by Caryl Moll
As we relished the late afternoon game drive and the undulating, dusty roads in the Sabi Sands game reserve, I took a moment to study the seasoned tracker at the very front of the vehicle. He was perched on a small, makeshift seat fixed to the bonnet of the vehicle – fully exposed to all the elements. I was aware that there must have been times when elephants and lions approached him and he’d sit silently and unmoving while they moved past him. All would agree that it’s a brave, sometimes dangerous job. You wouldn’t catch me on that seat!
Between the tracker and the ranger at the wheel, they were totally focussed on their task of finding animals for their guests. The tracker’s eyes scouted the landscape: on the road for tracks, in the bush for movement and in the sky for any aerial predators. He, in particular, was so attuned to his environment – listening out for alarm calls, slight movements in the bush, indeed anything that would aid his search for the prize. All of this was done in silence as he aligned himself with the bush and the amazing surrounding ecosystem. And we were rewarded too. That afternoon we saw all of the ‘Big 5’ on a single game drive. I was in awe of their skill and focus.
We stopped for sundowners as the sun dipped towards the horizon. Beautiful silhouettes of bedraggled trees dotted the African landscape. I approached the tracker for a chat – curious to find out more about his personal story.
He told me that he was one of seven children and had given up his ambition of being a doctor to pursue his father’s profession – tracking. He smiled with pride. As a young boy, he’d been put in charge of the family’s cattle. It was a big responsibility being a herdsman – simply because he was in charge of the family’s wealth. His dad had initially encouraged him to study the footprints of the family’s cows – to put all to memory. He knew each one by name and could tell by the track if they were vital, sick or injured. At times, the cows got lost too. Then he’d follow the footprint of the one cow that had the “odd” hoof. It always led him to the rest of the herd. He knew his cows well. Tracking was simply and extension of that principle.
I remember a similar image of the herdsmen I’d personally encountered as a young child. Some of our own cows responded to his varying whistles and the young herdsman would greet them as they came running. He knew his cows!
And so does the shepherd – He knows his sheep too…
My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27
We all know this passage so well, but during my discussion with the tracker it was brought home to me so much more. He knows his animals well; every detail of their behaviour. He knows the threats they will face, their potential adversaries and what it takes for them to be successful in this life.
Like our own guide – our Lord. Our very footprints are recognised by our Lord. Our voices too. And we, in turn, hear His voice – especially when we are lost. It’s a wonderful illustration of how we walk alongside our Lord in this life; how He directs our paths and knows when we are ailing. He calls (perhaps whistles) and it’s up to us to respond.
In an ironic way, the guide on our vehicle and the tracker were acting out their intuitive understanding of their role in that fragile environment. They are, to some extent, its protectors, and contribute to keeping the ecosystem intact. They are conservationists – they accept the joys and the hardships and that every being has an intricate role to play in its life.
As human beings, we too are part of this world. We have a guide and a tracker at our side at all times. It’s one of the greatest joys of being a Christian. I am grateful to have a loving Father who walks alongside me in this world. And I offer my prayer of thanks:
Thank you, Father, for being my guide
for always being at my side.
For calling when I’m on the wrong way
and holding me tight on that difficult day.
Thank you for loving me and allowing me to know
That it’s through You that I’ll reach my ultimate glow.
With love, in Christ