Posted by: stpowen | September 21, 2015

Mission to the Mountain Kingdom

Isaiah 52:7.  ‘How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news…..’

Acts 1:8.  “And you shall be My witnesses……….to the end of the earth.”

What a time!  What an amazing time!  I have travelled to the most beautiful country I have ever seen, met with wonderfully friendly people, and helped to bring the word of God to a nation that is eagerly hungering for it.

Gideons International is an organization of Christian business and professional men and their wives, who are members of Protestant churches and believe the Bible in its entirety to be the word of God.  It is active in 200 countries and territories throughout the world.  Its purpose is to win, by the grace of God, men and women, boys and girls to the Lord Jesus Christ.  This is done by personal witnessing and also by placing Bibles in what we call ‘the traffic lanes of life’: hotels, hospitals, retirement homes, prisons, doctors’ and dentists’ waiting rooms and funeral parlours.  We also place Scriptures directly into the hands of school-children, students, the police, armed forces and medical staff and anyone else who will receive them.

I was asked back in April if I would like to be part of an international group of Gideons and go to Lesotho on an International Bible Blitz (I.B.B.) helping the local Gideons to expand the work in that country.  I had heard of Lesotho, but knew nothing at all about it, save that it is a tiny independent nation, entirely surrounded by South Africa.  I would have to fund myself throughout.  I knew several Gideon colleagues who had been on I.B.B.s, and they all said that it was a wonderful experience, so after consulting with Mrs Marprelate, I accepted.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed in the destination; to fly to some big city like Buenos Aires or Mumbai and spread the word seemed more likely to produce big results and to be, frankly, a bit more glamorous.  As the time drew nearer, I learned that the Blitz would take place in a place called Qacha’s Nek.  I looked it up on the internet and found that it had a population of about 8,000.  How were we going to distribute tens of thousands of Scriptures in a place like that?

However, the day arrived and I flew from Heathrow to Johannesburg.  There I met my colleagues, who were all from America, led by Larry Aspegren, a very experienced Gideon who had been International President of the Association in the past.  From there we took the short flight to Maseru, capital of the Kingdom of Lesotho.  We were greeted by a team of local Gideons, headed by the national director, Dr. Moeti, who is also director of the Scripture Union.

As we drove the four-hour journey from Maseru to Qacha’s Nek, I realised the amazing grandure and beauty of the country to which I had come.  Lesotho is the highest country in the world in that its lowest point is 3,500ft above sea level.  From there, mountains soar up to 10.000ft or more.  The road we travelled was tarmacked.  It was constructed only a few years ago with help from South Africa and China, but already it was beginning to break up.  The country seemed very sparsely populated with just a few villages of round huts, and an occasional ‘Head boy’ or herdsman with his flock of sheep, goats, cattle or donkeys.  I was soon to find out the purpose of the donkeys.

We eventually arrived in Qacha’s Nek, and found our very pleasant hotel, the New Central, which was perfectly adequate for our stay.  The staff could not have been more pleasant or helpful.  There was a wonderful view over the mountains, as indeed there is everywhere in Lesotho!   We had our first team meeting and I discovered that I would be speaking at the Methodist church the following day which was Sunday.  Our purpose, I discovered, was to go into the mountainous areas and take the Scriptures to the schools and clinics there, as well as to the schools, prison and big hospital in Qacha’s Nek.  The local Gideons would accompany us to act as interpreters.  Although most people in Lesotho speak English to some extent, the main language is Sesotho and many thousand Sesotho New Testaments had arrived for us to give to the younger school-children, aged from 8 to 11, while the older ones would have the choice of either English or Sesotho.   Each school would also get one full Bible each in English for the office.

Although Lesotho is a very poor country, the education system is excellent.  There are schools throughout the country, even in the most inaccessible places, as I soon found out.  The literacy rate is the highest in Africa.  I reckon that the 7 and 8 year-olds read better than many of their British counterparts.  Some schools were run by the Roman Catholic Church, others by the ‘Evangelical Churches of Lesotho’ and others by the State.  Lesotho is a largely Christian country, but the good news stops there.  Very few people in the country areas own Bibles and as a result nominalism is widespread, especially among Roman Catholics, where native religions are also blended in.   Lesotho has the highest AIDS rate per head of population in the world; it urgently needs revival and the word of God.

