Reaching hearts

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Caleb Fetterhoff and Tobias Reuff work among the Lesotho Shepherds. Caleb shares about how one shepherd came to trust in Jesus.

Mahlanya found the baby goat lying at the base of a sheer rock ledge, a mini-cliff; its neck and head were bent backwards sharply, it was shaking and twitching; its hind legs did not seem to be working. My shepherd friend picked up the baby goat and began to carry it back to the cattle post. On our way, herding the other 27 goats and 43 sheep before us, he asked me to pray for the injured animal. I did. We stopped once or twice more, each time laying the pitiful creature down to rest and to pray. From my human perspective, I honestly thought the goat would soon die from its injuries, lasting a day at the most. But I led our prayers with as much faith as I could summon from my doubting heart. Mahlanya pleaded with it, “Get up, Seritsa, get up!” He was calling it by the Sesotho word for a lame person, and I knew he was consciously quoting Jesus’ words. Mahlanya has frequently listened to the story of the paralyzed man whose friends lowered him down through the roof to be laid at Jesus’ feet: “he said to the paralytic (seritsa), ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home’ ” Mark. 2:10-11. Mahlanya tenderly took care of little Seritsa, as we named it, keeping it warm by the fire in his hut (where animals are not usually allowed), giving it water from a syringe in its mouth, cooking it porridge and feeding it from a bottle, wrapping its neck.

Jesus was saving more than a little animal that day; he also was busy saving a young man’s heart.

All that happened on a Saturday. By Tuesday there was still no change in the goat’s condition. We kept praying for little Seritsa, but each day took with it more of my already dwindling hope. However, on Wednesday, he seemed slightly perkier. In the afternoon, Mahlanya laid Seritsa out in the sun and watched for a while as it dragged its hind legs about, trying to nibble on bits of grass nearby. He then went about his other business of cooking, fetching water, and sweeping the hut. Hours later, as the sun was setting, he shouted to me across the cattlepost, “Katleho!” (That’s my Sesotho name.) “Where’s Seritsa?!” My heart dropped: while no one was watching the dogs dragged him off, perhaps, or an intrepid jackal had snuck in for an easy-target snack. Mahlanya ran, looking up and down for the object of so much of our affection and energy for the last five days. But then he spotted him. He was grazing with the other goats high up on the hill behind our cattlepost! He was limping, but was most certainly, very clearly paralyzed no longer.

I was elated! Immediately, I said, “Just like in the story, Jesus has healed Seritsa! We should give him praise!” Mahlanya, all smiles, agreed; we thanked Jesus, the Great Physician (or, in this case, Great Veterinarian), for deigning to heal a mere baby goat. I was so grateful that God had shown to Mahlanya his power and the effectiveness of prayer in such a dramatic way. By the next Saturday, a week from his accident, Seritsa was out again in the highland meadows grazing happily. Last time I saw him, you couldn’t even detect his limp.

As time went on, I began noticing Mahlanya occasionally describing himself in conversation with other shepherds as “saved”. He would even join in in my conversations of evangelism with other shepherds to add his perspective and to help me evangelise. I asked Mahlanya when he started to put his trust in Jesus. His response: when Jesus healed his baby goat. Jesus was saving more than a little animal that day; he also was busy saving a young man’s heart.

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