When we had arrived in Maseru, the lady of the house had a bad migraine, this condition is a blight on her life and she has to ensure she doesn’t get stressed or miss meal or anything like that in order to keep it under control! Obviously the stress of the journey had taken its toll. Thankfully when we woke, with the southern hemisphere sun streaming through the windows, the headache had gone and we were fit to face the day and all its possibilities. We were awakened just after five a.m. as no one had told the Westy girls of our need to sleep on, but we didn’t mind, as we knew we were in the middle of a great adventure.
During the morning, I accompanied Mark and Matt to buy the food for the camp we were about to lead. We chose to shop in Pick’n Pay, the South African version of Tesco, who now have a shop in the mall in Maseru. Pick’n Pay, very kindly, partly sponsors the camp with generous amounts of food. We met the manager, a white South African chap and talked about rugby and the current form of the Wales team! He was a pleasant gentleman and was generous to the camp. We thanked him.
Scripture Union Lesotho is an Interdenominational Christian Movement that specialises in working with children, youth and families.
The Primary School camp is aimed at children in primary schools for children aged 6-13 years. The camp was to run from Wednesday 5th – Saturday 8th December 2012. It is usually held in the Lesotho Durham Link, Maseru, where many teachers on exchanges have visited but this year they had decided to move the camp to their own facility in Maseru. It has good accommodation, a large hall for meetings and large grassy areas, which can be used for study groups or recreation.
In Pick’n Pay I was in heaven, at each till there was a packer and an abundance of carrier bags… I am not sure whether they charged for them. We had several overflowing trollies, which we tried to maneuver back to the car. While looking around the shelves earlier, I had split a massive sack of rice, which I then put back to save leaving a trail through the shop, only to find that the manager had found it and donated it to Scripture Union, but had forgotten to tell Matt, who promptly covered the entrance to the supermarket with a two inch thick layer of rice. We smiled…Happy days!
We dropped the food of at the camp, which was a ten-minute drive away from the centre of Maseru. It was late morning and as we got to the camp a solitary child was standing in the field, ready for the great adventure to begin! We were excited at the prospect of working with these precious young lives and giving them a holiday, which they would remember for years to come. Whenever we go into Maseru with Mark, we are astonished at the number of people he knows, most of them either ex pupils or ex campers. Each one obviously holds Mark in great respect. It’s an honour to be Mark’s friend and support him in his work. He has the respect of the people.
The girls had been chilling at Mark’s house with Chabi and the Westy girls and we were excited to pack the cars when we got back and return to the campsite for the action to start.
More children had arrived by now, all chatting excitedly, no one causing any kind of trouble. Mark showed us to our home for the next four days. We were due to stay in the S.U. director’s house, now empty as the current director lives in his family home in Maseru.
The house was completely empty, so we set about borrowing mattresses and sheets to make the place as habitable as possible. We soon had it looking like a little palace. When we first entered the building we disturbed a few creatures, which seemed put out at having their silence interrupted. We shooed them away, hoping that they would not return seeking revenge. Their was an old fridge in the kitchen which we fired up, knowing at least we would have a good supply of cold drinks, essential in the hot sun.
We made our way out the meet the kids, only to be nearly bowled over by two enthusiastic young lads who ran to meet us. One of them introduced himself as Aaron.
He had the biggest smile I had seen for some time. I noticed he had a bad skin condition, which looked like a burn of some kind. It ran under is chin and down across his neck. We later learned it was a condition like eczema and was being treated and was improving Turned out he had come from the Leribe district some miles away. Little did we know at the time that this little chap would steal our hearts and he would become our special little friend; given half a chance the lady of the house would have brought him back to Wales! But, he had his own family, sad as his situation was, his mum having run off with a relative and we hope and pray he grows up into a fine young man, guided by the Biblical principles he would have picked up on the camp.
Later in the day we all met in the main hall and the children were sectioned off into groups, with the girls mainly in the dorms and the boys under canvas.
The weather had suddenly changed. The glorious daytime sunshine had given way to heavy rain as nightfall came. It meant we had to eat indoors and pitied the boys as they tried to settle into their tents with the rain chucking it down. They didn’t seem bothered at all; in fact it just made everything so much more exciting! The meal of meat and rice was fantastic and we all enjoyed it so much!
