Monday, 27 December 2010

We are told the weather conditions on Ararat at this time of year are too severe for attempts at climbing, and that we have to wait until spring before the mountain can be searched.
The thing is, we have to establish whether Donald is on the mountain or not before we can progress properly.
Frustratingly, we feel as if there is nothing we can really do at the moment.
But we have been told there is a man in the region of whom locals are suspicious: they think he knows something about what happened to Donald. That is all we have heard. We know the man's name.
It seems that without being actually over there, there is nothing that can really be done - eastern Turkey is like the Wild West.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

From a previous employer of Donald's.

I met my friend Donald in April 2001. I was manager for a mainland company working in Stornoway.

This man chapped my office door: “I’m looking for a summer job, any going?”, he asked.

“What experience do you have?”, I replied.

“None, but I need money to go and find Noah’s Ark.” Looking at him blankly, I thought: “This guy’s on the wind up.” You don’t get that sort of reply every day. “This man’s either winding me up, or here’s a guy that has passion and focus.” Selfishly, I thought: “If this was channelled to work we would have one good worker here.” This was the first day I met the man I named Mujahidin.

It was a friendship which would culminate over nine years, and change my life.

“Okay, we’ll give you a few days work and see how it goes.

Let’s just say he embarrassed a few so-called workers in the months that followed. Donald brought his drive and passion to work as much as his life outside work which I knew very little of.

Donald came and went for a few seasons. I heard he was working away, and was on this quest for an Ark which I still thought was a wind up. My own life on the other hand was slipping into alcoholism culminating in a severe addiction. But every week without fail while Donald was on the island, he would head for Melbost to break up my drinking sessions in the kitchen, and of course – eat me out of food! I could never work out how a man could eat so much. Donald would make a good go of going through it every weekend – successfully! I remember saying to his Mother: “You want to feed that boy of yours.” Now I know it wasn’t about the food, it was Donald’s way of trying to help me. I hope he saw something in me. I now know he did.

I got to know Donald more and more and he told me about his previous life and how his brother Derick had come to see him after a fight, and how this was when he found the Lord. I thought: “hey-hey, this man’s trying to convert me: this is his game.”

But amazingly, he never rammed it down my throat. “What’s going on here?” I thought. Donald had that way of, “You’ll come round when you’re ready, carry on drinking.” And I did. I didn’t think of this at the time. I now wonder how much he had to go through with my incessant ramblings.

But in reality he was in the place where I wanted to be. I was jealous. This guy was at peace with himself and I wasn’t. I remember him coming back after going to look for Noah’s Ark. It must have been his first visit. He was walking down the drive in Melbost and we were drinking. The comment was: “Here’s Mujahidin. All right Donald where have you been?”, as he came into the kitchen.

“Mount Ararat looking for the Ark.”

I remember the silence and the blank faces. He was serious. That was the moment I realised that we were the ones who were off the wall. He had done what he said he would do that first day I met him. The day I replied: “You need this job to look for Noah’s Ark? – pull the other leg!” What had we done? – nothing – we were still drinking and still in the kitchen.

I looked forward to Donald coming back to the island. There was a good chance I would be drunk at the weekend. He would arrive at the kitchen table with the usual smile, as if to say: “Oy-oy, nothing’s changed here then my boy.” And the more we sat round the table, the more I was sure he was off the wall completely – looking for a boat on the other side of the world because he believed.

One day he brought a 16ft boat on a trailer and asked if he could park it up in the drive for a few months until he got it repaired. I couldn’t resist this chance. He sat down. I put on the kettle and said: “So, you found the Ark after all.”

I melted. Donald’s reply was: “Oh ye of little faith.” But I did get a smile.

“What have you been doing? Let me guess – drinking. Tut-tut. You’d better come with me to the church, you need help.”

“I’ll come to church nae bother.”

“Really?” Donald replied. “I’ll be down for you on Sabbath then.”

“Hold on, I’ve not been to church for 30 years.”

“Okay, I’ll go, but I’m keeping a low profile.” Donald agreed.

“Get the first visit under your belt – low profile.” Sunday came, Donald pulled up. I’m dressed like Norman wisdom, hung over, and hadn’t shaved.

“I can’t go like this,” I said.

“You’ll be fine; we’ll sit up at the back; no singing: feel your way in. Okay let’s go.”

“Where do you go?”

“The Free Presbyterian.”