So on the Sunday morning I and my interpreter showed up at the Methodist church.  There is some dispute between the Lesothan and South African Methodists and as a result the churches in Lesotho are starved of funds.  The one in Qacha’s Nek was no exception.  The minister had been called away and so the service was led by a young lady.  She asked me if I would preach as well as talking about the Gideons, which I did.  The small congregation was very attentive, but really came alive during the songs.  These were sung in Sesotho to the accompaniment of a single drum.  African Gospel singing is sensational, and although I couldn’t join in, I really loved it.  At the end, a member of the congregation gave a short speech of thanks- at least I think that’s what it was- it was in Sesotho.

My service lasted about an hour and a half, but some of my colleagues were at meetings that lasted up to four hours!  However, singing and dancing took up nearly all that time, so I’m not altogether impressed.  Was there real Gospel preaching and Bible teaching?  I’m not sure.  What I do know is that singing and dancing does not change lives- only the Gospel does that.

On the Monday, the real work began.  We formed into teams; each with a Gideon interpreter and a driver.  My team drove out into the mountains in a 4WD truck loaded with Bibles.  Once the main roads of Lesotho are left, the country ‘roads’ are appalling!  They are nothing but heaps of loose stones and boulders.  Going either up or down hill was quite a dangerous business.  At various times we had to get out of our truck to move loose boulders that were in our way, or to reduce the weight of the vehicle.  At one time the truck started slipping down the hill towards a fifty-foot drop!  On another occasion the camber of the road was so severe that I was convinced that we were about to tip over.  On each occasion, Nicholas, our driver, was equal to the challenge, but I am convinced that 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 called a school assembly so that we could speak to the children and give them their New Testaments.  The enthusiasm of the children was tremendous, no one ever refused.  On two occasions, we arrived late and saw the 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 some sort of bush telegraph working because children appeared from all directions, all eager to receive their Testaments.  Nor were the school staff any less eager for the Scriptures than the pupils; each teacher was delighted to receive a Testament for themselves so that 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:  ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ or ‘God is love,’ but none of them had ever 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 about 12 miles up and down the mountains.  There we were informed that the next visit was not possible to make by our truck.  We therefore ‘phoned ahead to ask if we might leave the Scriptures where we were to be collected.  “No”, said the Principal; “the children will come and meet you at a point on your way back.”  So we drove back to the arranged spot and waited.   Suddenly, we saw twenty 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 between nine and twelve, yet they were able to run two miles each way up and down the mountains!

We visited a country hospital up in the hills.  The Administrator was delighted to see us and summoned the Matron who took us all around the hospital to leave Testaments by every bed and to give them to all the staff from surgeons and doctors to cooks, janitors and cleaners.  Another time we called on a clinic and knocked on the Administrator’s door.  Receiving no answer, we wandered across the way and knocked on another door.  When we opened it, there were sixty or so lady health visitors attending a health seminar.  Would they like Scriptures?  Yes please!  We had only about 15 or so 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.

Once, when we returned from the hotel, there was some workshop taking place and when the ladies working there heard what we were doing, they too requested Testaments and upon receiving them, burst into song.  Then two children who were passing the hotel saw us.  They came over to show us the Testaments that they had received the day before.  Each was signed at the back, signifying that they had trusted in Christ as their Lord and Saviour.

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 a ‘Head Boy’ who was 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 indeed.  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 gladly and 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 utterly inaccessible by vehicle, so Testaments were strapped to donkeys and sent up into the mountains with their drivers to be delivered to the schools.  Two days later, some of the more intrepid of my colleagues went up after them 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.  This was dangerous stuff, but 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 the prison staff and present them with their Scriptures.  Because of the weather we weren’t able to hold a meeting outside for the prisoners, but we left Scriptures for the staff to pass on to them.

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 that we had commenced would be continued so that future generations of children would also know the blessing of having their own Scriptures. Therefore, that evening, a meeting was held for the local Pastors and any of their congregations who they felt might be suitable to join the Gideons.  We told the guests about the work that had been done and explained the Gideon ministry, and to our delight, six men were led to offer themselves to join the Gideons and be the nucleus of a new branch.

And so, by the grace of God, we had achieved our objectives.  50,000 Scriptures had been distributed all around this remote area; people who had never had a copy of the Scriptures for themselves now had one; many of them had signed the back of their Testaments, declaring that they had trusted Christ for salvation, and a new branch had been started which will (DV) ensure that the work will continue.  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 true knowledge of the Saviour and of the way of salvation.  Pray that ministers in Lesotho will learn how to preach the Gospel and teach the great doctrines, and most of all, pray for the Holy Spirit to be poured out over that beautiful land.


  1. Very interesting and touching tale.

  2. Dear Martin,

    Thank you for your very interesting and informative account. Very much appreciated,


  3. Wow, you’re trip almost sounds like an episode that could have been in the book of Acts! God is good!

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