Saturday – Early morning interlude
Every time my tummy rumbled during the night, I wondered if the papa-cooked-over-a-dung-fire was going to create a desperate situation for me. Now, at 5 a.m., I was trying to ignore the fact that I needed to use the bathroom—somewhat urgently. Of course, there was a problem: Where would I “go”? There were no outhouses here.
The last time I’d been backpacking and had to build a temporary latrine was 40 years ago, as a teenager. That was in the Sierras, in a heavily wooded area. Here, I’d be lucky to find a bush.
I pulled my sleeping bag around me tighter, listening to what sounded like pots and pans clanging. When I finally got up and walked outside just after 5:30, in full morning light now, I realized the noise came from two cow-bell-laden steers in a stone-wall pen not far from our front door.
I remembered last evening one of the women in the village telling us (the girls) that we could “go” down by the river, where there were plenty of trees. Now, in the daylight, it appeared to be at least a half mile away, and with my need to go increasing it was out of the question.
I could walk past the steers into the ravine where I’d gone the night before, in the dark. But now the sheep and goats were out of their pens and running through it. Did that mean the shepherds were close behind? I could already see several of them out and about in the near distance.
I decided against the ravine and turned around to inspect the big hill behind me. There were three bushes up above all the homes, so I headed towards them. When I got closer, I realized they were thorn bushes. Great! Three thorn bushes. The first one was too small, the middle one was “okay,” and the last one seemed just right; that is, until I saw a rock tumbling down the hill out of the corner of my eye. It came from what looked like a tiny makeshift shelter made of a thin board and some rocks. There was an opening in the top corner. Was someone watching me from below? Ugh, back to my second-choice bush.
After all that, now I really didn’t have to go—at least not in the way I first thought. But I was here now and wouldn’t see an outhouse until late afternoon when we returned to the main base. As I crouched down, I could see through the leafless bush that Refiloe had come out of our house below and was looking all around for me. No doubt she was wondering what had become of me, since I’d been gone for a good 10 minutes or more.
Now that I had that uncomfortable situation out of the way, I could get on with my day. I hoped there wouldn’t be any other awkward moments as I just wanted to focus on the Lesotho Flying Pastors (LFP) and how they would minister to the people of this remote village.
After breakfast, the female pastors and I split off from the men and went to make house calls a few hills over. As we visited with one woman, a young man approached. Refiloe started talking with him, and Makopoi began translating for me. Turns out he had watched the “JESUS” film the night before and was excited to talk about it. He said he’d wrestled with it all night. He couldn’t understand how Jesus could ask the Father to forgive those who had killed him. This man was a traditional healer (aka witch doctor) and wore a vial and other attachments around his neck related to this. It seemed the Holy Spirit was already working on him because he was asking if he would need to remove his necklace. Refiloe spoke to him non-stop for several minutes. She didn’t miss a beat and seemed to know which verses to share and how to answer his questions. Before I knew it, Makopoi was telling me he was going to pray to receive Christ.
I was sitting right behind him and Refiloe as they prayed together, amazed that I was witnessing such a holy moment. I had the thought that I should take a picture as they were praying, but all I had with me was my phone. It just didn’t feel right, as if it would cheapen the moment somehow. Afterwards, I asked him if I could take his picture, and he was fine with that.
Next, we visited another house a few doors down. This one held a single man, who stood in the doorway as he talked with Makopoi. After about five minutes, he also prayed to receive Christ as his Savior! I could hardly believe what I was seeing. The pastors made it look so easy. But I knew they had trained and worked hard to prepare for this ministry. They’d also laid the groundwork during their first visit here, and there were already several new believers in the village as a result.
We met up with the guys again and Lem told me they had had similar experiences at their house visits. We needed to hit the trail and get back to home base as the rain clouds were building again. There was no protective cover for the “JESUS” film backpack, so that was a concern. Refiloe prayed for the group of children that had gathered at the rondeval, then she led them in a praise song she had taught them, in English. “Up, up, Jesus!” she sang and jumped, even as she wore her big backpack.
We said our goodbyes, but the kids didn’t want us to leave so a dozen or more followed us on the trail. I imagine from above it looked like the adults were the Pied Pipers with a stream of kids behind us—ranging from toddlers to teenagers.
They walked with us for about an hour. Some of the bigger kids helped carry our backpacks, sleeping bags, or water bottles. Then at the halfway point, Makopoi told them they had to go home. After all, their parents would wonder where they were. They moved slowly, a few teary eyed, lingering. Then, finally, they were moving as a group, going up and over the hill and out of sight.
We continued on and after climbing some rocky hills, the rest of the way leveled out and we quickly arrived back at the base at Thoteng. We dropped off our packs at the main rondeval and then Lem and Makopoi and I hiked over to the nearby clinic to interview the director and some of the nurses about how MAF flights served them.
Afterwards, as we were leaving the clinic, I pulled out my phone and noticed I’d missed a call from our program manager, Matt Monson. Now he was trying to call again. I answered and put him on speaker phone.
“Guys, the wind report looks terrible for Monday (the day we were supposed to fly out). I think we need to come get you tomorrow morning,” he said.
Thoteng was already a tricky airstrip when it came to landing, and strong winds would make it too risky. The rest of the week looked just as bad, and we risked getting stuck there.
There was a unifed groan on our end of the line. Were we really going to have to leave early? Wasn’t there another alternative?
The only other thing would be to take a taxi two hours to Mokhotlong Monday morning and catch an MAF flight back from there, Matt informed us. There was an early scheduled flight there, and the pilot could wait for us. But that meant traveling two hours in a cramped van over a winding dirt road through the mountains.
I was beginning to feel like we were in an episode of The Amazing Race, Lesotho style. Lem and I looked at each other, knowing we had to make a quick decision. Should we stay longer and take the “taxi,” or leave early and miss seeing what God was going to do through the pastors the next day?