Mark was expecting about 85 campers, the usual average figure but for some reason 143 had turned up, not far off double the expected numbers. Was Mark bothered? Not at all, at least he didn’t show it! More beds to find, more mouths to feed but all Mark thought was…’Great, more people to share the Good News with! African people seem to have this wonderful ability to accept what the day brings without getting stressed…and he coped wonderfully…everyone had a bed and a good meal. Matt gave his first address to all who had gathered. He was great. The theme of the week was to encourage the children not to be conformed to the pattern of society around them, which for many of these precious young lives would maybe be a life of petty crime, drinking heavily and getting involved in casual sex and other such things, but rather be transformed by the principles laid out in the Bible and lead a life of doing good and putting others first and living a God honouring life.
The kids were packed off to bed at the appropriate time and the leaders were not really expecting that much sleep – we were all far too excited!
Part of my job on the camp was to lead early morning devotions for all the leaders at 6.00a.m. When Mark sent the original programme to us, I felt sure there was a typing error…6.00am? I didn’t know there were two six o’clocks in one day! The bright Lesotho sun made getting up easy and I felt my little inspirational talk went quite well. After this the kids had some exercise time. It was wonderful… all the kids and all the leaders running, jumping and stretching and it reminded me of the drill they would have in the army, but this was fun, the kids were laughing all they way through, although some of the leaders… and some were ladies of varying shapes, sizes and ages found it a little more difficult – doing the exercises, not smiling, they all did that!
Aaron joined in enthusiastically. This time was great for preparing their bodies for the activities of the day.
After this, the first study time of the day took place. It was amazing. In an instant all 145 children were sat in groups around the site, each group with a couple of leaders, all studying the Bible together. Many of the groups found the shade of a tree or a bush to make things more comfortable in the heat of the morning sun. It was very impressive indeed!
Breakfast followed. I was amazed so much could be done before breakfast, all I seem to do at home is get up, stagger to the bathroom, before finding the kettle and searching out the newspaper and reading the sports pages. We had eggs for breakfast with some kind of porridge and Rooibos tea, which was like a herbal tea. The food at every meal was superb.
The rest of the day consisted then of another study time, a morning session with Matt and Helen, where they sang songs and listened to a story, which were followed by some activities. On Thursday it was canoeing and abseiling at the other campsite – The Lesotho Durham link
and on Friday it was a range of craft activities such as jewellery making, paper mache modeling and such things. The children loved it all. Each day followed the same pattern. I was particularly impressed how Matt and Helen’s youngest two girls, Hannah and Abigail had joined in all the activities, two little white faces that I am certain nobody noticed, we were all one big happy family! Each evening another meeting took place where Matt and Helen again led a great session.
It was all so well organized and the kids’ behaviour was outstanding. We made several more journeys to Pick’n Pay to make sure everyone was well fed!
On the final evening a talent show was held and we were treated to singing, acting and dancing… all Basotho style. We had such a lovely time. We were very sad when Saturday arrived and we had to send these delightful children back to their homes, those travelling furthest had to leave first.
Saying goodbye to Aaron was tough for the beloved lady of mine. She bought him a little child’s Bible and sent a letter to Aaron’s dad, telling him how good he had been and to be proud of this little fella! He left as he arrived…smiling!
We had bought special polo shirts with logos on, which included the flags of both our nations and details of the camp, to wear as we worked. None of us managed to have the shirts left by the end of the camp.
The good lady of mine had in a rash moment promised hers to a young man who had asked for it; we others had passed ours on to various leaders and little Abby had given hers to my good lady, who had stuffed it into Aaron’s bag. His smile gave away how grateful he was! We also gave every child who attended a small gift of a teddy bear bearing the flags of Wales and Lesotho, details of the camp and a verse from the Bible. All over Lesotho we hope these little bears will be treasured and remind the owners of the great time they had in camp and the lessons they learnt!
We packed up the camp as best we could and then Matt, Naomi and I walked down through the local village, every other time we had driven through and felt we needed to see it close up. It was very poor, but still the children smiled and every single person we met greeted us made us feel welcome. It was a special time.
Before we left Matt was interviewed by the Lesotho Television Company and the interview was broadcast on national television later that evening, it was a great opportunity to share the news of what we had all done together.
We had felt privileged to be a part of this work, an this simple community…. in this beautiful country, The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho.