Adjusting to Life in Lesotho
Adjusting to life in Lesotho has been more challenging than any of us could have imagined.
Adjusting to life in Lesotho has been more challenging than any of us could have imagined. We are constantly made aware of how it must feel for newcomers in the US: vulnerable, confused, dependent on those around us for words of support, comfort and welcome. We have always felt compassion for those immigrants in our own country, but now we have an added degree of empathy. It is indeed humbling to be “new,” in a homogeneous culture where we clearly stand out, and where history has led to ambivalent views towards outsiders.
We have found that it has been children who have most welcomed us. Within days of our arrival in Morija, large groups of children began to visit us “to see the babies.” At first they would come simply to stare at our children Percival (3) and Aaralyn (21 mos). They spoke little English and our children spoke little Sesotho. After a while, they began to find ways to play. They would play hide and seek, explore our yard together, or pick peaches from our heavily laden fruit trees. Watching our children and their neighbors learn to interact has been a blessing. It has shown us how the barriers which seem so important to us (such as language) can simply be bypassed by children who are determined to make friends.
Another aspect of life here which has been striking is the silence. Lesotho is an isolated, mountainous country, inhabited almost entirely by one cultural group (Basotho) who value their traditional way of life. Perhaps the starkness of the landscape (very dry for most of the year, and very few trees) has encouraged a certain calmness and ability to remain silent for long periods of time. Even children as young as one will sit perfectly still in church, not moving a muscle for over an hour. While on one level this is very hard for a typical American to understand, on another level it teaches us important lessons about being comfortable with silence. Being in a large group of completely silent people (such as the seminary student body before chapel services) forces one to come face to face with one’s own racing thoughts; and ultimately, with one’s sin, one’s secret hopes, one’s true self. The silence of the landscape also facilitates such revelations. From the mountainside above our town, we can sit quietly with God, uninterrupted by the madness of the modern world, and simply listen.
We ask for your prayers as we keep listening.
Tom and Kelly Gilson serve with the Lesotho Evangelical Church. Tom is a math teacher at Masitise High School and Kelly teaches at Morija Seminary.