Lesotho (MNN) — Some people pack up a bag, head to remote locations, and try to survive in rustic conditions. Why? They enjoy the peace maybe, or they want to say they can survive without modern technology.
But there is a group of five men doing this, not to enjoy nature, but to share their faith with a people that are often isolated from society.
Africa Inland Mission has been working for the past four years to build a team willing to minister to the shepherds of Lesotho.
God brought the team together, and they’re already starting this new adventure of becoming a shepherd–literally and spiritually.
This two-year commitment is a training program that John Barry of AIM says “is typically used to try and reach least-reached areas, places that are normally inaccessible.”
The mountains of Lesotho and its inhabitants are most definitely among the least reached.
“It was evident that the church in many ways was just beyond the reach of local shepherds, first because most shepherds actually live beyond the reach of any town. Most shepherds live in far-flung communities in the actual mountains of Lesotho,” Barry explains.
He says there are other barriers not based on location, however. There is a sort of rift between shepherds and the villagers nearby.
“Some of the prejudices are that shepherds are dirty, [and] they’re often the first to be accused of theft or anything worse that’s happened on the edges of villages.”
Another barrier is the shepherds’ illiteracy. However, these barriers should not be enough to separate these people from the love of Christ.
Christians within the villages can be quick to overlook the shepherds because many of them have participated in ancestor worship and covenants.
“So, for some of those reasons, we really look to this community and try to assist whatever outreach was taking place. After praying, we felt this is part of our mission and part of God’s mission to reconcile the nations to Himself,” Barry says.
Over the last 10 years, AIM has had about 20 literacy schools for shepherds so they can read Scripture. Barry says this way isn’t always effective in reaching the shepherds because they’re used to sharing information by storytelling.
“So our team, at the moment, is really trying to leave all the pens and paper and books behind and trying to use some of the oral traditions to share the Gospel in the shepherd community,” says Barry. AIM has developed, over the last few years, a story set that fits the traditions of storytelling in this community.
No easy task…
Barry says many challenges face these missionaries in their new lifestyle. First, they have to build their own houses. Then they have to spend time learning the language and adjusting to their new diet.
Barry says, “The conditions are really tough, and automatically we’d probably think that the best-suited people are sportsmen or ex-marines or something else. But strangely enough, we found that what keeps us going in those kind of conditions isn’t necessarily physical stamina, but it’s commitment; it’s a sense of calling.”
Three of the men are from the United States, one is from the United Kingdom, and one is rom Germany.
A couple of the men are gifted with music and others with outdoor pursuits.
Barry says, “I think we’re really blessed to have a good selection of people on the team.”
As they make these adjustments and undergo difficult training over the next couple years, there is something you can do to help. Pray, Barry says.
“The first thing [you] can pray for is just that these young men would have a further confirmation from God that they’re in the right place because, naturally, they will question their own sanity and whether they’ve made the right choice because they’re in an environment that’s extremely testing.”
And as they learn how to work with animals and how to speak the language, there is another task at hand.
Barry says, “They’re real task, for the first year at least, is to learn Lesotho, learn the ways of shepherds, and at the same time be sharing something of their faith.”
Ask God to protect and strengthen these men. Pray that they would build relationships with the shepherds and introduce them to Christ.
Stay updated on this work here.