“What? Are you mental? What about somewhere less strict?” We got to the doors. “Come on”, Donald said, “It’s fine.”

What followed is what makes my friend who he is. The bold lad with me in tow marches straight in. He heads for the front middle. There’s nobody around for miles. Every eye in the church is looking at me. I could hear: “Who’s that with Donald?” I’m sure I heard: “Norman Wisdom.” I’m now needing an oxygen bottle and feeling faint. “Donald, don’t sing”, was the last I said before he burst into song with his best Pavarotti impression.

That was my first visit to church with Donald. After that, strangely, my ramblings of trying to prove Donald wrong were now getting less, as I found myself listening more to Donald and about this man Jesus. I became intrigued about what was driving this guy on. The drinking had become so bad it was hard to make rational decisions. But there was something there that was starting to make sense.

For over three years after that, Donald faithfully came to see me and pour my drink down the sink. I was asking him for help. His method was to pour all the drink out and put the kettle on. I think he got a buzz out of that. That was all right until he had gone. I was on my own then, trying to lick the sink at three in the morning.

He kept at me when everybody else was giving up. On returning from trips to London etc., he would call in whether I was drunk or not. Jobless, skint, loaded – and never ask for anything apart from the biscuit tin.

Three years ago this January I received a visitor after a drinking session. Let’s just say a spirit arrived. This ended with me in Hospital for six weeks. Soon after, I met up with Donald. “Coming down?” I said, “So I can tell you what happened.”

I suppose I wanted to find out if this change in my life was real. And Donald could tell me. And that night for the first time since I met Donald I was cooking for him. Sober. All we talked about that night was the visitor who came to see me. Donald kept asking me what happened and I told him. He knew there was a big change. And most importantly – he knew I wasn’t kidding. I wanted to know more, and Donald in his own way told me. Donald was in his element.

Finally, I was listening.

That night I could see the reason for all Donald’s previous visits, no matter how trivial or meaningless they had been. Ten minute or ten hour visits had all joined together and this was his night. He had the stage and me sitting there, listening. Knowing I had been wrong all along.

He had helped to beat the demon in me.

On his next visit I told him I was attending Kenneth Street [Stornoway Free Church]. His reply was: “Not bad. A bit lightweight, but it’s a start.”

You couldn’t make it up. I was looking for the pat on the back. But that’s Donald’s way. He went to London and I started this business.

This summer he phoned and I met him at our yard. What a look on Donald’s face when he saw what we had achieved. It delighted him no end. He had a big smile and you could see the pride bursting out of him.

“How did you do this?”, he asked.

“Amazing what you can do if you believe in something.” I said, and winked at him. “More to the point, when are you starting? There’s work here for you on the island.”

“I’ve got to go and see what the Chinese are claiming to have found on Ararat.”

“Come and work here Donald. Leave Ararat just now – the ark can wait.”

But there was only going to be one winner. Even up to forty-eight hours before, I thought he might change his mind.

“Hold the job for me”, he said, “and I’ll catch up with you in the winter.”

I’m writing this just now knowing that without Donald’s persistence, I wouldn’t be where I am. I’m nowhere near the finished article, and I’m far from perfect. But I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t crossed his path that day nine years ago. Donald Mackenzie started his missionary work not in Turkey, but at home in Stornoway: and I’m witness to that.

I have Donald to thank for being a big part in my sobriety, and also for leading me onto the right path. One day I will cross paths with Mujahidin again, hopefully on this earth. But if not, I now know where I will find him. I hope he will speak up for me when that day arrives.

My friend DONALD MACKENZIE is and will continue to be a truly amazing man.

I believe that Donald is alive, and he will be taking this job offer when I meet him.

John Don.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Likely options for what may have happened to Donald (to my mind, and not in any order) are:
Accident on the mountain.
Held captive.
Robbed and killed by bandits.
Murdered by Muslim fanatics.
He may also have had a confrontation with the chinese fraudsters which could have had a bad result.
There has also been a suggestion that he may have crossed the border into Iran. It's possible, he had spoken about that sort of thing.
Although this situation is very unpleasant, and does get me down, there is one thing which always stops me sinking into depression.
My Christian faith.
And knowing that if Donald is dead, he is in heaven, made perfect in holiness, and far happier than he could ever be in this world.
I can have that confidence, because of what I know about him.
Not only that, but knowing also, that whenever my appointed time to leave this world comes (as it will surely come to us all) I will join him and many others who have gone before me over the centuries since God made this world by Jesus Christ.
Some people in this kind of situation become obsessed about finding the person, and it seems to consume their whole world, going into a state of denial. But I can say, that although I desire that Donald turn up, I can also say, that if it be God's will that he is found dead, or even never found, I can accept that, and say, Amen. Only by God's grace.

