Thursday, December 20, 2012

Merry Christmas!

It is my last day of work here at the Diocesan offices for the year. Tomorrow, I will be headed to Cape Town, SA to spend Christmas and New Years with some of the other YASC volunteers in Africa, Holly, Jenny, Cameron, Steve, and Benjamin & Elizabeth. I figure if you can't spend Christmas with family, spending it with friends is the second best option!

This will be my last post of the year. There probably wont be any internet where we are all staying in Cape Town, so I wanted to take a minute to wish you all a safe and merry Christmas! I'm incredibly grateful for all of your love and support while I'm over here in Lesotho. Thanks to everyone who sent me Christmas cards! What's better than snail mail? Absolutely nothing, I tell you. If you would like to send me some mail, send it to the following address:

C/O Jared Grant
PO Box 87
Maseru 100

I love getting mail, so please write away! I promise to write you back.

It is difficult to get into the Christmas spirit when it's 80 degrees most days. You would think that since my local grocery store has been playing Christmas music since early October, I might have noticed Christmas creeping up! But alas, I did not notice it at all. This will be my first Christmas away from home. With so many of our Christmas traditions be centered around the family, it is weird to not be home this year. Im also missing the month long break that I grew so accustomed to during college. To all of my college readers, CHERISH IT! The real world is not as charitable with time off.

Once again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! My next post will be in 2013. Sala hantle!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Website is Up!

Good news everyone, I have finally completed the website for the Diocese of Lesotho! Take a look and tell me what you think.

If you are one of my college professors, or if you have ever Facebook chatted with me, you are probably aware that I am the greatest at making typos. I just seem to have a knack for it. If you see a typo while reading the site, please email me so that I can change it. Your cooperation will make my life so much easier!

Also, if you're on Facebook, check out the new Diocesan Facebook page here.

I have to send a huge THANK YOU to the guys over at Digital Faith for all their help with making the site. They let me use their software and system for free to design the site. They will also be hosting the site free of charge for the Diocese. I cannot tell you how helpful they have been in the whole process. Digital Faith is a website design company based in Georgia that designs and hosts websites specifically for religious institutions. If you have a group that needs a website built, make sure to talk with these guys!

Monday, November 26, 2012


First off, A belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! There's so many different things to be thankful for this year. I'd like to say thank you to everyone who made my trip to Lesotho possible. I would not be able to be here without all of your help and support, so for that I am incredibly thankful!

On sunday, the whole Diocese celebrated the ordination of 8 people, 4 Deacons and 4 Priests. The ordinations were held at the Lesotho National Convention Center in Maseru, since it was the only place big enough to hold all of the people that wanted to come! There must have been 600+ people in attendance. Many of the churches around Maseru cancelled their regular sunday services so that their parishioners could come to the ordinations. It's wonderful to see the whole community come together to support these new priests in their ministry. I've been to several ordinations in the states, and they don't compare to the ordinations here at all. Ordinations are such an exciting time for the Church. We should strive to provide the same support for our newly ordained in the States. 

Father Michael and Me
Two brothers from the local SSM (Society of the Sacred Mission) Priory were part of the group ordained to the priesthood. One of them, Father Samuel Monyamane, will be the new priest in Mantsonyane when I arrive in January. Father Michael Lapsley is the head of the SSM in Lesotho, so he was in attendance. I got to speak with him for a bit. You might remember him from a previous post, Redeeming the Past. If you have not had a chance to read his book, I highly encourage you to do so. Check out that previous post if you are not familiar with Father Michael's story.

Newly ordained SSM Brothers with Father Michael
I finished his book a few months back, and it is an amazing read. A key point in the book is the old adage "Everything happens for a reason." But Father Lapsley makes the argument that it is up to us to give the events in our life purpose and reason. We cannot just accept bad things when they happen.  We have to find a way to redeem the those events and give them purpose. Father Michael's life was shattered by a bomb from the South African Government. He could have easily given up, but he turned his ordeal into an amazing ministry that has touched thousands of lives.  Check out his work at The Institute for Healing of Memories. One of my favorite quotes from the book,  "God does not step in to prevent terrible things from happening, but God accompanies us on the journey, whatever that may be." Something I think we should all take to heart. 

Ordained to the Diaconate
Ordained to the Priesthood

Finally, just a quick appeal to everyone to please read the blogs of the other YASCers. They are all doing great work in their various placements. You can find the links to their blogs on the left hand side of this page. Sala hantle!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Vacation..... sort of!

