Meeting in Johannesburg, we took the short flight to Maseru, capital of Lesotho. We were greeted by a team of local Gideons, headed by the national director, Dr Moeti, who is also director of the Scripture Union. From there we drove to the remote district of Qacha’s Nek.
Lesotho is a beautiful country and the highest in the world, in that its lowest point is 3,500ft above sea level. From there, mountains soar up to 10,000ft or more. The country seemed very sparsely populated, with just a few villages of round huts and an occasional ‘head boy’ or herdsman with his flock of sheep or goats, cattle or donkeys, the latter being used extensively for transport in the remote mountain areas.
Scriptures in the mountains
In Qacha’s Nek there was a wonderful view of the mountains, as indeed there is everywhere in Lesotho! Our purpose was to go into the mountainous areas and take the Scriptures to the schools and clinics there, as well as to the schools, prison and hospital in Qacha’s Nek. The local Gideons would accompany us to act as interpreters.
Although most people in Lesotho speak some English, the main language is Sesotho and many thousand Sesotho New Testaments had arrived for us to give to the younger schoolchildren, aged from eight to 11, while the older ones would have the choice of either English or Sesotho. Each school would also get one full Bible in English for the office.
Though Lesotho is a very poor country, the education system is excellent. There are schools throughout the country, even in the most inaccessible places. The literacy rate is the highest in Africa. But the good news stops there. Very few people in the country areas own Bibles and as a result nominalism is widespread. Lesotho has the highest AIDS rate per head of population in the world, and the seventh-highest murder rate; it urgently needs revival and the Word of God.
On the Sunday morning the team split up and each member took a church service. On the Monday, the real work began. We formed into teams, each with a local Gideon interpreter and a driver, and drove out into the mountains in a 4WD truck loaded with Bibles. Once the main highways of Lesotho are left, the country ‘roads’ are appalling! They are nothing but heaps of loose stones and boulders. Going either up or down hill was quite a dangerous business, but God surely had his hand upon the operation; the strain upon the tyres, axles and clutches of the trucks must have been tremendous, but they never broke down, nor were there any accidents.
Whenever we showed up at schools, the Principal greeted us eagerly and immediately called a school assembly so that we could speak to the children and give them their New Testaments.
The enthusiasm of the children was tremendous; no one ever refused. On two occasions, we arrived late and saw the children walking down the road on their way home. We gave a shout to the first child: ‘Come back to the school! We have a free Bible for you’, and the children came running back as the news was passed on. Nor were the school staff any less eager for the Scriptures than the pupils; each teacher was delighted to receive a New Testament for themselves so that they could teach the children better, and cooks, cleaners and other staff appeared, each one plaintively requesting that they be not forgotten.
Some schools were in the most remote areas imaginable. We reached one after taking two hours to travel about 12 miles up and down the mountains. There we were informed that the next visit was not possible to make by truck. We therefore phoned ahead to ask if we might leave the Scriptures to be collected. ‘No’, said the Principal; ‘the children will come and meet you at a point on your way back.’ So we drove back to the arranged spot and waited. Suddenly, we saw 20 or so children running like hares down the mountainside.
We held an impromptu assembly by the side of the track, and the children ran off back to school with their Scriptures. They were aged between nine and 12 yet they were able to run two miles each way up and down the mountains!
We visited a country hospital up in the hills. The Matron took us all around the hospital to leave Testaments by every bed and to give them to all the staff, from surgeons and doctors to cooks, janitors and cleaners. Another time we called on a clinic and discovered 60 or so lady health visitors attending a health seminar. Would they like Scriptures? Yes please! When the distribution was complete, the ladies expressed their thanks by breaking into a gospel song with great enthusiasm. It was delightful to hear.
Carried on a donkey
Some of the schools were utterly inaccessible by vehicle, so Testaments were strapped to donkeys and sent up into the mountains with their drivers to be delivered to the schools. Two days later, some of the more intrepid Gideons went up after them on horseback to make the presentations.
These took so long that they had to come back down the mountain in the dark with the help of torches and flashlights. This was dangerous stuff, but the Lord brought them all back safely with no greater injuries than saddle-sores. Two or three Gideons were walking around with bow legs for a day or two!
While the mountain distributions were taking place, the weather continued fair and dry. However, by the last day, when all the mountain distributions had taken place, the rain began. All that remained to be covered was the prison at Qacha’s Nek. We were able to meet the Governor and the prison staff and present them with their Scriptures. Because of the weather we weren’t able to hold a meeting outside for the prisoners, but we left Scriptures for the staff to pass on to them. And so, by the grace of God, we had achieved our objectives. 50,000 Scriptures had been distributed all around this remote region
The whole area around Qacha’s Nek was virgin territory for the Gideons. Bibles had never been distributed there before. We wanted to ensure that the work would be continued so that future generations of children would also know the blessing of having their own Scriptures.
Therefore, that evening, a meeting was held for the local pastors and any of their congregations who they felt might be suitable to join the Gideons. We told the guests about the work that had been done and explained the Gideon ministry and, to our delight, six men were led to offer themselves to join the Gideons and be the nucleus of a new branch.
Please pray for Lesotho and its people. There is a great openness to the gospel in that country but many people there do not know what the gospel is, and that may include some church ministers. Pray that the possession of the Scriptures will bring true knowledge of the Saviour and of the way of salvation. Pray that ministers in Lesotho will learn how to preach the gospel and teach the great doctrines, and for the Holy Spirit to be poured out over that beautiful land.