Lesotho (MNN) — Of all the countries in Africa, Lesotho stands out as the only one completely contained within another country. It’s totally surrounded by South Africa. With around two million people, Lesotho is divided into two major sections geographically — the lowlands and the mountains.
While the lowlands have the advantage of cities and travel ease, Lesotho’s mountainous regions are hard to reach and the people often cannot get to medical services like hospitals and doctors. Since Lesotho has the third largest number of HIV/AIDS cases in the world, medical care is critical.
The sharp contrast of lowlands and mountains means Lesotho churches are also geographically divided. Matt Monson with Mission Aviation Fellowship in Lesotho says while there are theologically solid churches in both regions, villages in the mountains do not have easy access to trained pastors, and remote congregations often suffer theologically.
“There has been a lot more mixing of different ideas and concepts and traditions out in the mountains and so that’s where I think the real impact needs to happen. And that’s a call not only to us as MAF because of the aircraft and because we can transport ourselves out there, but that’s a challenge and a call for all the churches here in the lowlands.”
Just because Lesotho’s population is 80 percent Christian doesn’t make ministry any easier. In fact, Monson speculates, in some cases it even makes witnessing the Gospel more difficult.
“Statistically, it’s a Christian country but you’ll find that that actually can add a barrier to getting into the mountains and really making a true transformation because everybody’s a Christian…. But you find as you get to really invest into people and build relationships that the understanding of what that really means is more of how you act and how you behave and less about who Christ is and having a relationship with him.”
With the desperate medical and spiritual needs in the Lesotho mountains, MAF is connecting doctors and pastors with remote communities — through aviation!
In Lesotho, MAF collaborates with the Lesotho Flying Doctor Service next door to their base. LFDS has a team of doctors, nurses, and trained specialists whom MAF flies to the clinics they service.
Monson shares, “[HIV/AIDS] has a huge impact on the country just in terms of how it affects the livelihood of people, how well the people are living, their health deteriorates really quickly, and then also just the fatality aspect as well.”
MAF also transports remote patients in critical emergencies or if they need regular medical treatment.
The MAF pilots often carry Gospel of John booklets with them. When the people they serve open up conversations about faith matters, the pilots can offer these booklets and talk about their relationship with Jesus Christ.
Additionally, MAF partners with local churches for the Lesotho Flying Pastors project.
“It’s a group of five or six local churches that have sent representation out into the mountains monthly. So we’re continuing to invest in that project and actually, through that project, we just got funding available to build a church in one of our most remote locations in the mountains. So through the building of that church and continuing the partnership with the Lesotho Flying Pastors, we’re praying that there is going to be a community there that can have some pastoral oversight until the community is able to take ownership of their own walk and faith.”
Monson reflects, “We’re really excited about that project. That is something I have been praying about since I first arrived here because the chief of that area has received us, accepted us, and wants us to come build a church in his community. To have the support of a chief in a region is very critical and crucial if you want to make an impact.”
MAF’s chaplain, Sefiri, combines spiritual outreach with medical care by ministering to families in hospitals and clinics. Recently, the Lesotho government started having patients from the mountains sent to mountain hospitals instead of the city. Since these remote patients are no longer coming to him, MAF is sending Sefiri to them.
“We’re really looking forward to just seeing how the Lord is going to use [Sefiri] in the mountains,” says Monson. “He has a huge passion. He is from the mountains and he has a heart for his own people. So it’s just about us supporting and getting him out there.”
A Family Transformed
Just last month, Sefiri had an impactful encounter with a father whose young daughter was in the hospital.
Monson shares, “There was a girl that got injured on a horse — a young girl about 10-years-old. She got flown down here on our airplane to the hospital and Sefiri was daily going and checking in with the father who was here with his daughter and ministered to him and took care of him and gave him food when there wasn’t food available for him and just really made an impact on his life.”
As his daughter recovered, the father asked Sefiri to visit his remote village in the mountains.
“It was about a six-hour walk from the airstrip to get to his village and when he got to the guy’s house, his whole family just greeted him with joy and excitement because of the love and the care he had showed their family while they were in a really difficult situation.
“Two of the brothers of the family received Christ because of Sefiri’s visit, just because he opened the door and through the love and care that he showed.”
Support and Encouragement Needed
While the MAF team in Lesotho is passionate about their ministry, Monson says they can always use encouragement.
Monson says, “It is a challenge every day and we just covet the prayers of the Body. When we have experienced people reaching out to us and saying they’re praying for us, it really does seem like, ‘Wow, the Lord is working,’ and things take a turn and exactly what we were hoping for occurs and we can just celebrate that.”
Please pray for the MAF Lesotho team to remain spiritually encouraged and vibrant as they serve hard-to-reach communities.
If you would like to support MAF’s work in Lesotho, click here.