By: Dr. Scott Houser, a veterinarian from Arizona who served on his first short-term trip to the Navajo with Dr. Bill Rishel this past July
“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off ? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost.” Matthew 18 : 12-14
It was our first stop of the day and we needed to do preventative health care on a flock of sheep for an older Navajo gentleman and his family. It was mission work on the Navajo Indian Reservation and I had a crew of veterinary students and my wife Janet, who is a small animal veterinarian, helping me. Since this was my first time doing work with Christian Veterinary Missions, I was relying heavily on a couple students who had served before, namely Kailey Ann and Logan. Besides the sheep, we also had several dogs to vaccinate, a couple cats and two horses. As we organized the sheep crew to catch, vaccinate, inject vitamins, deworm and treat the ears for ticks, we noticed three very wild sheep had separated from the flock and escaped being caught. The old Navajo man and his sister were trying to round up the sheep, so we tried to step in and help. Unfortunately those sheep were very wily and figured out how to avoid us and the traps we set for them.
We were on top of a hill with the good sheep in a pen and the wild threemusketeers took off and headed down the hill on the other side. I finally made an executive decision that we needed to start on the other sheep because I thought the wild bunch were a lost cause. The old sheep herder was not giving up though, so we started on his other sheep. About half way through the flock I saw that he had saddled a horse and was still trying to get the three lost sheep. At one point I saw them run by the sheep pen with the horse and Navajo man in pursuit.
As we finished the last of the caught sheep, I noticed the Indian horse was tied up by the pen, so I figured that was the end of trying to catch those sheep and we started to move on to vaccinating dogs and horses. The old man asked,”Why are you not going to do the other sheep?” I said, “Because we can’t catch them.” Then he pointed to another pen and said, “They are right there.” I turned and looked and our three wild hombres were standing there all locked up. I have no clue how he did that by himself, other than to say that he loved his sheep and he wanted them all treated and protected and he was willing to work hard and pursue them until that goal was accomplished. We went in and finished the sheep and then switched gears to do the dogs, cats and horses.
Later on, Logan mentioned how watching that whole scenario unfold had spoken to her and made the parable of the lost sheep come alive. Her comments made me sit back and reflect, and God started showing me some things that I had never thought of before in that story of the lost sheep. My answer to the runaway sheep was to just let them go because they were just costing us time and aggravation. The wise old Navajo man knew that in order to keep his whole flock protected, every sheep needed to be treated the same and he cared for his sheep enough to sacrifice for that.
Aren’t you glad that God felt the same way about you and was willing to pursue you and find you and bring you back to the fold?
The Navajo shepherd started out on foot trying to corral his problem sheep, but then he took it up a step and went to the bottom of the hill to saddle a horse. That is a lot of extra work, but he did it because he loved his sheep.
God pointed out to me that when we wander away from Him it is work for Him to pursue us and try to bring us back, but He loves each one of us so much He does not mind the work. Some of us are wild enough and it is a lot of extra work, but it is worth it all if He can get us back.
Even with the help of the horse it took this gentleman several tries to accomplish his goal, but quitting was not an option for him. God is the same way! He will never quit pursuing you because He loves you and He sees value in you.
Finally, the smile on that Navajo face said it all, he was more excited about getting those three rogue sheep done than that whole pen of caught sheep. Can you imagine the smile on God’s face as he carries you back to the safety of the fold? The rejoicing in heaven must be incredible.
Let’s just face it, God is the good shepherd because He loved us so much He was willing to sacrifice His own son on a cross to redeem us. That is a love that we cannot fully comprehend and He will pursue us until the day we die because He wants us in the flock, so we can spend eternity with Him.