"No task is more important in the first years of ministry in a new culture than the building of trusting relationships with the people. Without these, the people will not listen to the gospel, nor will we ever be accepted into their lives and communities."
- Paul Hiebert
Learning to Live in Lesotho...
...is our full-time job during our first six months here in Africa. As simple as this may seem, it really is a full-time job! Only we don't get to work 9-5. When the work day is over, we're still here and still learning. In this letter, we'd like to share some of the everyday elements of living in this new culture.
In referring to the country, the language, and the people of Lesotho (pronounced Le-soo-too), it can be easy to confuse terminology. The language of the people is called Sesotho (Se-soo-too), or also Southern Sotho or just Sotho. The people are called Basotho (Ba-soo-too) if referring to more than one person, or Mosotho (Mo-soo-too) if speaking of only one person. Throughout our letters, then, you will hear of the Basotho culture, a Mosotho pastor, or a Sesotho-speaking church. All are terms referring to the native people of Lesotho.
Politics and the Basotho
One of our first tasks in beginning to integrate into our new Basotho culture is to try to understand the history of this nation. Unfortunately, the political past of Africa has been so turbulent and emotional that its effects can still be felt today. Colonization, apartheid, and tribal boundary disputes have created a tension between races that we often feel even walking through town or the grocery store. Before coming, we always heard how friendly and welcoming the Africans were to foreigners. In some cases that is very true. Among other Christians, especially in Kenya, we've experienced that heartfelt hospitality and warmth from the people. Others, however treat us as outsiders, intruders. We are assumed to be Afrikaners and, therefore, the people who took their land away. Every Mosotho I have spent any time discussing history with has been sure to inform me that their land actually reaches into Bloemfontein, South Africa. This is the stigma that we face living here on a daily basis and it is only through developing relationships, showing kindness, and speaking of the ministry we came here to do that the Basotho will accept us as friends.
"Lumela, Ntate." (Du-me-la, n-ta-te)
This common greeting is one of the first Sesotho phrases we've learned and use every day. The language seems very difficult to us, but people say we're picking it up quickly. We often hesitate to use our Sesotho because people will then chatter away and we'll have no idea what they've said. Living in Mexico, however, has helped us to get past that fear quickly and start making our mistakes and learning from them. It is also interesting to see the people's demeanor change once we use their language. Right now we are in Maseru, the capital, and most people speak English before Sesotho - especially white people. The cold shoulder we usually receive at the grocer often melts into a smile with a kind "Lumela" from the white people.
Upon arriving in Maseru...
...we were introduced to a Mosotho pastor whose Sesotho-speaking church we will be attending during our time here in Maseru. It is a church called "Salt and Light" and their slightly-too-emotional worship services are actually a welcome change from the stiff and formal LEC churches we've been to thus far. I've also made my initial connections with the TEE ministry I've come to coordinate. I'm now part of the official TEE committee and have spent time with "my boss," the man who requested that I come to serve here, Ntate Joseph Mpakanyane. It was such a blessing to hear him explain that they've been praying for years for us to come. Thus far, the TEE ministry here has consisted of translating TEE materials from English (developed in Kenya). Since the late 1990's Ntate Joseph has been praying for someone to come and help coordinate this ministry. The committee has translated 14 of 21 books into Sesotho and now that the Lord has brought us, the ministry of Theological Education by Extension has officially begun. Ntate Joseph is beginning the first TEE classes with a small group of students here in Maseru, while I will begin with a group in Mokhotlong once we move in August. Praise God for His plans!
Also this month...
...the Lord provided a vehicle for us! We had people looking for a particular type of vehicle since we arrived in February and that waiting has paid off. Our unit leader found a 2007 Land Rover Defender at a dealer in South Africa. It is in excellent condition and had less than 70,000 km on the clock. Because of the generous gifts of all of you who gave, we were able to purchase this sturdy mountain vehicle. Thank you to all for giving as the Lord led you. He is indeed providing for all of our needs. Our biggest prayer requests now are for our language learning to continue and for a healthy delivery of Baby Ellee in six more weeks. May the Lord bless you and keep you!
- Jonathan, Abby & Kyle St.Clair