A Lost Sheep Finds the Right Shepherd
IN THE December 15, 1951, issue of The Watchtower a brief reference was made to an old monk who had embraced the truth. More details regarding this incident having come to hand, we are herewith giving our readers the benefit of them, as related by one of Jehovah’s witnesses.
“Here in the wilderness near the Dead sea and 25 kilometers (15 miles) from Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho, in a high mountain is situated the very old Greek Monastery of Holy Sabbas. Only monks and priests are living there and whoever enters cannot leave it until death. The founder of this monastery, Sabbas, once called all the monks and priests to him and said: ‘Beware of apples and of women; because it was the apple that deceived Eve, and the woman Eve that deceived Adam.’ For this reason no women may come into the monastery. Every year there is a festival of the Holy Sabbas, at which time many from Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Jericho flock to the monastery.
“Early one morning I noticed that masses of people were leaving the city and going to the mountains. I stopped a few of my acquaintances and asked them where all these people were going, and they said: ‘We are going to the Holy Sabbas to pray. Come with us to the Holy Sabbas and see what kind of holy prophets live there. They prophesy much about the end of the world. They live in caves and walk around in ragged robes, not like you Jehovah’s witnesses, who dress up elegantly. They live on wild grass and pray day and night.’ I asked them: ‘Could I talk with them about the Word of God?’ They answered, ‘Certainly you can.’ So I went with them, and all the way there I was talking to them about God’s kingdom.
“The walls around the monastery were very high and appeared as ancient as those around the city of Jerusalem itself. They rang a bell and the people went into the church to pray. I noticed one old priest praying in Russian. He said: ‘Holy Mother of God, save me, a sinner!’ Then he went to a wooden cross and said: ‘Holy wood, save me, a sinner!’ I followed him and, after he had finished praying, said to him: ‘May I speak to you a little?’ He was happily surprised to find one who could speak Russian, and so invited me into his cave in which he had been living and praying for twenty-six years. His cave was very old and his bed consisted of bare boards, and there were many holy Greek pictures hanging on the walls. I learned that he was eighty-one years old.
“I began witnessing to him: ‘I heard you praying to the mother of God. Listen, my friend. What do you think? How could Mary be the mother of God, when God created her?’ ‘No, that could not be so,’ he replied. Then from the Bible I showed him that Mary did not give birth to God, but to Jesus Christ, who was God’s first heavenly creation. I showed him the scriptures which forbade the making and worshiping of images, and which commanded that we worship and serve God. I counseled him: ‘Study God’s Word; learn the truth and the truth will set you free.’
“After this he began to weep like a child and said: ‘What should I do?’ I told him that there was no salvation in the cave; that Jesus went from house to house and taught the people the Word of God in their homes. I told him to ask for a Bible and then study it. With that I left him and returned to Bethlehem on foot.
“About a year later I was returning from my ministerial activities in Jericho, and as I got off the bus in Bethlehem someone grabbed me by the shoulder and said: ‘George, I’ve been looking for you in Jerusalem for two days! Remember when you came to Sabbas in the wilderness? I’m that same man, the hermit!’ I at once recognized him and asked, ‘What do you want?’ He answered: ‘I would like very, very much to listen to you and learn more about this new doctrine. Ever since you left the wilderness I could not forget you. You know the Scriptures very well, and God is with you. Teach me the Scriptures.’ Even though I was very tired and hungry, we sat down by the side of the road in Bethlehem and I talked to him for two and a half hours, and he was crying during all that time. Then he asked me: ‘Could I come to your tent tomorrow and learn more?’ I said to him: ‘Please come,’ and gave him my address.
“It was just dawning, six o’clock in the morning, as he appeared at my tent. I asked him how he escaped from the monastery. He then told me that because he had asked for a Bible, had refused to pray to Mary, kiss the images, etc., they had put him in the prison in the monastery and fed him on bread and water, but not enough of even that. So he decided to escape from the monastery at night. He found a piece of rope and used it to go over the wall. However, as he was halfway down the wall the rope broke and he fell to the ground, breaking his nose and injuring his head. He had with him a sack full of holy books which he had received in times past from the monastery because of his good behavior. We talked together all day and until four o’clock the next morning.
“I got him a Russian Bible and he is studying it very diligently, from morning to evening. He then showed me his books and asked: ‘What do you say, Brother George? Are these books good or not?’ Looking them over I said: ‘No, my friend, these books are worldly.’ He then asked: ‘What should I do with them?’ I suggested that he return them to the monastery. So he took them to the Greek patriarchs in the monastery, and placing them on the writing desk, said: ‘Take these, your false teachings. I have been praying for twenty-six years in the wilderness, and there is no salvation in them. But now I have found a Book of salvation which is from Jehovah God, the Bible. I study it with great joy.’ As he was leaving they insisted: ‘Take your books with you and go wherever you want to.’ So he took the books and went to a cemetery. Finding a fresh grave, he dug a hole with his hands and dumped the books into it. Then he covered them up, put a big stone over it and said: ‘Let the dead read these books.’
“He had kept a psalter and a silvercovered prayer book; but upon learning that these also were not the Word of God, he said: ‘Burn up these books. They’ve wasted my youth away. For twenty-six years I was dead, but now I have arisen from the dead, like Lazarus.’ I told him that the big wooden cross hanging from his neck was cursed wood. Immediately he took it off and said: ‘Burn it also. I have been praying to this cursed wood for twenty-six years.’ And upon learning that his monk’s robe was also pagan he said: ‘As soon as I find some other clothes, I will throw this robe away, cut my hair short, shave off my beard and burn up everything that I have that is pagan in front of all the friends. I only want to learn the way to life on earth.’
“He is now located with some friends in Beit-Jala, where we are preparing a place for him to live, and he has since been baptized. All the Orthodox clergy in Beit-Jala, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are wrought up over this incident.”