My time in Lesotho can’t be easily summed up in a mere few paragraphs and I’m not convinced that I will be able to paint a worthy picture of all the sights, sounds, and feelings that I’ve experienced in the last month. But I will try to string together a few of the memories that I’ll carry with me far after the end of this trip.
I’ll remember the huge hug my host mom gave me when she realized that I was one of the ones staying in her house for the following few weeks. We walked with her to her humble home (one of the nicest in the village) where she showed my roommates and me to our bedroom that was obviously hers. Our room was the nicest in the house, as were the dishes we used and the food we ate. She always offered us the very best of what she had.
I’ll remember the night that I came down with a bad fever and my Mme (host mom) took me in her arms and held me against her chest for a long time. Even though she didn’t speak a whole lot of English, and I didn’t speak a whole lot of Sesotho, she must have understood what I needed at that particular moment. She must have known that I needed a mom.
I’ll remember the frequent hikes our group took down the mountain to the river to sit and talk and wade in the water. Wherever you go in Malealea you are surrounded by and incredible view. Mountains circle Malealea on all sides, farmland stretches far in the valleys and flocks of sheep are scattered throughout the area. The simple homes and dirt paths of the villages only exaggerate the magnificence of the landscape.
I’ll remember eating dinner by kerosene lanterns with my Mme and afterwards singing as a family while washing dishes in a simple plastic basin. Mme has a lovely voice, and taught us several parts to Sesotho worship songs. I felt the presence of God in that kitchen on those nights as we sang together.
I’ll remember how hard my family worked each day just to get daily chores done. Simple tasks at home like dishes or laundry or cooking are large tasks when you have no running water or electricity. Going to the tap to get water for the entire day took sometimes over an hour just waiting for other families to fill their jugs and then making the journey back to the house. I learned that balancing a 50 liter jug of water on your head is no small task! I also learned that doing laundry in Malealea is an exhausting and time consuming process and that bathing in a liter of water is a skill to be mastered.
I’ll remember the great talks and laughs I shared with my roommates Maria and Mandy and the way we supported each other through a range of emotions and experiences. I’ll think about how we pieced together all the Sesotho we knew to try and get to know our families better.
I’ll remember these things and many, many more. But I’ll especially remember the way I felt as I left my family that I had met only three weeks before, but who had graciously accepted me into their home. And I’ll remember how the last words my Mme said to me were, “Don’t forget me my baby. Please never forget me.” No Mme, I will never forget.
-Meredith Reesor (Bohlale Pakela)
Lesotho. How to assign words to such a place with such experiences. I remember first arriving in the area and passing through the Gates of Paradise. I felt like a true adventurer ready to embrace the untamed, the freedom, the struggle, and the raw of life at my finger tips, all of which I did indeed get a good taste of. Yet when reading through my journal entries from the first week, what I remember quite vividly were moments I had during some of the hikes our group went on, lead by none other than our fearless leader, Harlan. These glorious hikes held great significance for me personally so instead of trying to recall them from memory, I will simply copy my own words from my journal at the time.
September 25, 2012
Today we embark on our first big hike. I want to remember to not only soak in the sheer beauty today but to remember who created it. I want to actively engage in worship today though simply being aware of not only the creation, but the creator…
The hike was so much more that I could have hoped for. I so badly wish that my pictures could capture the grandeur so that when I attempt to describe it people could understand what I saw. As for my goal I mentioned previously, on the way to the waterfall I did find myself contemplative and conscious of the land and it’s obviously intelligent design. I was in awe at different points and allowed myself to revel in the solitude and yet fierce presence of God that I felt. Pure, unadulterated joy came from seeing the occasional herd boy care for a tiny lamb, the lonely donkey, the leaping mountain goats, patches of yellow flowers, rocks and cool springs, and contented faces. Swimming in the cold falls and drying in the sunlight while eating a packed lunch reminded me of summer in Maine. There’s just something about taking the plunge into an icy, natural pool of water that feels so awakening to my bones. I felt that I was really a part of life. In these moments, I am reminded and further convinced that life is not man-made nor can it be harnessed; life is growth, unmanipulated and devoid of human attempts to capture it.
The next day the group went on another hike. We ventured down a rocky slope to reach pools of cool water encompassed by ancient drawings by the indigenous people. The hike back up was the difficult part.
September 26, 2012
…I searched for strength in the Lord today and sought His presence in my exhaustion. I asked questions in the silence, “Where are you in my life at this very moment?” I then found myself deeply appreciating the lavender flowers randomly sprouting here and there in a long stretch of dry, dusty brown rock seemingly lifeless at first glance, It was as if God was answering me, “I am here, in between the hard places, and if you’re seeking Me, you’ll find me full in life, producing vibrancy and color.” It was encouraging to be answered, and so quickly. I am learning that even hiking can be spiritual. Largely spiritual, if you engage. This would be easy to miss as hiking is obviously very much physical, but I feel that I experience more depth and far more richness when I push beyond the visible and the external.
Roderick Nash describes adventure as so, “Wilderness appealed to those bored or disgusted with man and his works. It not only offered an escape from society but also was an ideal stage for the Romantic individual to exercise the cult that he frequently made of his own soul. The solitude and total freedom of the wilderness created a perfect setting for either melancholy or exultation.” Lesotho. I’d say that the group as a whole, myself definitely included, experienced far more exultation than melancholy. Kea leboha Modimo.
-Arielle deBrun (Palesa Mporane)
Our stay in Lesotho consisted of two distinct parts: two weeks of homestays in Malealea village and one week in Maphutseng at the mission base for Growing Nations. Our homestays were a great experience that I’m sure none of us will ever forget, but I will share about our experience at the mission.
Growing Nations is an organization that practices sustainable agriculture in Lesotho and attempts to teach local farmers their techniques. The major problem that farmers face in Lesotho is soil erosion. Growing Nations has tried to show the local farmers the benefits of minimal plowing and other conservation methods in order to reduce soil erosion and increase crop yields.
While staying at the mission our group participated in a variety of activities. Our main task was to help out around the mission site doing some landscaping projects or other things that needed to be done. We built a fence, relocated scrap metal, and organized a storeroom, but our main job was digging outside one of the mission buildings. Besides building character, we were put to this task in order to level out a sloped piece of land in hopes of solving the problem of water flooding into one of the resident’s houses. It was hard work but good work and I think doing some manual labor brought our group closer together. It felt nice to help out an organization that is attempting to further God’s kingdom in their community.
Besides doing work in the mornings, we took the afternoons to simply hang out or go down to the river for a swim with the local dogs, who never got tired of barking. The river was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. We also went on several hikes, the most enjoyable (for me at least!) being a sunrise hike. As we watched the sun come up over the beautiful mountains, Abby, a volunteer with SALT, read one of the Psalms aloud. I couldn’t help but think about how I, just one small person, am blessed enough to be loved by the same huge God who created the vastness of the earth and everything in it.
Our time with Growing Nations in Maphutseng was certainly a good experience. I felt that our group came closer together from being more separated in our villages. While at the mission we were challenged by some physical tasks but also renewed by being together with a common purpose. Whether it was something tangible like the physical work we had done or something less tangible like gaining important insight into the culture of Lesotho, we accomplished a lot while spending time at the mission house with Growing Nations.
-Nathanial Freed (Thato Mohale)