IN SEARCH OF NOAH'S ARK: Part 11 -- Completing God's task
EDITORS' NOTE: Few Old Testament stories capture the imagination like Noah's Ark. Fascination with the possibility of actually finding the Ark's remains has inspired expeditions to the Mt. Ararat region of Turkey for centuries. In the fall of 2004, Baptist Press sent two journalists -- Tom Engleman of Atlanta and Chuck Hughes of Baltimore -- to Turkey in order to document the continuing search for Noah's Ark. What follows is the last of 11 installments from their journals about the experience. Our series supplements their story with an array of sidelights, including glimpses into Ark expeditions conducted by one of the best known and most controversial of the searchers, the late Ron Wyatt of Madison, Tenn.
DOBI, Turkey (BP)--Following are journal entries from two men in search of Noah's Ark.
CHUCK: We have to be at the Ankara airport before 3:20 a.m. to catch our international flight to Amsterdam. The roads are under construction in some places, and it is hard to maintain top speed. Not to mention that the little car we are driving can only manage about 90 to 100 mph.
I take the wheel first, and we head across country. We have daylight for the first three to four hours. Dusk in the mountains is a bit treacherous. Shadows obscure the road in places, and the sun glare blinds you coming over the hilltops. But as long as we maintain our 80 to 90 mph average, we believe we can make the airport in time.
Tom winces a few times when I pass a large truck and pop back in the lane just in time to miss the truck coming from the opposite direction. Every once in a while, we whiz past a truck that seems to be standing still and meet a truck or car coming from the opposite direction that is zipping downhill at 100 kph. Tom keeps saying race car driver Dan Gurney would be proud!
The drive is actually fun and is a real departure from what we had been concentrating on earlier in the week. Our adrenaline is pumping all the way. We did the 900 miles in 10 hours flat, averaging 90 mph along the way. We arrive at the Ankara Airport at 1:30 a.m. for more fun and games with the Turkish bureaucracy. Customs holds Tom in check and plays a game of "make the American sweat" by keeping him there until last call to board. It's 2:45 a.m. when I grab an English-speaking Turk and ask him to look for my friend in customs and see what he can do to get him on the plane.
The Turk is able to grab Tom out from under the customs officials just in time to make the plane. Tom is a little hot under the collar because the customs agents had a little fun at our expense.
We barely manage to catch the last shuttle to the flight and sink into our seats, looking forward to getting some much needed rest during our four-hour flight. The lights of the city grow smaller as we take off for Amsterdam. We are leaving Turkey, but our adventure is not really over. We still have a lot of work ahead of us: Tom in compiling the film we have taken and getting it to the editor while the Victory Climb is still news. We both have a ton of writing to do.
Stories are dancing through my head, and ever-changing scenarios flit through my thoughts. The adrenaline is still pumping, and sleep won't come. I don't know what Tom is feeling, but I am both exhilarated and disappointed.
I am exhilarated by all the things we were able to accomplish, see and do. The inroads we made were invaluable to both the Ark Research Project and fellow Ararat explorers. We have made great strides toward improving the status of Ark researchers in and around Dobi, where their names are not often mentioned kindly. The people there think them robbers and intruders, illegally climbing the mountain looking for a holy relic. And the Turkish Mountaineering Federation invited us to return next Victory Day and climb Ararat with them.
There are stories to be told of the mountain and the victory climbers -- stories of Dobi and its struggle to become a cohesive township with a tourist trade beyond the occasional smuggler from Iran and Iraq.
I am disappointed because I feel there was so much left to do, like climb Ararat to the summit and maybe see the Ark firsthand or scale the northern face and see the Ahora Gorge and Ibich Glacier that I read so much about in the days preceding the trip. I could travel west to the Seven Churches of the Revelation and follow Paul's route on his three missionary journeys to the Gentiles, see cursed Ephesus and twice-blessed Smyrna or enjoy the beauty of the turquoise seas of the Aegean coast with the Roman and Greek ruins.
No, we did what God wanted us to do. We followed the path He gave us and made the best of what the trip laid before us. As I told Tom more than five years ago when he first got involved in the Ark Research Project, God would reveal the Ark in His own time or not at all.
The plane is landing in Amsterdam and another leg of our journey home is complete. Soon we will board the flight to Atlanta for some serious sleep, and I'll catch a flight to Baltimore -- and home. A sweet sound, "home." After all is said and done, after all the excitement and beauty of another world, home is still where the heart is and where Wendy is waiting.
TOM: I loved those days and hours with Chuck and the Baptist. We all endured some tenuous moments in that one hotel room at the base of the mountain. When we came up against roadblocks, we worked them out. We took ourselves as far as the government would allow. When terrorists struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, many places around the world were affected. Mt. Ararat is now virtually a military zone. And since it was never our intention to go beyond what the government would allow, we had no choice but to let this trip be a learning experience.
I'm confident, however, that I learned the steps we need to take for our next trip. We earned the respect of many people. We were allowed access to places that had not been recently allowed to others. In essence, we reopened some doors where previous climbers had created a stereotype of being gold diggers, out for personal gain.
We were invited back. We learned of the Victory Climb. Mountain climbing is an incredible event to bring the world together in a different way. It should be an Olympic sport!
I saw what many people have professed to have seen over a lifetime of generations. I heard many "stories" that forced me to ask myself why people wouldn't be telling the truth about their personal experience. I ask myself, "Why do these climbs by religious groups, scientists, enthusiasts -- whatever you want to call them -- why do these people's stories never get the notoriety they deserve? Why do prominently placed people of considerable means, who literally could send an excavation team with all the latest technology, not take the 'search for Noah's Ark' to the next step? What stops them every time? What makes us want to return?" It takes years to plan, but we continue to pursue.
Every expedition has an ending, at least that's what I used to think. But things aren't the same anymore. As I sit in my seat on the way home, I have nine hours to reflect on what happened during our time in Turkey. Several things now come to mind.
My first thought is that if you seek God, you will find Him. Trust in God and He will amaze you. When God calls on you to serve Him, do it with the best and all you can give. The reason we went to Turkey was to search for the remains of Noah's Ark. Not only did we see proof that the Ark does exist, but God showed us what it will take to complete the find. We saw where Noah and his three sons' families lived along the mountains of Ararat. We saw the indications of where the sea had risen.
My Christian teammates and I will learn from what I've brought back with me. This was our first documented trip since 9/11. Many changes in protocol have been made since then. I documented and logged more than two weeks of our journey -- a little side-tracked, but God's way of seeing what we could handle. And we handled everything He sent our way.
Our next trip will be even more successful than this one. Preparations are underway to complete Gods' task!
For more information on the search for Noah's Ark, visit www.arksearch.com/arp. This entire series of articles has been collected into an e-book, In Search of Noah's Ark, available exclusively at http://kainospress.com.