?


This compassionate and contemplative book offers hope and peace to Christians and seekers alike as they make their way down the winding road of faith.


"A.J. Swoboda is the kind of pastor, writer, and theologian today's church desperately needs. Capable and engaging, his bent toward vulnerability is simply honest and beautifully human. And it's this human touch that makes The Dusty Ones a unique, well-rooted, and spiritually nourishing work. If you've experienced your own desert seasons or periods of wandering, this book is Swoboda's gift to you."

Seth Haines, author of Coming Clean: A Story of Faith

"AJ Swoboda is one of the most authentic, profound and kind people I know. In The Dusty Ones, the pastor-theologian-friend tackles the topic of wandering, reminding us, for example, of the mistakes Israel made journeying to the Promised Land. Yet, the wandering in The Dusty Ones is about more than physical years in the desert; it’s about the wilderness and yearning of the heart. Reading The Dusty Ones is like talking to a friend who’s wandering alongside us on this road of truth, which is “always bumpy, but always worthwhile.” A.J. draws from St. Augustine noting how we were made for God, and our hearts are restless until they find rest in him. And, that’s okay. After all, it’s about the wandering, and on the road of life, you will get dusty."

Cornelia Becker Seigneur, author of WriterMom Tales and Images of America: WEST LINN & Founding Director of Faith & Culture Writers Conference

"At a time when the Christian faith all too easily as a neatly designed journey to a glorious destination, A.J. Swoboda brings us back to the ancient theme of wandering. Drawing on the stories of Biblical characters, and historical figures, Swoboda reminds that God has always walked alongside his people, even through life's more arduous terrain: God walks with wanderers, and speaks to wandering hearts.  A.J's  words are like water in our own wilderness, reminding us that God is forging a deep work in our hearts our desert spaces. May we all have the courage to live as one of The Dusty Ones...."

Jo Saxton, chair of the board for 3dmovements, speaker, and author 

"In The Dusty Ones, pastor and seminary professor AJ Swoboda wrestles with the paradox of faith: on the road toward perfection in Christ, we can only move forward by acknowledging how far we have to go.  This book is a must read for anyone concerned by how far our personal and cultural wanderings have separated us from God.  Kudos to Swoboda for addressing a difficult issue with honesty and grace."

Matthew Sleeth, director of Blessed Earth and author of 24/6

"AJ is one of those writers you discover as if he were a new Indy band that you can’t shut up about. That’s how I feel after reading his work. I connect with both his writing style and his message. And I want to tell everyone about it. Especially this one. This notion of wandering has given words and hope to my own struggle as a “professional pastor”, where it seems dangerous to not know where I’m at or where I’m going sometimes. Read this book on your journey towards Christ and be encouraged that we’re all just broken wanderers in search of Jesus."

David Lomas, pastor of Reality San Francisco and author of The Truest Thing About You 

"My favorite line in all the hymnal comes from that old standard, Come Thou Fount: 'Prone to wander, Lord I feel it...' And oh, do I feel it, and so does my friend A. J. Swoboda. In THE DUSTY ONES, A. J. explores that inclination and, with his characteristic wit, charm, and insight, takes the reader through a personal journey of wandering along the pilgrim way of those who follow after Christ."

R. Anderson Campbell, assistant professor of Christian Studies, George Fox University

"A. J. Swoboda uses timely illustrations to discuss a timeless biblical trope: wandering. Using topics ranging from Freud to farming, he tackles the richness and agony of the 21st century Christian journey with refreshing transparency. Along the way, he invites followers of Jesus to join in the grand pilgrimage and reminds us of Tolkien's great truth that "Not all those who wander are lost."

Leah Payne, professor of Theology and Cultural Studies at George Fox Evangelical Seminary

"I know A.J. Swoboda well. I know that his theology is historically grounded and profoundly biblical. I also know that, because of his gifts as a preacher, he has a rare ability to communicate that theology creatively and comprehensibly. This book is about the spiritual discipline of “wandering,” that mysterious counterpoint to the discipline of rootedness. As the evangelical community leans into a blossoming array of spiritual practices, it will look to books like this one."

Dan Brunner, professor of Church History at George Fox Evangelical Seminary and co-author of Introducing Evangelical Ecotheology

“A new book by A.J. Swoboda is always a cause for celebration, and his latest book, The Dusty Ones, is no exception. Combining the heart of a pastor and the mind of a scholar, A.J. does a masterful job of writing with honest realism about both the struggles of the life of faith and its joys, which are often experienced in the midst of our pain. Prepare for a challenging, bracing, elegant, and down-to-earth vision of what it means to live as a Christ-follower in the here-and-now.”

Terry Glaspey, author of Not a Tame Lion: The Spiritual Legacy of C.S. Lewis, editor of The Prayers of Jane Austen

"A. J. Swoboda tackles the spiritual journey by helping us see that there is no map and the road is crooked. Spiritual formation involves journeying with Jesus in ways that are often counterintuitive. Swaboda offers us a clear destination without simplifying the realities we will face along the way. He writes in a fresh and personal manner making this a book that will encourage all sincere travelers."

Morris Dirks, spiritual director, and founder of SoulFormation


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