That's not snow, its hail!
This past week, The Rev. David Copley from the Episcopal Church Center in NYC visited me in Lesotho! David is the Mission Personnel Officer for the Episcopal Church, which makes him my boss. He tries to make a visit to every YASCer and missionary every year, but when you have missionaries in over 20 countries that can be a hard thing to accomplish. I'm happy that David worked Lesotho into his busy schedule. The weather on David's first day was definitely not the nicest weather I've seen in Lesotho. We had a storm pass through that left nearly half an inch of hail on the ground. Luckily the weather cooperated for the rest of David's stay in Lesotho. 

David and I went up to the St. James Hospital so that he could visit and get a feel for where I will be living and what I will be doing there. John Mahoona, the hospital administrator, gave us tour and joined us for lunch. The area surrounding the hospital is very rural, but incredible beautiful. It takes around 3 hours to get from Maseru to the Hospital, and you really don't see much along the way other than gorgeous view after gorgeous view. 
Main Hall in the Hospital
Main Entrance to the Hospital

Like I said, nothing but gorgeous views!
David looking at farmland around the Hospital

David and I joined the Bishop when he went to do confirmations in Malea-lea. The Bishop asked David to vest and help with the service. 
David blessing the children
Bishop Adam's sermon

The congregation in Malea-lea

The vacation part of this week started when David and I travelled to Grahamstown, South Africa to visit with the two YASCers placed there, Steve and Cameron. Holly, the YASCer in Cape Town, joined us as well. We all came to Grahamstown to shoot a promotional video for YASC, so it was more of a working vacation (by working vacation I mean that I was interviewed for about 5 minutes and then spent the rest of the 3 days relaxing. Tough job). It was so great to be able to visit some friends and relax for a few days. Steve and Cameron live at a Monastery in Grahamstown. This place is absolutely amazing. It was incredible to worship with the brothers at the monastery. Breakfast and Lunch are both in silence, which is a little hard to adjust to but I really loved it by the time we left. There is an incredible spirituality about the whole complex. Steve and Cameron are some lucky guys to be able to live there for a year!

Steve and Cameron both are teacher's assistants at the Holy Cross School run by the brothers. We got to spend some time at the school watching Steve and Cameron work, despite Holly's and my best attempts to have never-ending recess. Both of these guys are great at what they do. The kids love having them around so much. 

Dress-up time
Cameron at work
Steve teaching English
Holly dancing

Thanks to David for visiting and making the trip to Grahamstown possible. Thanks to the brothers at the Holy Cross Monastery for hosting us for the week. Before I left, the brothers invited me to come back at any point. I fully intend on taking them up on the offer. Sala Hantle!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Make A Joyful Noise

Just a quick post to give you a taste of the music that is sung during worship services. It would be impossible to describe the songs with words, so I've added the videos below for you to see them and hear them. The songs are incredibly passionate and intense! They are the kind of songs that make you want to get up and dance, and in many cases do make you dance! Many churches here in Lesotho do not have organs or other instruments, so most of the songs are a cappella. You'll notice that the congregations use all sorts of percussion instruments in the songs. Enjoy!

This first video was taken at the St. Mary Magdalene's Guild Conference during the Eucharist

This next video was taken at St. Michael's Parish in Maseru East

Monday, October 15, 2012

Forget Trains, Planes, and Automobiles....

Forget about trains, planes, and automobiles; try 4x4s, horseback, and foot! First off, let me apologize for the length of this post, but it is a story that I think you will all enjoy. O man, what an adventure! The past week I travelled with the Bishop to several different places in Lesotho. I am amazed at how much work the Bishop does and how much he truly cares for the people of Lesotho. The purpose of our trip was to get to a small, and very remote village on the other side of Lesotho called Masokoaneng. Piled into our Toyota Hilux 4x4 was the Bishop, the Bishop's wife, the Bishop's Chaplin, and myself. We also took along a large pile of donations to give to the people at our final destination. As you can see from the picture, it was a full car! 
Our first stop on our trip was to a small village about 40 minutes outside of Maseru. There was a group of orphans there that the Bishop had heard about. A group from Lesotho TV followed us and filmed a short piece about the boys. We left some of the donations we were taking with us with the boys and their caretakers. As you can see, the house that the boys live in is falling apart. They were incredibly grateful to receive some donations from the diocese. The donations included some food and new clothing for the boys. I only wish that we could have given them more. 
Our next stop was St. James Mission Hospital in Mantsonyane, which is where I will be moving to in January. This was the first time that I had visited my future home, so I was very excited to finally get to see it. It is about a 3 hour trip from Maseru to Mantsonyane. We met with John Mahooana, the hospital administrator, and he gave us a tour. The hospital has just gone under some major renovations and looks great! The renovations have just been completed and a good bit of the hospital is not open yet, but will be open by the time that I get there in January. Mantsonyane is a beautiful place and I feel blessed that I will get to live there for a short time. The hospital employs about 120 people, which is much larger than I had originally thought. I am very much looking forward to my time at St. James

After traveling to the orphanage and then to St. James, we were very tired so we traveled about an hour more to a town called Thaba-Tseka. The Bishop was very good friends with one of the Chiefs in Thaba-Tseka and we stayed at her house for the night. We had wonderful evening enjoying good food and a good nights sleep; sleep we would desperately need for the next day's journey!

