Getting To Know You

‘I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.’  (John 10:14 NIV)

One of the tasks assigned me when we arrived at The Salvation Army hospital with associated leprosarium in Zambia in 1968 was to be leader of the troop of Boy Scouts. There were about a dozen, pupils of the national school for children with leprosy. I'd had many happy years as a scout myself, so relished the idea, and indeed it was fun.

Troop night included some of the traditional scouting activities of tying knots and simple first aid, semaphore signalling and of course always the games. The boys especially enjoyed the 'wide games' on the surrounding hills, capturing a lantern from a tree being defended by one patrol from the attack of another. They loved it. So did I.

'How about a weekend camp?' I asked.
'Oh, yes, sir,' came the ready reply.

So a few weeks later, off we went, dragging a cart loaded with food and water and our personal kit. I remember their home-made song as we went:
Change down the gear, driver, driver,
Change down the gear
We set up camp just a few miles away, beside a stream and under a spreading acacia tree -- kitchen and latrine included.We slept under the stars around the embers of the camp fire and awoke to the activities of the next day. One of those I'd planned was a 'sand story', leaving foot prints and other clues to work out exactly what had happened. It was as complicated as I could make it, but the boys solved it within minutes.

'How come?' I asked, 'It seems to come naturally to you.'
They smiled.
'We are expected to look after our father's cattle,' they explained, 'We have to get to know them really well, including their hoof-prints. If one of the cattle is missing we have to follow the trail.'

We struck camp and returned home singing, with a slight variation on the song. We were all tired, but the step seemed lighter.
Change up the gear, driver, driver,
Change up the gear
It had been a happy weekend. I suspect they learned something; I certainly did.

'He knows me,' I reflected in thought. 'The hairs of my head are numbered; he knows the palm of my hand. He even knows the footprints we leave behind.'

The weekend camping had been a really good way to get to know them in ways that went well beyond mycobacterium leprae and the life it had brought them.