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The Training in Ministry Outreach (TIMO) Team working among the shepherds of Lesotho officially finished in November 2016 and the team members returned to their home countries. But the work among the shepherds has not come to an end.
About a year ago, two members of that TIMO team (Tobias and Caleb) returned from their home countries, to continue serving among the shepherds. Not always appreciated and valued in their own culture, the shepherds have a different status in God’s eyes. For God they are not marginalised, but important, highly valued and loved. This was the motivation for Tobias and Caleb to continue what had been started, the reason for the two of them to once again leave a comfortable life behind and adapt to a basic lifestyle. With hardly any clothes to change into, few personal possessions, a simple diet in a high altitude, sharing huts not only with shepherds but with fleas and lice and the physical challenges of hiking and preparing food. This is life among the shepherds.
Learning from learners
A Lesotho pastor writes:
Lesotho is a small country surrounded by South Africa. It is known as a Christian country, but we still have unreached people groups, one of which are the shepherds. They remain unreached with the gospel because most of the time they have to stay in the mountains at the cattle posts looking after animals. They have their own lifestyle, are not able to read and write, some even live alone there with the animals. Being alone a lot makes them feel disconnected – if you are not part of their community they can even send their dogs to kill you. But even with these difficulties, as the pastors of Lesotho, we were really praying to seek wisdom from the Lord about how we could reach them. We prayed, but still didn’t know how to go about reaching them. Then, the TIMO team came and finally they succeeded in reaching them.
I learnt from the missionaries to pray like Jesus – for God’s will not our own, that we have to be willing to deny ourselves for the sake of the Lord, and to pray for more workers! Most of all I have learnt to apply Paul’s principles for mission from 1 Corinthians 9:19-23, to go as a learner, and preach the gospel. It is important to understand people’s contexts and cultures, not rushing to change their lifestyles.
I’m really thankful to AIM for their vision and mission to reach out to these people, and also I am thankful to all people who support them in it.
God will continue the work he has started
Tobias and Caleb spent a few months at home, but this time away hasn’t caused any issues as they re-enter the shepherd community. Many people were happy to be able to welcome the ‘white’ shepherds back again. Since coming back, old friendships have deepened and new contacts have been built up. Thankfully it has been possible to stay in contact with some of the shepherds who confessed faith during the time the TIMO team were on the ground. Sadly it hasn’t been possible to stay in regular contact with all of them as many shepherds have a inconsistent lifestyle. Changing places on a regular basis is part of everyday life here. But even in those cases we can pray and we trust that God will continue the work he has started in the lives of those people.
It is encouraging to see how, even in isolated places like the mountains of Lesotho, that as God gives us the opportunity to plant seeds into the hearts of different shepherds we are finding open hearts. Please pray for more shepherds to receive Christ and be willing to live a committed life. We hope to be able to see more shepherds growing in their faith and in their capacity to lead others to Christ. Practically this will mean them being willing to take on responsibilities and be active in living out their faith. Pray that we would see shepherds who are not ashamed to witness to others and help others in their spiritual growth. Pray they would be willing to serve God wholeheartedly, being not only shepherds to animals, but shepherds to men as well.