In the first article I mentioned the Bakhtiari tribe. There are still Bakhtiari people that live according to their traditional way in the South-West of Iran. Bakhtiari nomads migrate twice a year with their herds to find pasture for their herds.
During Spring they migrate to the mountains and stay in their summer quarters. In Autumn to valleys and the plains and they stay in their winter quarters. The livestock that the Bakhtiari mainly raise are sheep, some goats, horses, and cattle.
Temporary dwellings for the Bakhtiari include rectangular tents, brush or wood shelters and caves when migrating into the mountains. These types of dwellings are used when moving their herds around. Recently, some Bakhtiari have urbanized and began to settle in large villages and even in cities.
I stayed and lived in a cave high up into the mountains with two Bakhtiari families for six days. At night, the families with their sheep, shared one cave for “protection and comfort”. Their sheep mean everything to the Bakhtiari people as it’s the only source of income for them. As part of understanding how important their sheep are to them they have a very deep sense of compassion for them.
They know that their ability to survive depends on their sheep. They protect their sheep with everything they have. For them it is not just a flock of sheep. They recognise and identify every individual sheep.
Every morning the two families will wake and start to prepare for the day’s only task, leading their flock of sheep out to graze on the mountain.
Each family is responsible for their own flock. The shepherd of each
family will start to sing a song and his song is unique. Remarkably the sheep in the cave will start to split into two separate flocks as the sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice and start to follow their own shepherd as they depart in opposite directions each morning. Keep in mind that the two shepherds did not look back to see who were following them.
Seeing and experiencing this the first morning struck deep into my heart. It was a normal day’s routine every morning for them. I was like a young boy the next morning as I woke up. I placed myself above the cave to experience this phenomenon for myself. I had to make sure that what I saw was actually true.
That the “one flock” of sheep, became two as they followed their own shepherds. I marvelled at this the second morning as the same routine was playing out in front of my eyes. I experienced a deep sense of wonder for the WORD of God as what I was experiencing created a deeper understanding of it.
The way the Bakhtiari cared for and loved the lambs also struck deep into my heart. It was as if they were taking care of their own children.
The shepherds will return late in the afternoons with their flocks and then examine each lamb (the lambs stay behind in the cave during the day) with loving hands to make sure they are still in good health. Obviously talking to the lamb as they “inspected” each one. Then they will carry the lamb and walk straight to the mother and place it under the ewe to drink. It was clear that there is an intimate trust relationship between the shepherd, the lamb and the ewe. It was as if it was preordained to be like this. It was not an easy six days with the Bakhtiari
families from a physical and survival point of view. To be honest, it was challenging due to the cold, sleeping on rock and the fact that we could not communicate at all. During this time I did realise that I will have to learn to speak Persian if the Lord Jesus was going to send me back to this country.
But looking back and remembering those six days, I always experience a very deep sense of grace and the fact they I had the honour to stay with them.
The Bakhtiari men and women are “hard people” and they grow up and live in very difficult and challenging conditions. For them it’s normal and they have the ability to survive and to be content with very little possessions. Their sheep means everything to them. The one shepherd and I were actually hugging each other and with tears said our good-byes as we departed from each other on top of the mountain.
John 14:27 “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.”
The above verse is defining a relationship that is based on facts and not pre-set conditions or demands.
The primary basis of this relationship is hundred percent based on the Shepherd’s voice. We can only hear after someone have spoken. It always stuck me that the verse ends with the fact that the Shepherd knows without a doubt that His sheep will follow Him.
Shalom and Grace
Featuring in our April Edition of Team Talk.