The Shepherd

My husband Jim was always keen for new adventures. His adventurous spirit was intensified one day when an acquaintance invited him on a trip to Turkey to search for Noah’s ark on Mt. Ararat. Of course, Jim agreed to go and said he would gather a group of like-minded men to join in their search.

It didn’t take long to find nine other adventurers. Hastily, they applied for passports and visas and bought the latest camping and hiking gear. With high hopes, they travelled from Colorado to begin their search for the elusive ark. After two weeks of rough camping, daily hiking, and disappointment, they returned home.

About a month later a climber, who had been on Mt. Ararat, telephoned Jim to report that he had seen something at about 12,000 feet (in the Ahora Gorge area) that was similar in size to the ark. He suggested that the climb there and back could be done in one day. After hearing that, Jim and some of his friends wanted to return. This time my son Jim and I decided to accompany them. We arrived in Ankara, Turkey jet-lagged but hopeful that we would see the ark. The next morning my husband hired a taxi to take us to Mt. Ararat. Since we had been told it was a “quick hike”, no one took a backpack except for me.

Four Turkish soldiers were assigned to protect us. After many hours of hiking we realized we could not reach the Ahora Gorge and come back in just one day. Jim decided then that our son, the guide, and one friend should go on ahead and the rest of us would go back. I gave our son my flashlight, the remaining snacks that I had brought along, and my bivouac sack. We watched their progress up the mountain seeing them finally as small moving dots with their pinpoint light in the deepening darkness. We had been so intent on watching the three climbers that we didn’t realize the soldiers had gone away leaving only the guide to get us down the mountain. Cloud cover obscured the moon and stars but we would try to reach the shepherds camp somewhere below at about 5,000 feet. Hour after hour, we walked in complete darkness, with one hand on the shoulder of the person in front. I knew that with just one misplaced step, the loose volcanic scree could send us tumbling.

After midnight our exhausted, bedraggled party reached the Kurdish shepherds camp where a welcoming fire was blazing. By the firelight Jim pitched our tent then in a hired taxi, he left to catch a plane that would take him back to Colorado for a speaking engagement. I was the only woman in a shepherd’s camp, worried about my son and with my legs aching, I tried to fall asleep. A loud boom suddenly startled me and echoed off the mountain. What was happening? I was afraid as were the sheep who began bleating, the mean Kurdish dogs that were barking, and the donkeys that were braying. After a few moments one of the shepherds came to my tent saying, “Meddy, don’t vurry, vulf.” A wolf! Over the din of the animals I heard the other shepherd whistle to his frightened sheep. The pattern was two short notes and one long note. He kept repeating his call until the ruckus began to subside. The sheep became quiet and silence once again enveloped the camp.

As I lay in my sleeping bag, I remembered that the Bible says that JESUS taught: “My sheep hear my voice and will not harken to the voice of another.” It also says, ‘He knows His sheep by name and leads them.” John 10. I learned first-hand that night that sheep do indeed know the voice of their shepherd and respond.

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