The main highlights for me on this mission trip were: 1.) getting to know my fellow students better, 2.) the snow in the mountains, and 3.) getting to know a little of the culture of the Basotho people in the mountain villages.
We were a team of about 15 students from GWC and 3 from St Peter’s Church in Fishoek who went on this mission to Lesotho led by Ross Anderson who is our Missiology lecturer.
We left the college at 06h00 on 4 September and drove up to Bloemfontein where we were hosted by the St James Church (Bloem) for the night. Early in the morning of 5 September, we headed for the Lesotho border at Maseru. The border crossing was the easiest I have ever experienced (almost akin to crossing the ‘border’ between Southern Suburbs and Northern Suburbs in Cape Town). We merely had to get our passports stamped – no documentation at all necessary for our vehicles!
Once in Lesotho, we stopped at a mall in Maseru to purchase sim cards for our cellphones and to buy groceries for our mission in the mountains. From there we drove about 2 hours to a village called Ramabanta where we set up camp at a backpackers lodge. This served as our base camp from which we conducted our mission hikes into the mountain villages. Our group was divided up into 6 smaller teams and each team was allocated a mountain village to hike to and minister in for 3 days.
Double Hike in the Mountains
Our team was allocated the village Thethsoa which was an alleged 4 hours hike into the mountains. We were four members in our team, 2 girls and 2 guys: Ixho, Amanda, Tumo (our translator), and myself. Tumo, who grew up nearby this area, ‘knew’ a shortcut which certainly turned out to be ‘shorter’ (straight-line distance), but due to the more jagged terrain ended up taking twice as long as the other ‘longer’ route. This meant that we hiked for 8 hours in the mountains with our heavy backpacks. The girls were brave and strong and kept pushing on with sheer determination when energy and strength was depleted and lacking.
We arrived at our village on Friday afternoon at 16h30 and were received with a warm jubilant welcome as the people gathered around us and were singing and dancing which went on for about an hour or more. They had prepared two huts for us – one for the girls, and one for us guys. The huts belonged respectively to two elderly women who had vacated their homes and beds to allow us to use them.
Warmth in the Cold
It was freezing cold up in the mountains and we were each handed a traditional Lesotho woollen blanket and shown how to wear it properly (there is a particular way for men to wear it and a particular way for women to wear it). These blankets made a massive improvement to keeping the cold at bay. After a traditional meal of pap and greens (wild herbs/maroch) we were given a heap of blankets to keep us warm at night. There were so many blankets, the sheer weight of them made turning over a considerable difficulty.
In the morning we conducted some kids ministry with the children of the village. As they are mostly shepherds, we taught them about Jesus who is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for the sheep. After lunch (left-overs from supper) we went from hut to hut visiting the people and learning about their lives and needs. We then prayed for them according to the needs which they shared with us. During our hut-to-hut visitation, it began to snow. This was really exciting, but also dramatically reduced the temperature. Each hut had a fire going in the center of the hut which was welcoming and warm, but also filled the hut with smoke. We had to learn that due to the way the fire ‘breathes’ there is very little smoke around the base of the fire. So we all huddled around the fire – not only to keep warm, but also to stay out of the smoke.
At the last hut we visited, we were witness to our supper being prepared – which included the slaughter and cleaning of a chicken. As you can imagine, this was an intriguing moment for the girls. The chief of the village came to meet us whilst in this hut and we had an enlightening conversation with him. He advised us not to show the Jesus film at night because the only location where the village could gather was down in the valley at the school buildings and because the village is located on a steep mountain the return to the huts, particularly for the elderly, in the snow would be dangerous. So taking his advice, we decided it would be better to show the Jesus film after church the next day when everyone would already have been gathered and during daylight.
The next day, Sunday, we gathered for church in the school building. I preached a simple Gospel message from Luke 16. And after the service, we showed the Jesus film (I had taken my Jesus film equipment with me).
On Monday morning, we ministered to the kids at the school at the assembly. We continued the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd, but this time we added the emphasis the we are His sheep and His sheep hear His voice and follow Him.
On our return hike back to Ramabanta, we opted to take the ‘long’ route, denying the ‘temptation’ to take the ‘shortcut’, and arrived at base camp after four hours of hiking. Tuesday was a day off which I used to work on an assignment and on my blogs for the church website. On Wednesday, we hiked back to one of the nearby villages (about one hour) where we met with various church leaders from surrounding villages. Ross and Niki (GWC faculty) taught them various aspects of effective children’s ministry.
On Thursday we headed back for Bloemfontein where we overnighted again, and on Friday we drove back to Muizenburg arriving at 20h30.