On the Monday (see ET, February 2016), our real work began in this tiny nation enclosed within South Africa. We formed into teams, each with a Gideons interpreter (www.gideons.org.uk) and driver. My team drove out into the mountains in a 4WD truck, loaded with Bibles.
Off the main roads of Lesotho, the country ‘roads’ are appalling. They are nothing but heaps of loose stones and boulders.
Going either up or down a hill was quite dangerous. At various times we had to get out of our truck to move loose boulders that were in the way, or reduce the weight of the vehicle. At one time the truck started slipping down the hill towards a 50ft drop!
On another occasion, the road camber was so severe that I was convinced we were about to tip over. On each occasion, Nicholas, our driver, was equal to the challenge, but I am convinced God had his hand upon the operation. The strain upon the tyres, axles and clutches of the trucks must have been tremendous, but they never broke down, nor were there any accidents.
We had made no appointments with the schools, but, whenever we showed up, the principal greeted us eagerly and immediately called a school assembly so we could speak to the children and give them New Testaments.
The enthusiasm of the children was tremendous; noone ever refused. On two occasions, we arrived late and saw children walking down the road on their way home. We gave a shout to the first child, ‘Come back to the school. We have a free Bible for you!’, and the children came running back as the news was passed on.
There must have been a bush telegraph working, because children appeared from all directions eager to receive their Testaments. Nor were the school staff any less eager. Each teacher was delighted to receive a Testament for themselves, so they could teach the children better. And cooks, cleaners and other staff appeared, each one plaintively requesting that they be not forgotten.
Many of the children could recite various Bible verses like ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ or ‘God is love’, but none of them had a Bible of their own. Even most of the teachers did not possess one. There might be an old, frayed one in the office, but that was all.
Some of the schools were in the most remote areas imaginable. We reached one school after taking two hours to travel 12 miles up and down the mountains. There we were informed that the next visit was not possible to make by truck. So we phoned ahead to ask if we might leave Scriptures to be collected.
‘No’, said the principal, ‘The children will come and meet you at a point on your way back’. So we drove to the arranged spot and waited. Suddenly we saw 20 or so children running like hares down the mountain side.
We held an impromptu assembly by the side of the track, and the children went running, delighted, back to school. They were aged 9-12, yet were able to run two miles each way up and down the mountains!
We visited a country hospital in the hills. The administrator was delighted to see us and summoned the matron, who took us round the hospital to leave Testaments by every bed and give them to all the staff, from surgeons and doctors, to cooks and cleaners.
Another time we called on a clinic and knocked on the administrator’s door. Receiving no answer, we knocked on another door. When we opened it, there were about 60 lady health visitors attending a health seminar. Would they like Scriptures? Yes please!
We had only about 15 Scriptures in our hands, and when we had distributed those, there was great consternation among the others. Were they not going to receive one for themselves?
We ran back to the truck to get more. When the distribution was complete, the ladies expressed their thanks by breaking into a gospel song with great enthusiasm. It was delightful to hear.
Word of life
Another day, we had gone back up into the mountains, knowing that there was a school at a certain village. When we arrived, there was no sign of the school. We asked someone nearby where the school was, and he led us up the mountain. We wondered where we were going.
After walking almost a mile carrying our Testaments, we arrived at the school. There was no electricity, no lighting. The windows were mostly broken, but there was teaching going on. Most people in the mountains are very poor. The children’s clothes are frayed and torn and they themselves are thin and not well nourished. This was a Roman Catholic school, but teachers and children excitedly received the Word of life.
There was one exciting event that I was not able to take part in, because I don’t ride horses. Some of the schools were inaccessible by vehicle, so Testaments were strapped to donkeys and sent up into the mountains with their drivers, to be delivered to schools. Two days later, some of my more intrepid colleagues went up on horseback to make the presentations.
These took so long that they had to come back down the mountain in the dark with the help of torches and flashlights. The Lord brought them all back safely with no greater injuries than saddle sores. Two or three Gideons were walking around with bow legs for a day or two!
All the time that the mountain distributions were taking place, the weather continued fair and dry. This was important, because most school assemblies took place in the open air, and also because to drive over the mountain paths when they were wet would have been even more challenging than it was.
However, by the last day, when all the mountain distributions had taken place, the rain began. All that remained was the prison at Qacha’s Nek. We were able to go in and meet the governor and prison staff and present them with their Scriptures.
Because of the weather, we weren’t able to hold a meeting outside, but we left Scriptures for the staff to pass on to the prisoners. Scriptures were also gratefully received by soldiers and customs staff on the border with South Africa.
The whole area around Qacha’s Nek was virgin territory for the Gideons. Bibles had never been distributed there before. We wanted to ensure that the work we commenced would be continued, so that future generations of children would know the blessing of having their own Scriptures.
Therefore, that evening, a meeting was held for local pastors and any in their congregations who might be suitable to join the Gideons. We explained the Gideon ministry to the guests and, to our delight, six men offered themselves to join the Gideons and be the nucleus of a new branch.
And so, by the grace of God, we achieved our objectives. 50,000 Scriptures had been distributed all round this remote area. People who had never had a copy of the Scriptures for themselves now had one. Many declared they had trusted Christ for salvation, and a new branch has been started that will, God willing, ensure the work continues.
We took the long trip back to Maseru airport with joy in our hearts and thankfulness to God, who had preserved and prospered us in the work.
Please pray for Lesotho and its people. It is obvious that there is a great openness to the gospel in that country. It is equally clear that many people there do not know what the gospel is — and that may include many church ministers.
Pray that the possession of the Scriptures will bring them true knowledge of the Saviour and the way of salvation. Pray that ministers in Lesotho will learn how to preach the gospel and teach its great doctrines. And, most of all, pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out in that beautiful land.
Stephen Owen is a deacon at Scott Drive Church, Exmouth