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Exclusive Photos: The crazy adventure of filming Jesus’ baptismal site with a drone

Jeffrey Bruno | JTB | Aleteia

By far the ultimate GoPro Moment ...

Click here to launch the slideshow

“Unfortunately, we won’t be able to use a drone at the baptism site due to its proximity to the Israeli border,” said the voice on the other end of the line. And that was that, or so we thought. Members of the Aleteia Video and Image department were leaving for Jordan to capture footage and stills for several upcoming productions, and at the heart of this was the perhaps the unrealistically optimistic hope that a drone could be used for overhead shots of the several locations.

Paperwork and approval from the Jordanian Tourism Board, Royal Jordanian Film Commission, and the Jordanian Armed Forces would all need to be arranged for there to be even a slight chance of bringing a drone into the country, let alone fly it. So as I sat back in my desk staring at an old map of Amman, I decided to leave it in God’s hands and accept whatever outcome would result.

A few days before our departure an email came in that read, “I just want to let you know that head office informed me the drone permits were issued and all is looking good.” Still a “no” to the baptismal site, but 6 out of 7 ain’t bad. All I could do was smile, look up, and say “Thank You!”

Perhaps the gravity of the privilege that we received was blissfully beyond us, but when the big, black Pelican case containing the drone arrived in Queen Alia International Airport in Amman and became the full center of attention of the Security Services, we were beginning to get the idea. We were met by an officer who was to accompany us everywhere we would be using the drone, and he would be the custodian of the drone while it was in Jordan, and they would travel in a separate vehicle from ours … the way I saw it, it was one less thing to carry.

“Could you please repeat that?” I stuttered as we were being briefed about procedures, protocols and the list of approved locations, “Your request to fly the drone at the baptismal site has been approved …”

My jaw hit the floor.

After several days of filming in Petra, the Citadel, Mukawir, and the Wadi Rum, the day arrived. As we stood near the banks of the Jordan River, peering over into Israel, which was merely a long jump away, it was glaringly apparent what the concerns were.

With a group of fully armed soldiers eyeing me up and down, the officer looked intently at me and said, “You can fly to here … but no further.” He continued to stare at me as if to drill the point into my head. Apparently nobody wanted an international incident today.

As I set the drone on the ground and waited for the GPS signal to acquire its lock, I began to sweat. The situation was completely surreal … Standing on the banks of the Jordan, right near where Jesus Christ was baptized by John the Baptist, where God had declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” where the Spirit of God descended like a dove, at the Jordanian-Israeli border with soldiers and automatic weapons a few feet away … and me and my big ideas and my little drone.

It blasted skywards in a cloud of dust and ascended noisily like a colossal dragonfly. Looking into the monitor on the flight controller and seeing the glowing red “recording” icon, the battery bar at full and noticing that there wasn’t enough wind to accidentally thrust the drone across the border, I began to relax a little. A peace came over me as the drone approached the river …another prayer answered. As it soared through the sky recording in high-definition video the lands where John the Baptist practiced his calling, where the disciples trod and Jesus was baptized, you could almost picture the scenes unfolding from on high, perhaps even from what one would think is God’s perspective.

As the drone descended from the heavens and landed, there were high-fives all around, and what appeared to have been impossible had been accomplished.

The sun was hanging low in the sky as we departed for our next location at the Dead Sea. The realization dawned on me: what often seems impossible is not so for God, if only we would trust.

“He who trusts himself is lost, he who trusts in God can do all things.”

St. Alphonse Ligouri

On behalf of the Aleteia Image and Video Departments, we wish to extend our deepest gratitude to the Jordanian Government and the supporting team for their unprecedented assistance and generosity in supporting this project.

And stay tuned to see the actual footage in the upcoming video series about the incredible holy sites in Jordan!

Learn more about visiting the baptismal site and other amazing holy sites in Jordan by visiting Holy Jordan.

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