Original “herdboys” taught by Steve Hill in the highland district of Mokhotlong, Lesotho.
Taking the Word to the “herdboys”
Steve Hill was running away from four dogs when he heard three “herdboys” laughing at him in the Maluti mountains in the rugged Mokhotlong district of Lesotho, southern Africa's kingdom in the sky.
“I greeted them in my limited Basotho,” Hill said, remembering this encounter in 1995. “They asked me if I had any food. 'Sure,' I said, and I gave them what I had.”
Hill spent some time visiting with the herdboys and before he left them he asked if he could come back to see them the next week. They said he could, especially if he brought them food.
Herdboys are poor children ages 6 and older who spend their days and nights watching over animals, which are valued even more than cash in the dirt-poor country of Lesotho (pronounced “le-soo-too”). Herdboys work in all weather, including the winter conditions that come to mountains that range from 10,000 to nearly 12,000 feet. Snow piles up and temperatures plummet. Herdboys sometimes freeze to death in the blanket that is the national dress, and is worn over only undershorts and a pair of plastic boots. They often go hungry.
When Hill returned the next week, there were 13 herdboys waiting for him. The week after that, there were 33.
For two years, he met with these herdboys, teaching them how to read and write. This was the start of a ministry called HELP, an acronym for Herdboy Evangelism and Literacy Project.
Hill and his wife Pam and their children are missionaries with Africa Inland Mission based in Molumong, Lesotho. Since that encounter in the mountains, they have built 16 schools and put Basothos (Lesotho natives) in positions as teachers. There are 700 herdboys who come to school once a week. But there are upwards to 100,000 herdboys in Lesotho. Most of them are unreached. “We have seen 200 boys come to Christ through this project,” Steve Hill said.
It is estimated to cost only $45 U.S. to put one boy through a two-year program. The money pays for food, pencils, clothing, and a Bible.
“I didn't have this great call. I knew it was missions where I wanted to work. I heard about Lesotho,” said Hill, who lives with no running water, phone, or electricity. “I saw the open mountain ranges and (people) riding horseback. It looked like the wild West.”
He wasn't far from reality. He and his family have been “hijacked and held at gunpoint” and he has a scar across his right hand to go with an incredible story about being bit by a cobra.
“He always brings us through,” Hill said about the Lord, before telling his tale.
When the snake bit, he was taken from the highland district of Mokhotlong to South Africa, which surrounds the 11,0000-square-mile nation. He was pronounced dead in a hospital in South Africa. But Hill wasn't dead; he just couldn't move. He heard his death pronounced just as clearly as he heard the words from John 14:27.
“Twenty-five years earlier that verse had been given to me by a pastor,” Hill remembered.
Now on his death bed, the verse returned to him. Words to live by: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. Hill experienced the peace that transcends human understanding. He did not allow his heart to be troubled. Nor was he afraid.
The bite of a serpent could not stop the work that needed to be done in Lesotho.
“What Satan meant as an end, the Lord used as a new beginning,” Hill said. “Each one of us plays a little part in bringing glory to God and people to Christ.”