Good Friday in Alwynskop
Mark Behle – Lesotho
Mark Behle – Lesotho
Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:43
In the southern hemisphere Easter comes during the transition from summer to fall. For northern hemisphere folks, Easter is associated with new life and spring flowers. But even in the fall there are signs of new life in Lesotho. One of them is the blooming of the cosmos wildflowers, which can be seen here and there along the roadside. If the cosmos are blooming, it must be Easter.
On Good Friday I attended a service at the Lesotho Evangelical Church near Alwynskop. It is one of the outstations of the main LEC church at Masitise. A mile or so out of the village there was a dirt track leading off the gravel road. A few hundred yards in over the crest of the hill, was a small stone church. It was literally in the middle of a field. Warm sunshine and a cool breeze blessed us as we worshipped outside to accommodate all who had come.
The story of Jesus praying in Gethsemane, his arrest, trial, the denials of Peter, and the crucifixion were read by different people, interspersed with hymns. What impressed me was the stark silence as the story was read aloud. Perhaps many of us have heard it too often and become complacent or bored by the re-telling of a story whose ending we know. Maybe our minds skip ahead to the resurrection, preferring to scurry past the shock and horror of Good Friday. Well, that morning in the fields there were audible sounds of shock, amazement and horror at the fate of Jesus. Peter repeatedly claiming, “I don’t know the man”, and the shouts of the crowd, “Crucify him, crucify him!” brought forth sounds of people catching their breath and soft cries of alarm for those who had ears to hear.
For the sermon, our pastor, Rev. Malikopo Mohlatsane, re-read a verse or two, including words Jesus spoke, and she and members of the congregation came forward to share their thoughts. When Rev. Mohlatsane read the words about Jesus promising the thief that they would be together in paradise today, Mr. Masemene came forward to speak. He often speaks at church. Still single and not so young, he usually injects a bit of humor into his messages. He told a story of asking a woman to marry him; she told him to come back tomorrow. The same thing happened the next day, too. But, he said, Jesus says, “Come today. Today I will be with you. Jesus doesn’t tell anyone to come tomorrow. He is ready for you today!” Amen! More verses were offered by the pastor and folks came up to speak: some for a minute, some for five. All the while the tall grass swayed back and forth and butterflies fluttered in the wind. Time seemed to stand still.
The offering was the usual celebratory affair. While hymns and choruses were sung, in turns came the children, the youth, the visitors, the men, the women and the different congregations within the Masitise parish, five in all. The men’s group kept the beat with clanging bells and handclapping. One group’s total was initially just over 50 maloti. Not satisfied, they continued singing and got it to just over M80, and finally they surpassed M100 (about $17).
I keep thinking about Mr. Masemene’s message. Unlike us, Jesus is never too busy. He doesn’t tell us to come back tomorrow. He is always present if we have the eyes to see him (think of the parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25) and the ears to hear him calling to us. Where will we find him today? Where will he find us?
Yours in Christ,
Mark Behle is a missionary