We are a world awash with smartphones. Here in the midst of much poverty smartphones are everywhere, most notably amongst the young. Alongside the banks it is the phone shops that look the smartest and appear the most frequented. Even out in the remote villages smartphones are to be found. There seems something incongruous about a cowherd still dressing in traditional blanket and hat gently prodding his cows along whilst talking on his phone. Yes it would be true that the primary use here remains actually talking to other people rather than playing games, but the latter are played too. Wherever we are in the world now we want to be ‘connected’. Mobiles have revolutionised communications in many poorer nations even more than in the wealthy west. From no phone systems at all to global connection in less than 20 years. They are a force for good. But they are also creating the challenge of unrealisable dreams.
Everywhere I went people talked about climate change. Here the impact of drought is tangible. It not only severely impacts the largely peasant farming that takes place but when two of your most important exports are water and hydro-electric power then the threat of drought hits the national economy in other ways. Whilst I have been here there have been some very severe storms. Lots of rain. But the trouble is this washes crops away, it destroys rather than provides the nurturing water that comes with more gentle showers. It also hits some places but not all. Cape Town’s troubles are also much in the news; everyone here seems to know someone in Cape Town. Whilst here my news has come largely through Al Jazeera. They had a very interesting piece on ‘climate change denial’ being very much a western phenomenon. The countries that have contributed most to the reality of climate change are those arguably least significantly impacted by it, and most likely to deny it. In Lesotho they live with its realities and are trying to adjust farming patterns to account for it. But it is hard to change the pattern of centuries. For all who believe that this is God’s world and that caring for it is our God given responsibility helping people adjust as well as seeking to work to ensure future temperature rises are not disastrously high is essential.
THE LESOTHO-DURHAM LINK
The work of the Lesotho-Durham Link is impressive. The team is very stable and loyal. They work hard and they work well together. Outdoor pursuits, team building, conferences, backpackers and campers, day visitors simply enjoying the beauty of the site all form part of what it is about. It serves some of the most needy in Lesotho. Joseph Morenammele is an outstanding and visionary leader. There is a clear vision for the future, and a strategic plan, backed by a thoughtful Board. In many a setting it would ‘fly’ very rapidly. But no project can ever be divorced from the economic and social realities of the nation in which it is set. So progress might be slower than some would like. However with a leader like Joseph and the team that he has it can certainly keep on developing and serving more people well long into the future. The new Durham building opened last year by my colleague Bishop Mark Bryant with Lesotho’s own Bishop Adam Taaso is currently occupied by members of the SADC peace keeping force. A visual reminder daily that there are political stability challenges facing this nation.
These need to be sorted for the sake of people like the Child headed household I visited. The three children, the oldest just 12, now live with Grandma. The twelve year old looks after a ‘keyhole garden’ and should just be starting secondary school. Support comes from one of the Link’s many projects. So hope comes. Listening to a second grandmother talking about how she is taking in her grandson to offer him better support than he receives at home and to remove him from trouble was humbling. The home is poor but kept with great pride and a passion for doing things well. This is life for so many in this land; rural, small, struggling yet filled with pride, value, love and passion; hope is not diminished. But all such hope needs nurturing not only personally and through a project like that run by the Link. It also needs to. E matched with clear leadership that always seeks the very best for the nation, not the power and prosperity of the few who hold the reins of government, or want to do so. This is true in all nations. Government really must be for the ordinary people; the poorest and the neediest who so often hold themselves with deep pride and so much hard work.
I have loved this second visit. I have met so many cheerful people who keep going amongst so many challenges. I have seen the faces and quietly observed some of the daily struggles that so many face. I have delighted in praying with and for some truly wonderful sisters and brothers in Christ. I am deeply impressed by the service given through the Lesotho- Durham Link.
I hope it is not too long before returning to this special kingdom once again.