Sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with souls in Lesotho
Lesotho..., Africa's "Mountain Kingdom". But its not a kingdom of riches, as Lesotho is one of the poorest countries in the world. Its wealth rather lies in its breathtaking natural beauty... and the wealth of precious souls that Jesus died for - so many of whom still need to hear about the saving power of the blood of Jesus Christ. They need to be told that there's more to life than a Kingdom of Mountains - that there's a Kingdom of God in which they can be sons and daughters.
Lesotho is situated towards the east of the southern tip of Africa, and is surrounded on all sides by its neighbour, the Republic of South Africa. But to get into Lesotho from South Africa's side to bring the Word of God to the natives residing in the deep rural areas, is no easy task - as some brothers from South Africa found out...
THE JOURNEY... as told by one of the brothers:
The journey starts with a 600km drive by car. From there on you have only your feet to
rely on. - And your feet can only rely on God to guide it through the rest of the
gruelling journey. Because you now have to scale the slopes of the highest mountain range
in Southern Africa - the Drakensberg (berg = mountain) - which forms a natural borderline
between Lesotho and South Africa.
To make the most of daylight time on the first day, we had to make an early start. By 5:00 we were already on our way. For the rest of the day all our energy and attention was concentrated on wrestling with the one steep mountain path after the other. At about 17:00 we reached the top with a huge out-of-breath sigh of relief. Tents were pitched, into which three weary travellers immediately disposed their tired aching limbs...
Its with a feeling of tremendous satisfaction that you close your eyes that first
night. Because you know that part of the weight in your backpack - which at times nearly
got too much for you - consisted of the Bibles you will be able to give to someone in the
days to come. And while in the natural it looked as if YOU were carrying the Word of God
today, in the spiritual the Word of God was carrying YOU.
And tomorrow, by God's grace, it will be downhill all the way into Lesotho...
One thing we've discovered from our mountain trips is that you can never predict the
weather in the Mountain Kingdom. On one trip you may encounter mist so thick that you can
hardly see one metre ahead. We then quickly get wet, cold and miserable. It gets so cold
that your teeth start clattering uncontrollably. Cold and fatigue combine forces,
cutting right to your bones, trying to get you to stop, give up, and turn back to the
cosy haven you came from.
And then on other trips there can be no clouds at all - just the sun beating down mercilessly. And the higher you go, the closer you seem to be getting to it. It becomes hotter and hotter, and the shelter less and less. There are no trees at the top of the Drakensberg. Just rocks, grass and a few shrubs. The effort of battling with the forces of gravity the whole time, combined with the fierce, blazing sun, at times bring you close to dehydration. But you have to work very sparingly with the water you carry with you.
Through all the hardship, you are reminded of the greatness of God by an indescribable view, which every time you look back, never ceases to take your breath away.
For the whole of the 4-5 days trip, you carry a backpack weighing about 25-30 kg. Each climber carries three Bibles in his backpack (the Bibles weigh about 1 kg each). Along with the Bibles, the rest of your ammunition consists of tracts, clothes and sweets.
THE "BLANKET PEOPLE"
The Basotho people inhabiting the high Lesotho mountains are known as "blanket natives". This is because their clothing consists of underpants, gumboots, a woollen hat, and a blanket. On extremely cold days when we wear all our warmest clothing and protective gear, it is not unusual to come across a little barefoot boy tending sheep - a blanket wrapped tightly around him; his only support against the cold. That is what most "blanket natives" high in the Lesotho mountains do: they are shepherds. Which helps them to grasp the idea of Jesus Christ being the Good Shepherd who risked and gave his life for his sheep, much quicker than a lot of "civilised" people can. The ages of these shepherds range from young boys to very old men. It's not an easy job, as they are responsible for every sheep in their flock, while they move around during all kinds of weather conditions in areas with no gates and fences. When told that Jesus will leave the ninety-nine sheep in his flock to look for one who has gone astray, they can only nod their heads in appreciation and agreement.
Isaac (left) and 2 other boys, with their dogs. Jacob Maeko (translator) on right. Notice the blankets ("blanket natives"). This was the first meeting ever. We gave them some extra clothes. (On other photos will see them proudly diplaying their new sets of trousers!)
The language they speak is Sesotho - which is fortunately also spoken in parts of South Africa. Both Jacob Maeko and Johannes Khanye - the two brothers who accompanied us on the trips - could act as translators.
The Basotho's of these areas are used to a very simple lifestyle. They eat "pap", a
type of porridge made with mealie (maize) meal and water, and sometimes meat from goats
Their houses are built with the only building materials available: rocks and grass. Their kraals (where they keep their sheep and goats) are also built with rocks.
For transport in this steep and rocky terrain, they use 4-hoof-drive - in the form of the sturdy, trusty little Basotho pony. These ponies are perhaps not as fast and slick as modern day 4 X 4's, but they have a lot more heart and courage! (And despite its size, also a lot of horsepower.)
The dogs the Basotho shepherds use to help them, are of a strange breed with hard and wiry hair and long legs. - Certainly not the soft and fluffy kind that can't be left outside at night!
To communicate, the shepherds have learned to make use of the echoes in the valleys. In
this way their shouts can be heard over incredibly long distances.
Very few of them can read. The Lord was always amazingly good, because in every group we encountered, and every area we visited, there was always one person who could read for the others.
These shepherds stay with their sheep at the top of the mountains for months at a time - coming up in October/November (summer) for feeding, and going down into the valleys during winter (starting in March) when a thick layer of snow covers the mountain tops.
No missionary has ever been to the areas we visited. The only indication of religion we
came across was a group who told us that a Catholic priest once told them to pray to Mary.
Most of them believe that the spirits of their ancestors are keeping watch over them.
This was the first time ever that they heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We had a very good response from them. They could not believe that people would come all this way just for them.
A Basotho hut, made from rocks and grass
Apart from the extreme weather conditions (we got soaking wet, lost in the mist,
caught in a hail storm, burnt by the sun, etc.), there were also other perils to deal with:
The mountain areas of Lesotho are notorious for its poisonous snakes, like the berg(mountain)adder, the puffadder and the rattlesnake. But the Lord was faithful. At one time I put my hand on a rock for support, only to discover it was a few inches from a deadly bergadder. There is no serum for this snake's poison. But praise God! The snake just hissed, instead of striking. The one verse that flashed through my mind was Mark 16. Praise God for such verses. It gives one a peace to know that we were on the Master's business.
We also came across dagga (marijuana) smugglers who thought we were policemen - until we started preaching!
Even before our journey, we were warned that people had been killed before in these areas by "savage natives" who had stoned some hikers before. But the Lord kept us from all harm and danger.
We also didn't see a bath or shower for 5 days. The only place to wash was some ice-cold streams with crystal clear water. How we appreciated these streams to cool down our hot aching feet after a long day's journey.
A Basotho hut, made from rocks and grass
THINGS I WILL NEVER FORGET
Some of the cliffs. The "dot" almost at the top is a brother!
The view is stunning. Here the cliff goes down 1 km.