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Mission: South Africa 2007
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Mission: South Africa/Lesotho

There are giants in the land

By Todd Paris

At least the Israelites sent 12 men into Canaan to spy out the land. Climbing For Christ sent only one into Lesotho to survey the possibilities for ministry.

I happened to be that one.

There were a lot of things that did not go according to our plans on Mission: Lesotho from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10, 2006. I was booked on three different flights before I ever left my first airport in Albany, N.Y.; my overseas tickets were cancelled by the travel agent and we were never contacted; and one of my bags never made it to Africa (and is still MIA). But what an adventure!

In a recent Climbing magazine editorial, “Positively Negative — The Best Moments of a Climbing Trip are Sometimes the Worst,” Jonathan Thesenga wrote that all of the hassles and unexpected parts of a trip are what makes it a memorable adventure. For that reason, the trip I took in late September and early October was one I will never forget.

I finally was able to join missionary Steve Hill of Africa Inland Mission and his friend and AIM supporter Rob Fairbaugh at the airport in Durban, South Africa, and then met with my good friend and Evangelical Baptist Missions missionary Scott Roloson in Underburg the next day. After loading our truck with supplies we headed up Sani pass into Lesotho.

 

Molumong, Lesotho

Scott Roloson looks down the river valley near Molumong, Lesotho.
(Photo by Todd Paris)

The village of Molumong (pronounced “moo-doo-mong”), where Hill’s house was located, is an agricultural village in the hills of Lesotho. It was their spring, so all around us the men were out with their teams of oxen tilling the soil. Soon after we arrived the children showed up for sweets and bracelets.

The next day was Saturday, Sept. 30 and the herdboys would be coming down out of the hills for school. Much to my disappointment we learned that there would be no school that day due to three separate funerals taking place in that small village. We were able to visit with some of the boys who had come down for school. We found out that most of these boys started herding animals when they were only 6 or 7 years old, and will herd until they die or are able to somehow build up enough wealth to hire someone to watch their flocks, which is extremely unlikely. They are “rented” by their families to wealthy herd owners. They are given only a blanket and rubber boots and sent into the hills to herd the animals. Provision of food and shelter is solely up to them. Hill has helped to start a program that is supported by the government and run by a national staff. On the weekends the herdboys come down and attend school for four hours to learn to read and write.

Death is a constant in Lesotho. One afternoon as Roloson chatted with a group of 12 teen boys (most young people speak some English) he asked what they wanted to be when they grew up. Then he asked what their fathers did for income. Six out of 12 had fathers that had died. Most of the others had fathers who traveled into South Africa to work. There is a huge problem of no male role models in this culture.

The church in the village was a Lesotho Evangelical Church and it appeared to be doing well. The pastor is itinerate and responsible for multiple churches and a couple of schools, so he is rarely there.

Hill also helped to begin a vocational training school that is largely funded by the government. The vo-tech school helps train Lesotho men in trades so that they can earn an income and not have to go to South Africa for employment. On Monday, Oct. 2 we began a project of painting the inside of one of the buildings at the school. We finished the next day.

That evening, as we sat on the porch discussing things, I said to Hill: “It appears that the herdboy schools and the church and the vo-tech school are all running well and are pretty well funded. What, if anything, can Climbing For Christ do for the people of Lesotho?”

“Camps,” he replied.

There is a great need among the young people there to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. A camping ministry would be a great way to share that with them.

 

Herdboys

Boys in Lesotho receiving treats. (Photo by Todd Paris)

Scott Roloson has been running a camping ministry called Camp Die Kroon (“The Crown”) for the First Baptist Church in Kokstad, South Africa, only 1½ hours from the Lesotho border, for the past six years. After this discussion with Hill, we began to brainstorm a little together about the possibilities.

The next day, Roloson and I decided to head back to South Africa. After an exciting taxi ride out of Lesotho down Sani Pass we made it back to Scott’s house. He wasted no time in putting me to work. There had been many improvements made since I was last there in 2004. Roloson asked for my input on some of the climbing-related projects that he was working on. They are blessed with an incredible property with several rock climbs and bouldering right on the property.

On Saturday, Oct. 7, we took some of Scott’s staff and went into the Drakensberg Mountains to boulder.

On Sunday, Oct. 8 we attended First Baptist Church in town. It was great to be able to worship in a church family that was a blend of the diverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds that South Africa has to offer, without a hint of the apartheid that so recently had been abolished. From there we made our way to three separate farms and held church services for the workers who didn’t have means of transportation to church otherwise. From there we went on to an orphanage and held a service for the children. What a full day of ministry. The staff of Camp Die Kroon do this every weekend.

Roloson and I discussed the possibility of a Climbing For Christ mission there and the idea of a backpacking trip into the Drakensberg Mountains. Scott was excited about the prospects. “We could take the boys from the orphanage. They have never had an experience like that,” he said. “Just think about the opportunities for discipleship that would be available on that trip!”

The next day I began my long journey home.

As I reflected on this trip, I realized that there will be some giants to be conquered as we go into Lesotho. But I am as confident as Joshua and Caleb that God will be with us and He will give us victory. Will you join us in saying, as Caleb later did upon finally entering the Promised Land, “Give us the mountainous regions!”?

This story originally appeared in The Climbing Way (Volume 6, Winter 2006-2007). Todd Paris is the director of missions for Climbing For Christ. He is working with Roloson to plan Mission: South Africa in September.

 

Lesotho

Morning light in Molumong, Lesotho in September 2006. (Photo by Todd Paris)

The Word

“When Moses sent them to explore Canaan, he said, 'Go up ... into the hill country. See what the land is like and whether the people who live there are strong or weak, few or many. What kind of land do they live in? Is it good or bad? What kind of towns do they live in? ... How is the soil? Is it fertile or poor? Are there trees on it or not? Do your best to bring back some of the fruit of the land.'”
— Numbers 13:17-20 (NIV)

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