The Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA) hosted its 5th annual Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace from October 21-October 25, 2019.
LECSA first organized the Pilgrimage in response to the World Council of Churches’ call for Christian communities to speak out against the violence and oppression. Beginning in Modderpoort, South Africa and concluding in Morija, Lesotho, the pilgrimage follows the route that the first three missionaries from the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society (PEMS) took when they were welcomed to Lesotho by King Moshoeshoe I in 1833. King Moshoeshoe I gave them land in Morija to start a mission, which would later grow into LECSA. The five-day pilgrimage, which includes a river crossing at the South Africa-Lesotho border, is close to 90 miles. Pilgrims are hosted at local churches along the way for meals and overnight rest.
There was a record turnout of 316 pilgrims this year! I had the honor of walking for four of the five days. I started with them in Modderpoort on Monday, October 21 - I had only intended to take pictures of the start of the pilgrimage for the LECSA website. However, I ended up walking the first 4 miles, up to their first resting point. I was so captivated by the spirit of the event that I took Tuesday to wrap up some loose ends at the office and joined the pilgrims all day on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
There was a lot that was moving for me about the pilgrimage: It was meaningful personally to be walking in the footsteps of the first missionaries, as a symbolic reaffirmation of the long-standing partnership between Basotho and international mission workers. Also, the way that parishes opened up their hearts, kitchens, and church buildings to us was truly touching. And as we passed through villages, people would meet us with cheers of encouragement and provisions for the journey. Above all, I was moved by the sense of community that grew among the pilgrims and the sincerity of the prayers that were lifted up over the course of the journey– for rain and for the earth, for an end to violence, corruption, and oppression, for justice and peace, for those who are suffering, for the prosperity of Lesotho and its neighbors, and of gratitude.
You might assume that on a journey as long and as tough as this one we were trudging along. On the contrary, our walking was interspersed with joyous singing and spirited dancing, which served as encouragement on the challenging journey. I had a sense of God’s presence with each step that I took, as I breathed in the mountainous beauty of the land, as I was met with the hospitality of those who hosted us along the way, and as I was encouraged by the faithfulness of the other pilgrims, who through their walking represented a vision of hope for Lesotho, the church, and the world.
O God of mercy, as we reside on the parched earth, we steadfastly pray for rain. We experience the land’s extreme dryness in our daily lives, as cracks widen in the fields, dust clouds swirl with afternoon winds, and rushing streams are reduced to ankle-deep. We pass the days with grit in our teeth, vigilantly watching the sky for darkening clouds. We seek green signs of abundant life and wait eagerly for the rain that will allow farmers to plant their crops in lowland fields and turn barren expanses into emerald pastures.
We grasp boldly to our faith in you as we navigate the gaping loss of loved ones, as we remember those who have gone before us, who have taught us about your love.
We pray for an end to the violence and injustice experienced by too many. We hold those who are suffering in our hearts.
We rejoice in coming together to worship and for the sense of your presence that we find together in community, through song, prayer, and dance. We give with joyful hearts and lift up our offerings to you. We are grateful for the hope that is kindled within us through sacred pilgrimages and large church gatherings. We pray that you open our hearts to new ways of experiencing you within ourselves, in strangers, in our neighbors, and in creation.
Danielle Murry-Knowles serves with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. Her appointment is made possible by your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Church’s Wider Mission, WOC, OGHS, and your special gifts.