A lot of people who own sheep also own border collies, to herd and protect the sheep. At Mt. Saviour Monastery, they do not have border collies. I was told that they have a dog, but I saw no sign of it. What the monks at Mt. Saviour use to protect their sheep is…donkeys.
Anywhere on the monastery property that there is a flock of sheep, there is also a donkey. The donkeys are so loud. If they notice anything unusual, they start braying. Their loud voices break into the silence. In the midst of enjoying the peace and quiet, on top of the soothing backdrop of birdsong and soft sheep noises, would come a blast of brash racket. Once, I even noticed it breaking through the quiet of one of the prayers. It always made me smile.
The donkeys are such characters. Once, as John and I were walking past one field of sheep, a donkey came right over to the fence near us. He stood and stared at us. When I took out my camera, he turned his head this way and that. It really seemed like he was posing. When I put my camera away, and as we turned to leave, he started his loud braying. Apparently, he wanted us to stay and keep admiring him.
We heard that the monks also keep some llamas among their flock of sheep. We did not see the llamas. If they were present, they were far out in the field. The donkeys, however, were very noticeable. They were ever-vigilant, watching over the sheep and keeping them safe. Apparently, coyotes and other predators of the sheep are frightened away by the big, raucous donkeys.
In the midst of the peace and quiet of the monastery, they provided some comic relief. I loved those donkeys. They were a sign to me that God can use all of us. There is a place for everyone and everything. Even the donkeys. Even me. Everyone has gifts to offer. It’s a good lesson, taught by a silly donkey.