“…we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us…” (Romans 5:3-5)
These words of Paul in Romans bring to mind the teachers at Liepeleng Primary School. My last newsletter shared photos and information about the very trying conditions at this school of the Lesotho Evangelical Church in Southern Africa (LECSA). Having lost in a storm their old stone classroom building, which also served as the local church, the three teachers were making do with a small makeshift shed-like structure to teach 100 students in seven different grades. My visit there with the LECSA Education Secretary was the beginning of a process to build a new classroom building. And now, at last, construction has started.
A recent visit to the school showed that the foundation for a 4-room building had been dug and the reinforcing work nearly completed, ready for the pouring of concrete. The excavation work meant digging through solid rock in places. Getting to the school is a bit of an adventure, particularly the last five miles or so when you encounter rocky terrain, muddy quagmires and a few streams to cross. Fortunately for me, on this project the contractor is taking care of the transportation of all the building materials!
In talking with Mrs. Maramane, the school’s principal, one sentence has stuck in my mind. Seeing that the building work had begun, she smiled and simply said to me, “We are happy.” Her hopes for a new building were now in the process of being fulfilled. Her hopes were a product of her perseverance and character. I pray that she will not be disappointed.
As we prepared to leave, we were taken to a nearby maize field where a number of ripe ears were quickly picked and given to us. This “green maize” can either be boiled or roasted. In towns, especially around bus and taxi stops, you can find women selling cobs that have been roasted a deep golden brown, and often a bit burnt, which are very popular with travelers. The easy availability of fresh roasted maize will be one of the things I miss when I leave Lesotho. The ears I was given were roasted at home using the grill in my oven and greatly enjoyed!
Unlike at Liepeleng, the maize yields in some parts of the country will be poor or virtually non-existent due to late rains, or, as pictured here, devastating hail. Hail is common in Lesotho. It hails every summer. Usually it is about pea-size which can be damaging enough to crops and vegetation. Sometimes the ground is covered white with it and the accompanying rain washes piles of it to the sides of the road as if a grader had been plowing snow. But in mid-March this year, a severe hailstorm far beyond anything I’ve seen before hit southern Lesotho with hail as large as eggs that shredded crops and vegetation, not to mention shattering countless windows in homes, schools and other buildings.
Farmers here know that dealing with the weather is a challenge. In the same summer you can have drought, torrential rains, flooding, hail and even a tornado. This season there were some promising early rains in November followed by a prolonged dry spell through much of December and January. Then February and March brought frequent and heavy rain to many parts of the country. It was the wettest March I’ve experienced in over 20 years here and the rains continued until mid-April.
When you have been drenched with rain it is hard to think that just 30 miles away it can be quite different. Maphutseng Parish of the LECSA is the home of the church’s Growing Nations agricultural project which teaches conservation agricultural or “Farming God’s Way”. The site of the project lies in a valley surrounded by mountains, an area that is in a rain shadow where it seems to rain everywhere but there! Conservation agricultural, which curtails soil erosion and retains soil moisture, helps farmers produce food in dry conditions, but it does require perseverance and patience before seeing the benefits.
Farmers and teachers may need to persevere through difficult situations, continuing on with hope that things will improve even though it is hard to believe and there is no visible basis for that hope. Paul talks about this, too, in Romans: “Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.” (8:24-25). As we face our own trials and difficulties may the teachers of Liepeleng and the farmers of Maphutseng be a source of encouragement. With God’s help we, too, can stay strong in our faith and look forward to the future with hope.
Mark Behle, member of The Church of the Palms UCC, Sun City, AZ, serves the Lesotho Evangelical Church doing project coordination. His appointment is possible due to your gifts to Disciples Mission Fund, Our Churches Wider Mission, and your special gifts.