"...Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11: 1).
"Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." (Job 13: 15)

Interview. Iain Maciver talks to Jeremy Wiles.

Jeremy Wiles lives in Florida USA. He met Donald in Turkey and climbed Ararat with him in '05.
He is a film maker and is making a feature film about the search for Noah's Ark.
Donald is to feature in this film.
Jeremy is actively involved with us in the search for Donald.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Since my last post I have been told (this information came from a local source in Dogubayazit, the town at the foot of Ararat) that the AKUT team consisted of only 6 men, that they did not want to be there, didn't reach the height Donald reached, slept just one night on the mountain and then, went home.
If that is true, then they have done no searching and their chairman has lied to me.
I do know that they didn't reach the height that Donald reached; because his last communication was from 14,700ft, and the chairman of AKUT told me that his people only reached 10,500ft.
But he told me that they climbed the mountain on Monday, began searching on Tuesday and continued until today (Thursday) - three days of searching.
My source tells me that the Turkish government just wanted to put on a "show" of searching, and in reality doesn't care at all and isn't in the least bit interested.
He tells me that AKUT are lying to me.
I certainly believe the Turkish government are not interested - that is what I expected at the start and that is what I expect still.
Throughout our telephone conversation earlier (previous post), Ali Nasuh Mahruki (AKUT chairman) was adamant that he did not want me to share the information he had given me with anyone. I could not persuade him otherwise (and I tried for ages). Until, that is, the moment I told him I was going to do it anyway (because he couldn't give me a good reason why I shouldn't post it on this blog).
I could hardly believe the change.
Suddenly he said: "It's no big deal, I'm not really bothered anyway."
From one extreme to the other.
At the beginning of our conversation he had stated that they had seen "armed men" and "terrorist activity" on the mountain, and for their own safety had to leave, immediately adding that I must not tell anyone. But as soon as he knew that it was going on the blog whether he liked it or not, suddenly he "wasn't bothered" about it, and said, that they did not know if the men were armed, and that they saw only two of them and at night.
You may well ask the old question - "So who's lying here?"

AKUT will do no more searching for Donald.

I have a few minutes ago had another conversation with Ali Nasuh Mahruki (Chairman of AKUT, Turkish search and rescue people).
He has informed me that his search team (presumably of 15 people) climbed the mountain on Monday, began searching on Tuesday and did some searching at 10,500ft, but returned home today and will carry out no more searches for Donald.
The reason for their turning back, he told me, is because they observed two men moving on the mountain at night, and believing them to be PKK terrorists, feared for their own safety.
He said that this is why they will be carrying out no more searches for Donald - because they think it would be unsafe due to possible terrorist activity.
When I asked him if the men were armed, he told me that they could not be sure.
Anyway, so much for AKUT.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

This is the day the 15-man AKUT team (that is the number the AKUT chairman told me he expected) were due to begin the search. So they should be active now.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Well, we're certainly snowed in all over again today, and so far there is no let-up. I have checked the on line weather forecast for east Turkey in the last few minutes, and it's OK. But I wonder what it'll be like at altitude.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

I have just been speaking by telephone to Ali Nasuh Mahruki (Chairman of AKUT, the Turkish mountain rescue people), and he has informed me that they did nothing last week due to adverse weather conditions on the mountain. But that they intend to head for Ararat on Monday and Begin the search on Tuesday now.
OK, we wait some more.

Friday, 3 December 2010

My apologies.

My apologies for having taken so long to update the blog.
I'm sure you'll understand when I tell you that there has been no news for some time, and it is hard to bring yourself to do an update when you have nothing new.
When I last spoke to the chairman of AKUT, he told me that they were waiting for the weather to improve. That was on Monday. Well, this is now Friday and late. I tried to call him earlier tonight, but just got a Turkish answering machine.
Thanks for your patience.

