“It’s the one with the white ear…” I ask anxiously. But my brother, Maksat, is already hurrying up the path to the next yurt.

“We haven’t seen your sheep,” the man at the door answers gruffly. Despite his tone of voice, I know he will spread word to all the families in our valley. Sheep are valuable, and they get lost easily in these wide, rolling hills. Neighbor helps neighbor because it could be any one of us walking these long paths in the jailao (grassy valleys) next time.

“Bye then,” the neighbor calls. But I’m already scurrying after my brother, and worrying what our father will say when he discovers a sheep is missing.

“Why does it have to be White Ear?” I say out loud. But only the breeze is listening. My little brother is far ahead, a concerned look on his face. White Ear is his favorite. As the youngest in the family, it is his job to care for the newborn lambs, and he always gets attached to them. In the early spring, it is too cold for the lambs to sleep out in the shed, so they sleep with us in our one-room winter house.

We wake each morning to the snuffling and bleating of hungry lambs. The rest of us stay snuggled in our blankets on the sleeping mats, leaving Maksat to rise and care for them. When she was born, White Ear was sickly and weak. Maksat gave her special attention and grew very close to her.

Even so, it is our father, not Maksat, who will be most angry if we don’t find this sheep. And it’s not because of the price of sheep, or our carelessness, although I’m sure he will have some things to say about those things. It’s because, just like us, our father cares about each sheep. He knows them, and he loves each one.

The thought of my father’s love for his sheep becomes a rock of determination inside me. We must find this sheep. I charge up the path, calling with my voice and searching with my eyes. But my anxiety has faded away. I just remembered that my little brother Maksat is really good at finding sheep!

Will you pray with us for China’s shepherds?

Kazaks, Kirgiz and Tajiks are three of China’s minority peoples who have a heritage of raising sheep. Give praise for the special understanding this heritage gives them regarding the shepherd heart of God.

Together, these three ethnic groups total over 1.7 million people. Spend some time thanking our Great Shepherd for the way that he knows each one of them, and deeply cares for them.

As Silk Road communities try to overcome the impact of the COVID-19 virus, pray for community leaders. May they put into practice the principles of commitment and care that are so clear in their shepherding heritage.

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