As I said earlier, Masokoaneng is a very remote village. I was told that our journey from Maseru to Masokoaneng would take about 8 hours by car, and then another 2 hours by horseback! We left Thaba-Tseka early the next day so that we would have enough time to get to Masokoaneng. While driving to the point where we would leave the car, we ran across the parish priest for Masokoaneng. He lives in near Thaba-Tseka and travels to many different villages and churches in his parish. He and his group of travelers had arranged transportation to Masokoaneng, but it had fallen trough, so we took them along with us. If you remember the picture our truck from above, you might be asking where did these 5 people and their luggage go? This is a good question, and I'm not really quite sure of the answer. Although I'm pretty sure that we broke several of the laws of physics to fit them all in! In total we had 9 people in the truck, plus luggage. 

The paved road ended after we left Thaba-Tseka. We we traveling on some pretty rough roads for about 6 hours. The trip would have been impossible without a 4x4 vehicle in the hands of a very capable driver. If I had been driving, I would have wrecked about 100 different times! I have to give credit to the Bishop's driving skills because he got us there without incident. We got to the village where we would leave the car at about 5:30 and started to load all of our belongings onto the horses. We set out for Masokoaneng at 6:15 (The sun sets at here at about 6:20). 

 I had been told that the trip would take about 2 hours. I should mention I had never ridden a horse in my life on any type of terrain, let alone a steep mountain pass. When you include the fact that it was pitch black outside, you can imagine that I was a little terrified. But I was insured that I would be fine. The ride was amazing. I don't think that I have ever seen so many stars in my life! It was probably best that I couldn't see where I was going, because the terrain might have made me faint. The fact that we made it to the village is a credit to the experience of our guide and the skill of our horses. After getting a little lost and losing the Bishop's bag with all of his clothes and vestments in a river (the bag was recovered the next day), we arrived at the school in Masokoaneng 5 hours after we started. We rested at the school for a little while and then took an hour long hike to get to the the houses where we would stay for the night. It was 1 o'clock in the morning, yet we were still greeted so warmly and even given dinner! It was without a doubt, one of the longest days of travel that I have ever experienced and I was so grateful to have a warm bed to lay my head.

We had come all this way so that the Bishop could do confirmations in the village. The commitment that the Bishop makes to making sure that people feel included in the diocese and the Church is incredible. He wants to make sure that no one is forgotten, the people in Masokoaneng included. We also came so that the Bishop could conduct a retreat with the Mothers Union in the village. The people of Masokoaneng are subsistence farmers. It is truly an amazing and humbling existence. There is no electricity or running water for miles. Anything that cannot be grown or raised in the village must be brought in from bigger towns. This means that all building material, clothing, and other commodities must come over the same mountain pass that we traveled. It's mind boggling. This also means that people are hours away from any type of medical treatment. The nearest hospital that I saw was in Thaba-Tseka, which is at least 7 hours away and only if you have a car.

But all this seems insignificant when you see the beauty of the place. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. The beauty includes the majestic mountains, but also the culture of the community. The people of Masokoaneng were incredibly gracious hosts. They don't have much but what they do have they have, they are willing to share. I am eternally grateful for the hospitality that was shown to us during our stay.
Our Houses
Some of the farmlands
The School/Church from above
The Bishop spent most of his time at the retreat for the Mothers Union, but I had a lot of free time to explore and visit with some of the villagers. I took a hike up to the mountain overlooking the village and found some absolutely breathtaking views.
Our houses from above

Looking at the mountain pass we traveled

The Bishop's new sheep
We had a ceremony on our second day in Masokoaneng, where everyone came to thank the Bishop for coming. The Bishop was given a sheep in thanks for his trip. We also took this time to handout the donations that be brought along. The donations included new clothing, blankets, and bedding that came from a non-profit in the UK called Operation Sunshine. People were incredibly grateful and were singing and dancing the whole time! Below are some of the photos of the distribution. 

