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!


  1. Great story and it brings back memories of a trip I made to Lesotho a few years back.

    Keep up the posts. They are great to read!

    -Jesse Zink

  2. I am awestruck by this adventure!! I'm glad this YASC experience is challenging some of your former views of ministry, I think that is wonderfully healthy! Also, what a great photo of you on the horse. I hope that trip continues to bring a smile to your face years after you leave Lesotho!