Who’s the Missionary Here? (Mark Behle, Lesotho)

Who’s the Missionary Here? (Mark Behle, Lesotho)

Who was King Moshoeshoe (Mo-shway’-shway)? None other than the remarkable chief who united a number of people to formed the nation known as the Kingdom of Lesotho today.

Think fast:  name a great 19th century ecumenicist from southern Africa.

Most likely, the name King Moshoeshoe I was not on the tip of your tongue.  Who was King Moshoeshoe (Mo-shway’-shway)?  None other than the remarkable chief who united a number of people to formed the nation known as the Kingdom of Lesotho today. 

Even the missionaries who came to his kingdom were struck by his great wisdom and intellect.  A popular account of a conversation King Moshoeshoe had with a group of missionaries on the topic of his baptism reveals some insight into this great leader.  Perhaps our churches today could learn something from him.

One day King Moshoeshoe called the missionaries of the three churches then in Lesotho:  French Protestants, French Roman Catholics and the English Anglicans.

MOSHOESHOE:  “I have called you before me that you may baptize me”.

Missionary:  “Who of us would you wish to baptize you?

MOSHOESHOE:  “All of you shall baptize me”

Missionary:  “No, you can only be baptized by one of us, not all of us.”

MOSHOESHOE:  “But you all represent the same God, the same Jesus Christ and the same Christianity.”

Missionary:  “Yes, but you can only be baptized by one of us.  You must make a choice.”

MOSHOESHOE:  “You shall all baptize me in the order you came to my country.  First the Protestants, then the Catholics, then the Anglicans.  Come, let us do God’s work.”

Missionary:  “No, choose only one, the one in whose words you believe.”

MOSHOESHOE:  “I believe in no words of anyone of you, but you represent one God, one Christ, and one religion, by your own words!”

Missionary:  “No, you must choose one among us to baptize you, for if one does, the others shall not.”

MOSHOESHOE:  “Do you all agree on that way of doing it?”

Missionaries:  “Yes.”

MOSHOESHOE:  “My children, you have surprised and disappointed me!  It is better that you go for today.  We shall choose yet another day.  I must first ponder upon these matters.”

As the missionaries turned away from him, King Moshoeshoe said to his sons and elders, “It will be wise that we take good care of these men.  They come from their own homes bitterly divided.  And if we should not be watchful over their acts, they shall divide this nation to its utter ruin.”

Today’s scripture reading includes these words from1 Corinthians 12:26-27:  “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

It seems King Moshoeshoe knew the passage better than the missionaries!  With God’s help and the power of the resurrected Christ, may we ALL be one!  Praise God!

Source (with some changes by Mark Behle): Lipale tsa Basotho, translated in Ntsu Mokhehle’s Moshoeshoe I Profile:  Se-Moshoeshoe, published in Maseru by Mmoho Publications, 1990.

Mark Behle, a member of The Church of the Palms, United Church of Christ, Sun City, Arizona, serves the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is a math and religion teacher at Masitise High School.