We left Maseru early Monday morning to drive high into the mountains of Lesotho. Specifically, our destination was the tiny village of Molumong and the home of Jayne, a missionary with AIM who has lived there for seven years. The village of Molumong is about an hour’s drive from Mokhotlong, where Jonathan and Abby have been assigned to work. The trip up there took us over eight hours.
The first two hours were relatively smooth travel, the paved road only occasionally pocked and pot-holed. As we drove, we barely left one small town before we entered another. One of the most noticeable differences of driving in Lesotho is the amount of foot traffic. It seems as if twice as many people are walking along the side of the road as are driving in vehicles. Additionally, there are animals being herded along or ridden: cows, sheep, donkeys, horses. Women walk along carrying their burdens on their heads. Mamas have babies bundled on their backs. And nearly everyone is wearing a heavy blanket draped over the shoulders, held fast by a giant pin at the neck.
After picking up some KFC in the town of Butha Buthe, we found a place to stop and have a picnic lunch in the countryside just outside of town. We watched as a shepherd herded his sheep through the field, across the road, and to the other side. After we finished our fill of chicken and fixings, Jonathan took a couple pieces and some mashed potatoes over to the young shepherd who accepted it with a smile.
Incidentally, shepherds are everywhere—men and boys of all ages, some appearing as young as five years. Apparently it’s a lifestyle they are born into and live out all their days. They are essentially illiterate, but love storytelling. Two AIM missionaries, whom I had the pleasure of meeting last week, have just completed a two and a half year project of translating thirty-one of the most important Bible stories into Sesotho, telling creation through Revelation. Making sure the usage was correct by teaching the stories to shepherds themselves, they then made recordings of shepherds repeating them into solar powered MP3 players. A missions team of young men is coming soon to live among the shepherds for several years and use these stories to teach them about God’s love and gift of salvation. The shepherds of Lesotho truly are an unreached people group for whom believers should pray.
Moving up the windy, steep road into the mountains, the view was magnificent. I was thankful for guard rails placed strategically at precipitous drops. We occasionally saw wrecked cars down below whose drivers hadn’t been as careful as they should have been. At those points, I was white-knuckling Jonathan’s headrest on the seat in front of me.
What felt like the longest stretch of road was actually only the last hour of the drive up into Jayne’s village. A good analogy for it escapes me. We bumped and swayed, coming out of our seats, with our heads sometimes hitting the ceiling or doors. Jonathan was doing his best to keep the bumping to a minimum, but it was still very rough going. And the funniest part of all is how excited Jayne is that they have recently “smoothed out” her road. I can’t really imagine how it was before.
Arriving at Jayne’s just after dark, we were welcomed from the freezing night into her tiny home aglow with candles and parafin lamps. The oil heater was roaring and the room was toasty warm. Abby had brought the ingredients for a Mexican casserole which we quickly popped into Jayne’s oven. Then we warmed up with cups of piping hot rooibos tea, a local favorite.
I’m finding it difficult to even try to explain the way I felt up there in that tiny mountain village which felt like the end of the earth. As much as I love the comforts of home, I felt incredibly drawn to the simplicity of life there--drinking tea made from water Jayne had pumped from the village well, visiting by candle light, knowing that this is her daily experience. We would say she’s given up so much: leaving a lucrative job as a nurse in Arizona at the age of 56, selling nearly everything she owned, leaving grown children in the States to move to a place she admits she never knew existed before. Depending on the terrain, she either drives a Land Rover, walks, or horseback rides weekly into the surrounding villages testing the people for HIV infection and providing support for those who need it. She shares God’s plan for marriage and fidelity and most importantly about the hope and healing that is found only in Christ. She speaks the language extremely well and the people respect her very much. Several neighbors stopped by to visit while we were there. Her home has an open door and her tea kettle is always on. God has given me so much to think about. But for now, I just thank Him for the experience of visiting in her home and being the recipient of such gracious hospitality.
We spent the night in another home a few hundred yards from hers. It is a home owned by AIM which has recently become vacant. I’d like to say it was warm and cozy, but the truth is, we nearly froze. Right now, the house isn’t heated at all. And using an outhouse in such a climate was undoubtedly a great challenge!
On Tuesday, we drove out that hour long road back to Mokhotlong to take a look around the town where Abby and Jonathan are needing a home. The problem is that right now, there are no homes to rent in town. Jayne showed them a rondovel (round house, one room) which is a short term (several months) option. No running water, an outhouse, and baths in a bucket might work for a few days or a couple weeks, but Abby is adamant that it isn’t going to work for a family of four very long. And living out where Jayne lives isn’t an option because of the necessity of Jonathan living in a more central location to pastors from the surrounding communities. His job will be teaching theological education to the pastors who can’t continue their education in any other way. Thankfully, several people are searching for a house for them. So we’re praying one comes available soon.
We picnicked by the Mokhotlong River before heading back to Jayne’s house. After he ate his lunch, Jonathan spoke to a shepherd and played him a couple of the Sesotho Bible stories he had recorded on his iPod. The shepherd seemed very interested, so Jonathan told him to look for him in a few months and he would be welcome to come to their home to hear more stories.
As we drove we listened to Jayne talk about her work in the villages. The scourge of HIV/AIDS is so prevalent here. In women aged 20-50, nearly half are infected. She says she attends funerals nearly every week. It’s difficult for me to fathom. Her love and concern for the families to whom she ministers is inspiring.
Yesterday morning, we said our goodbyes. Abby and Jonathan are anxious to get up to the mountains and begin their work. Jayne won’t be their neighbor, but she’ll be close enough for them to visit weekly. And Jayne promised to teach Kyle to ride her horse before long!
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.