Monday, 29 November 2010

This article appeared in the Daily Mail November 27, 2010:
I have just phoned Ali Nasuh Mahruki (Chairman of AKUT mountain rescue people) in Turkey. He informed me a few days ago that a new search was starting today.
He has just informed me that due to adverse weather conditions on the mountain (heavy snow), they have not started the search. But he tells me that they will be monitoring the weather with the intention of beginning the search in the next few days.
This is the link to the interview which was broadcast on Isles FM in Stornoway this morning:

Saturday, 27 November 2010

I have just finished doing an interview over the phone with Stornoway-based Journalist Iain Maciver. He tells me it is due to be broadcast on Isles FM on monday morning at about 8.05 am.
Still no news about Donald. We are waiting for the outcome of the search which we are told begins on Monday.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

I have just been speaking by phone to Ali Nasuh Mahruki in Turkey, he's the chairman of the AKUT mountain rescue people there. He told me that the reason there is no urgency in the search is because it was so long before they were informed. He said 20 days had passed before he heard. He also said, "if he is on the mountain, then there is no chance that he is alive." I suppose we had surmised as much ourselves.
He expects a team of 15 - 20 men to turn up and begin searching on Monday now, instead of Saturday, but can not be sure of exact numbers until then.
We can only hope that Donald is not on the mountain.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

I recently said on this blog that I was having doubts over the truthfulness of reports about a proper search team which was supposed to be heading for the mountain.
Well, my friend and ex-colleague Stornoway based Freelance Journalist Iain (X.) Maciver saw my post and swung into action. He leaped onto his phone and eventually managed to wrangle his way through or over the various barriers (language etc.) to the chairman of the AKUT search and rescue association in Turkey.
According to what the chairman told Iain, not one, but two teams are due to assemble at the foot of Ararat on Saturday. We are told they will then begin a proper search of the mountain.
If they find Donald, then, that will perhaps, be that.
But if they don't find him, the next part of the plan will be set in motion.

I must thank all the people who have been visiting my mother in Stornoway during this very difficult time. It is greatly appreciated. But there is one problem - she's wondering how on earth she's going to manage to eat all the home baking (nice dufs - a big piece has ended up here in Edinburgh) people have brought.
I have an idea: when you go to see her make sure you sit down, have a cup of tea and scoff as much of your own baking as you can manage.
Again, many thanks.
Sorry about the delay in setting up the fund account, but it shouldn't be long now.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

A few days ago I posted on this blog that we had been told that a 20 man search and rescue team were setting out to look for Donald.
We have heard nothing about it since.
This makes me wonder if there was any truth in it.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Apparently, Donald was quite well known and popular in the small community near Mount Ararat.
We are told that the locals are suspicious of foul play.
We hope this means he is merely being held captive.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Video of Donald on Ararat in 2005

You may have heard about the horrific torture and murder of three Christian missionaries which occurred in Turkey in 2007.
It is 12.30am and I have just arrived back home in Edinburgh after spending the past week in Stornoway. I have spent most of today travelling, so I'm afraid I haven't been able to do any digging for information today, but keep your eye on this blog.

Friday, 19 November 2010

We are told that a 20 man team of professional mountain rescue people is on its way to Ararat to search for Donald. It appears that this may be a decision by the government as a direct result of pressure being put on them due to the media coverage of the story.
This team is expected to arrive at Ararat in about three days, which sounds like quite a while to me.
We wait and see.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Burhan was searching at the higher levels again yesterday, but there was three feet of snow covering the mountain. Still no sign.
I suppose we can draw a small measure of hope from the fact that no sign of any equipment (tent etc.) has been found, though I think it is possible for this to be buried under the snow. Still, we live in hope that he is not on the mountain but possibly being held by some group.
His van was found intact where he left it at the foot of the mountain. The police have taken it to the police station in Dogubayazit (nearest town to Ararat, pronounced "doe-u-bay-zit").
We are in the process of setting up a fund in the Bank of Scotland which people can contribute to if they wish to. We will keep you updated with that on this blog.
Remembering that God is the giver of our providences. It's for our good.
Thanks, Derick.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ararat is situated in the extreme east of Turkey close to the Iranian border, it is 17,000 feet high. Ben Nevis is 4,000.
There are a number of possibilities as to what may have become of Donald.
Apart from the obvious one of his having had an accident on the mountain, there is also the presence of the PKK (Kurdish Workers Party), who are internationally designated a terrorist organisation, and operate in the region. Apparently they are not averse to the odd abduction; but would they be found at nearly 15,000 feet?
The possibility of his having crossed the Iranian border and been arrested by the authorities there has also been mentioned.
The Turkish army also patrols the area and are suspicious of people like Donald.

