1T WAS the dry season in the heart of Africa and the path through the scrub was inches deep in fine grey dust.
I was standing talking to my fellow missionary and after a while chanced to look down at the ground.
A missionary writes . .
There at my feet was a leper. He had silently dragged himself along in the dust unnoticed. He was looking up. his eyes fixed on mine.
It was a moment I shall never forget, a moment of truth that suddenly put the world into a poignant perspective. It was nothing to do with thc horror of the poor man's deformity — one had seen worse. It was the poignancy of the relationship between us in that instant that struck me like the whisk of a lash — the speechless bewilderment at having a fellow human being and my brother in Christ lying at my feet and looking up at me in pitiful wretchedness and pleading.
It didn't make sense. It was as though the human race was suddenly divided into two categories, those who are victims of leprosy and those who are not.
Which is not at all the same as saying that there are people who have a particular disease and the rest of the world do not. Leprosy is
not only a disease: it is a state, a condition.
My brother at my feet had lost all aspect of human dignity. He ought to have been standing upright like me. But one glance at his feet and legs showed that he never would.
He could perhaps have been lifted up and given a long pole to hold himself erect. But you need fingers to clasp a pole.
His features should have been mobile and expressive. as other men's are, but sores and swellings held his face in an expressionless, mask-like rigidity, Only his eyes moved in a hungry quest that would never be answered. He was too far gone, In the four pages of this supplement we are going to draw the curtain back on such scenes from the world of leprosy, the problems, the range or work entailed, the sorroxs,, the
dedication, the joys, the anxieties.
The greatest anxiety of all is the constant struggle against the overwhelming advance of leprosy. Of the 15 million known cases, 12 million are receiving no care at all.
An awful uncertainty looms over the missionary and medical personnal of each leprosy centre, wondering whether they will indeed he able to stem the advance of leprosy even in their own region, vast enough in all conscience; whether the day will fatally conic when even greater numbers of yoUng people will fall victim to leprosy for want of early care; and whether they too will one day lie at someone's feet in the dust and indignity of a scrubland path.
The real poignancy is not only having looked into the eyes of a leper at your feet. but to know that he may never have been there if there had been more help from people here at home.