The Church/School
We realized that our journey to Masokoaneng took much longer than we expected it to. We had planned on having the confirmation service, and some baptisms on Sunday morning before we left for Maseru. It was not going to be possible to have the services and make it back to Maseru all in one day. The Bishop decided to hold the services Saturday night instead. The services, which included baptisms, a blessing of the new Church/School building, and confirmation of nearly 30 people started at 11 PM. There were so many people that wanted to see the services that there were people waiting outside. I decided to give up my spot and let more people in (Full Disclosure: I also took this time to get a little sleep in the classroom nextdoor). The services ended at 4 AM.

My views and understanding of what ministry is have completely and totally been shattered. It would be so easy to forget about these people and say that they are too far away. It would be easy to justify staying in Maseru in comfort and not visit such extreme places, but that is not what this diocese does. Bishop Adam and the priests in this diocese work ever so hard to minister to many places just like Masokoaneng. Its truly inspiring. 

Arriving back at the truck
We left Masokoaneng Sunday morning around 8 AM. The ride back took about 4 hours. Seeing the views in the daytime was incredible. I have absolutely no idea how I made the journey without falling of the side of the mountain, especially when it was night! When we reached the car, our numbers had grown. We had to take 7 people back to Thaba-Tseka, plus ourselves. Once more ignoring the laws of physics, we piled 12 people, all of our luggage, and the Bishop's new sheep into the truck. I really wish you all could have seen this truck, but my camera was put away at this point. After dropping off our passengers in Thaba-Tseka, we made it back to Maseru at about 10:30 PM. It was a once in a lifetime experience for me, but for so many people, this is life. I am incredibly humbled to have been able to experience a world so different from my own. OK, thats enough for now. Sala Hantle!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A quick lesson in Sesotho

The people that live in Lesotho are called Basotho in the same way that people from North Carolina are called North Carolinians. One Basotho is called a Mosotho. Lesotho and the Basotho nation were founded by King Moshoeshoe I. The language spoken by the Basotho here in Lesotho and around much of Southern Africa is called Sesotho. So, the Basotho in Lesotho speak Sesotho. (Say that 5 times fast)

Sesotho is a wonderful language! It is extremely fast and requires a quick tongue, which I have not yet acquired! Several people here have told me that it is an easy language, which at this point I have to disagree with! It has really been a struggle to get the pronunciation of words down, but I think that I am starting to get the hang of it thanks to Me Matsepo. She has been giving me daily Sesotho lessons.

To give you a little taste of Sesotho, try to say this word: Utloa. Go ahead, I’ll wait….. Although I didn’t hear what you said to be sure, chances are you didn’t say that right! Utloa is the word for “hear.” I cannot attempt to spell this word phonically for you because the “tl” sound does not appear anywhere in English. There are 3 sounds that are particularly difficult to say; tl, hl, and q. Hl and tl are similar sounds. Try pronouncing the two letters together, even though that seems impossible. Now try this word: Labohlano. You still probably didn’t say it right! Labohlano means Friday. Now the q sound is completely different. The q sound is like a cluck with the tongue. It requires you to stop mid word, make the sound, and then continue with the rest of the word. Try this one: Moqebelo. Moqebelo means Saturday.

There are also a whole slew of sounds that are not difficult to pronounce, but require you to trick your brain into saying the right thing. Sounds like: lu, li, kh, ts, oa, and oe. I’ll just give one of these as an example. Lu and li look like they would sound like “loo” and “lee,” but in fact make the sounds “doo” and “dee” This is why the word for hello is spelled lumela but pronounced “doo-mel-ah.” The word for Tuesday is spelled Labobeli and pronounced “la-bow-bay-dee.” As I said, they are not hard to pronounce, but tricky for my brain to process!

As you can see, it is a difficult language. But it is so incredibly beautiful as well. With each day I get better and better. It will be an ongoing battle, but one that I look forward to. Here in Maseru, it is pretty easy to get by with English. Mantsonyane will be a different story. The people in the rural areas of Lesotho speak Sesotho almost exclusively. Sala Hantle!

Friday, September 14, 2012

I made it!

Lumela! Greetings from Lesotho! I have finally arrived in Maseru. Delene and I arrived last friday and met with Bishop Adam Taaso. I could not be happier to have finally arrived. Lesotho is a beautiful place and the people are warm and inviting. I feel right at home here in this mountain community. Lesotho is known as the Kingdom of the sky, which is a fitting title! Asheville, NC has a nick name of "The land of the sky," so I think it is fate that I have been placed here for the year.