Pictures of Ararat:

The following is a translation of an article about Donald which appeared in the Turkish press when Donald last ascended the mountain.

"A Missionary on the slopes of Mount Ararat."

The Scottish architect MacKenzie travels the world telling about Protestantısm. The missionary, who for a long time has inhabited Mount Ararat joked, “Noah’s Ark brought me here.”

This has happened in the very east of the east, where many people won’t set foot because they say “There is terror, or mines, this and that” in a place where there isn’t even a toilet, in a village with only 10-15 houses, surfaces a missionary.

The Protestant missionary Donald MacKenzie has blended in so well that none of the villagers condemn him. We meet in the house of Musa Kotal, a guide with Donald MacKenzie. Musa lives in an Armenien village, Örtülü, 25km away from Doğubayazıt [Dogubayazit is the town nearest to Mount Ararat]. We go to Örtülü in the hope of finding a guide to help us up the mountain. Just as we were about to enter the house MacKenzie emerges.

“What on earth are you doing here?” we ask in quite an arbitrary way.

At first he is reticent but then says calmly “I am a Christian missionary” He distributes Bibles.

MacKenzie has a caravan type vehicle. It’s like a little house with a bed, plates and books. He travels the world in this caravan telling about Protestantism. Most of the time he stays in the skirts of Mount Ararat. As he is telling us this he suddenly runs inside as if he has forgotten something. He comes back with a Bible. This is a Turkish bible. He suggests we read some of the pages.

Musa’s sister is making us tea as we speak. Where are you from?


“Do you have an occupation?”

“I am an architect but I don’t do that. I am a missionary.”

"How long have you been a missionary?"

“For about 10 years.”

“How did you come here?”

(laughing) “Noah’s Ark brought me…It’s here…”

“What exactly do you do here?”

“I tell the people here about Protestantism.”

“How do you communicate with people?”

“People who know English always turn up here. And I know a little bit of Turkish.”

“Do people react to you?”

“What I see here, it would be wrong to call reaction. Most listen with respect.”

“Have any become Protestant?”

“Only God knows that.”

“Do you go to other countries?”

“Yes I have been to many. One of the countries I spent a long time in was Israel. I got a lot of reaction there. They get very angry at missionaries. Turkey’s very relaxed compared to there.”

“Have you had similar experiences here?”

“Once I gave Bibles to Erzurum University students [large town in eastern Turkey]. The police came when they saw the bibles. They seized the bibles and took them to the police station. They held me for a few hours then let me go.”

“Have you ever climbed the mountain?”

“A few times, it’s very dangerous. It’s not a well-known mountain. Everyone goes from wherever they like. There are loads of people we don’t know about up there.”

A Christian in the home of an Alevi, everyone listens to Mackenzie with small smiles. Then someone jumps in unable to stop himself. His name is Bayram. “Oh come on”, says Bayram, “Do you think after all this time we are going to change religion. Our people change to whatever religion people talk about.”

Musa’s family are Alevi. The grandfather of the house sits in the corner as the table is set. The television set displays a mixture of Turkish then Kurdish. The meal set out on the floor sports chicken and rice. MacKenzie sits and prays. The grandfather waits smiling for MacKenzie to finish his prayer. Then he too prays.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

By Derick Mackenzie.

It’s been seven weeks since anyone has heard anything from Donald. That was a text message sent to his Turkish friend Musa from 14,700 ft. up Ararat. The picture on the right is thought to be the last picture taken of Donald before his disappearance, it was taken in the town at the foot of Ararat.

A search team consisting of 4 men began a search of the mountain yesterday. This team is being led by a Turkish man local to the Ararat area who has climbed the mountain a number of times, his name is Burhan, he is on the left in the other picture.

The latest report tells us that because they ascended so quickly, three of the 4 climbers are experiencing migraine headaches due to the altitude and have been unable to continue, so Burhan left them at 11,500 ft. and continued searching on his own. He has been searching at the 14,700ft. point in various dangerous areas like gullies and so on, with still no sign of Donald.

Tomorrow will be the last full day of the search.

The costs of this search are to be met completely by family and friends, the Turkish authorities seem utterly uninterested.

My contact: