Lesotho: ‘Practical sleeves-rolled-up mission’
Us Community Fundraising Manager David Brand reports on a recent visit to Lesotho to learn about a church-led community development programme that is changing lives.
It’s just before 11am on a Sunday morning in mid-April.
The all-age service is just beginning at my church – St Marys in Newport, Essex – about 40km outside London.
Friends and familiar faces are arriving; sharing greetings, smiles, stories. Chattering children are excitedly heading for the kids’ corner. The congregation is taking their seats ready for the vicar to welcome everyone and share the notices.
I feel totally at home… and yet I’m not in Newport. I’m not even close.
This morning, I’m in St John’s Church, 5,600 miles away in Ha Sekoai village, a rural settlement about 40km outside Maseru, the capital of Lesotho.
I take my seat on a wooden bench, along with about 150 others. In the corner – like my church in Essex – a group of around 20 children are chattering excitedly.
I feel emotion welling up inside me. It’s emotion born out of a sense of real community and connection. Over 5,000 miles separates Newport and Ha Sekoai, yet we are all children of God, brothers and sisters, connected, part of one communion, with a common mission, albeit shaped by our local context.
The energy in the church in Lesotho is vibrant. There’s a beautiful simplicity and rawness to the singing and percussion.
The rhythm of the service is familiar and, although I don’t understand what’s being said and sung, I feel at home.
‘Practical sleeves-rolled-up mission’
Following the service, I have the privilege of speaking with church members. These are people of action, with hopes and dreams for their community. Their mission is to see abundant life; life in all its fullness. And this isn’t just theory; it is practical sleeves-rolled-up mission. The church and community are working together to achieve real change that benefits everyone.
St John’s in Ha Sekoai is taking part in an Us-supported Umoja initiative – an enormously empowering approach to development that unites the local church and community through a shared vision to see lives changed.
Umoja enables communities to make use of locally available resources – money, labour and materials – to make change happen. Everyone is involved: children and teenagers, men and women. This is the whole community taking ownership of their future, for the good of everyone.
The congregation tells me they have both short-term goals and long-term dreams. They want toilets and chairs for the church; an education centre and crèche for the children; local health facilities; clean water and sanitation for the village – and, most importantly, a properly-constructed road to connect their village to the main highway 10 kilometres away. The road repairs have already begun, with the community offering their labour for free for two days a week. This is all a direct result of Umoja.
‘We can change things ourselves!’
Mr Mosiea Sebeko, a lay minister at St John’s and an Umoja facilitator, told me: ‘Umoja has made things brighter. Our eyes have been opened. We can change things ourselves!’
During the service, the congregation said prayers for Umoja and held a collection for the work. The atmosphere was joyful and the donations were generous. This is a church that is not afraid to take challenges and find the resources to tackle them.
The congregation asks for prayerful support from their friends in Britain and Ireland. They ask us to pray that the community can achieve its dream to be self-supporting with the help of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Us is supporting Anglican churches in Lesotho, and around the world, to implement the Umoja way of working. We support training for church leaders and community members so they can facilitate the Umoja process.