Maseru, Lesotho

My time here in Lesotho will be spent doing many different things. For the first three months, I will be living here in Maseru, which is the Capital. I will be living and working here at the Diocesan office. They have a nice boarding house that they have graciously let me stay in. My work will include helping to create a communications strategy, which will include a new website for the diocese. Its going to be a lot of work, but I think the end result will be very helpful to the diocese. After my 3 months here in Maseru, I will move up to Mantsonyane to work with the St. James Mission Hospital. The work there will be similar to the work with the diocese. A new website for the hospital will allow them to stay connected with donors and let the world know what's going on! Im excited to be doing this kind of work for the diocese and the hospital because it will allow me do find all sorts of interesting stories to share. I think it will allow me to get closer to the communities that I will be working with.

The Diocesan Office and Boarding House

Living here in Maseru has been great so far. The boarding house is great because people come from all over Lesotho and Southern Africa to stay here. I've been able to meet so many interesting people! It is also nice living where I work because I dont have to walk far in the morning to get to work! Each morning here at the Diocesan office starts with an 8 o'clock mass in Sesotho. The structure of the service is very similar to what I am used to at home, which is good because I would be completely lost without that knowledge. I have started taking some Sesotho lessons with the Bishops wife, Matsepo. It is a very fast language but I think I will be able to pick it up with some practice.

Bishop Adam in the Cathedral

Although I am very excited to be here, I do miss all of my new friends that I made in Cape Town. Everyone at the HOPE Africa office was so welcoming to me for my short stay. I cannot thank Mpho and her family enough for hosting me at their house for my stay in Cape Town. I felt like an old family friend. On my last night in Cape Town, the whole HOPE Africa staff took me out for a dinner on the beach! We went to a restaurant called Snookies and ate some delicious fish and chips. We ate our dinner on the beach with one of the prettiest sights of Table Mountain you can see in Cape Town. I cant thank the HOPE Africa staff enough for their hospitality. Sala hantle! 

HOPE Africa dinner on the beach

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Redeeming The Past

Last night I had the pleasure of going to the book launch for Fr. Michael Lapsley's new book "Redeeming The Past." Fr Michael is originally from New Zealand, but moved to South Africa in the 1970s during the height of the apartheid government. He worked for years to end the suffering and oppression of the apartheid regime. Due to his active dissent towards the government he was forced to move to Lesotho, where he continued his work. In 1990, while working in Zimbabwe, Fr Michael received a package from the South African government that contained a bomb. Upon opening the package, the bomb exploded and severely injured Fr. Michael. He lost both of his hands and one of his eyes, but he survived. He has gone on to work with the victims of apartheid, the Rwandan genocide, homeless veterans in the United States and many more. His story is truly inspirational. Fr. Michael still does some work in Lesotho, so hopefully I will be able to work with him his year. 

The book launch was attended by many members of the local government and had many speakers, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu! It was quite an honor to hear Bishop Tutu speak. Fr. Michael and Bishop Tutu had worked together over the years to help end the apartheid government. Bishop Tutu spoke about how far South Africa had come, and how far it needs to go. His words were filled with love, humor, and passion. He made strong warnings about not letting the sacrifices that the South African people had made for freedom be in vain. "But I ask myself, why were we in the struggle? The highest price was paid for freedom, but are we treating it as something precious?" 

He also spoke out against such a large gap in the wealth in South Africa and throughout the world. He said that it was a shame that some people can live so well, while others are left with next to nothing. He asks, "Yes it is legal, but is it moral?" It was a true honor to have heard Bishop Tutu speak. As Delene and I rode back from the launch she said, "It is nearly impossible to hear Tutu speak and not act upon his words." And it is so true. It is easy to see how this man has inspired so many to fight against oppression. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Cape Town

Greetings from Cape Town! I arrived in South Africa safely on tuesday night and was met by the lovely HOPE Africa team. The greeting was warm and inviting! Although the flight was long, the time passed quickly. Luckily, the flight was not full so I had plenty of space to stretch out.
During my time here in Cape Town, I have been living with the family of one of the HOPE Africa team, Mpho. She and her family have graciously accepted me into their house for the week. I've spent my time divided between the HOPE Africa office and Mpho's home. My time at the office has been spent learning more about what HOPE Africa does and what I will be doing in my placement in Lesotho. I will be headed out to Lesotho on friday with Delene, the CEO of HOPE Africa.
Cape Town is absolutely gorgeous! We have been driving around and looking at all of the breathtaking bays and getting acquainted with the city. Its been a little chilly, but spring has just begun. They say it will be full summer weather by October. My time in Cape Town has been wonderful and I am looking forward to getting to my permanent placement in Lesotho!

Camps Bay

Mpho and Tskani

A Cape Town sunset

A photo from my Aunt Claire at the airport

My workstation

The HOPE Africa office

HOPE Africa 

The South African Flag