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He is a math teacher at Masitise High School.

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1 He is a math teacher at Masitise High School.
Mark Behle, Global Ministries missionary in Lesotho, serves the Lesotho Evangelical Church. He is a math teacher at Masitise High School. We will begin with a few words that are helpful to know and somewhat confusing because they are similar in sound.

2 A few words to know: The country is called Lesotho.
The people are called Basotho. One person is called a Mosotho. The Basotho people speak a language called Sesotho. We will begin with a few words that are helpful to know and somewhat confusing because they are similar in sound. 2

3 Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa.
Lesotho is located in the southern tip of Africa. Other than San Marino and Vatican City, both totally surrounded by Italy, Lesotho is the only other country completely surrounded by one other country. Area of San Marino is only 24 sq miles; Vatican is less than ½ sq mile Lesotho is 11,720 sq miles.

4 Only about 10% of Lesotho’s land is suitable for agriculture.
Lesotho is an extremely rugged and mountainous country. Only about 10% of the land is suitable for agriculture. The size of Lesotho is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland, having an area of about 11,720 square miles. (30,355 km²) Most of the population lives in the lowlands in the western third of the country where the best agricultural land is located. The eastern 2/3, where the orange and brown colors are on the map, are the most mountainous areas, The capital city is Maseru. Masitise, where I am working is about 100 miles south of Maseru in the southwest corner of Lesotho.

5 Lesotho has the highest “low point” of any country in the world.
One of Lesotho’s claims to fame is that it has the highest “low point” of any country in the world. The lowest point in Lesotho is still around 4600 feet above sea level, which is higher than any other country’s lowest point of elevation. Almost the entire country has an elevation of more than a mile high with the highest point being over feet. Because of the mountains, Lesotho is often referred to as “The Mountain Kingdom” , “The Roof of Africa”, or “The Switzerland of Africa” Lesotho has the highest “low point” of any country in the world.

6 The Maletsunyane River and Falls
Water is one of the few natural resources that Lesotho has. Through the mountain valleys run many rivers, like the Maletsunyane River shown here. On this river is located the dramatic Maletsunyane Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall in Southern Africa with a height of over 600 feet.

7 The inspiration for the design of the Basotho hat.
Throughout Lesotho, especially in the western lowlands, are rugged rocky plateaus and outcroppings. The particular geographic feature shown here is well-known by the Basotho people because it is believed to have inspired the design for the traditional Basotho hat. These hats are woven from dried grass and sold by many women to tourists and Basotho alike. The inspiration for the design of the Basotho hat.

8 The Basotho blanket is part of the national dress.
The Basotho wear these hats on festive occasions together with their Basotho blankets. These woolen blankets are worn by the Basotho as an outer garment and are very much part of their everyday dress. They come in a wide variety of colors and designs and are a source of pride among the Basotho people.

9 Yes Yes, this is Lesotho! They are very warm and necessary during much of the year, especially in the winter season when snowfalls are a common event in the mountains of the country. As you can see here, there are houses in this winter landscape. The Basotho are the only African people accustomed to living with snow. I’ve experienced the winter snows myself! It has been said that snow can fall in any month of the year in the mountains, though most of the snow comes during the winter season of May through August.

10 Maseru, the capital city, has about 300,000 people
Maseru, the capital city, has about 300,000 people. The country as a whole has less than 2 million people. Maseru, the capital city, is the only real city of any size. It is a rapidly growing city and is rather spread out. Maseru has a population of 300,000. The country as a whole has less than 2 million people.

11 Traditional homes are built out of stone
Outside of Maseru most of the population lives in small villages. Most of the older homes are circular in design and constructed out of stone. These are called rondavels. More recently constructed houses, like the one in the center of this picture, tend to be rectangular in design and built out of cement blocks and roofed with sheet metal. The rondavels, the traditional circular homes, are roofed with thatched grass. People take pride in their homes and in some areas the homes are decorated with colorful designs.

12 Animals are a daily presence in Lesotho.
Many people in Lesotho are engaged in agriculture, though few people can survive solely on it. Much of the plowing is still done with oxen. In the mountains of Lesotho horses are still the primary means of transportation. The horses are actually a special breed known as the Basotho Pony and are very sure-footed and adapted to the rugged terrain.

13 A herdsman and his sheep.
Herd boys relaxing in the mountains. One of the most common sights in Lesotho is a herdsman with his animals. Basotho have many animals; primarily sheep, cows and goats. Many of these herdsmen are really herd boys, starting as young as 4 or 5, keeping watch over the animals. They are needed because the land is not fenced in Lesotho, so the herd boys are needed to keep the animals from grazing in the fields where the crops are growing. In the summers the animals are taken up into the mountain highlands to graze where there are no crops growing and there is more time to relax as these boys are doing.

14 The Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) celebrated 175 years in 2008.
Our partner church in Lesotho is the Lesotho Evangelical church (LEC), which celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2008. The LEC is the daughter church of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society, whose first missionaries arrived in Lesotho in 1833 at the invitation of the founder of the Basotho nation, King Moshoeshoe I. (It was first called The Church of Basutoland before becoming independent of PEMS in 1964) The Lesotho Evangelical Church (LEC) celebrated 175 years in 2008.

15 Masitise Cave House One of the early missionaries was Rev. David Ellenberger. Rev. Ellenberger stayed for many years at the Masitise mission. His name and years of service, nearly 40 years, are carved in the rock above the door of his first house at Masitise. And that house is the locally famous Masitise Cave House. When Ellenberger first arrived, he found this natural rock overhang and excavated it a bit more deeply and bricked in the sides to form his house, where he and his wife and family lived for their first 17 years at Masitise. Today, this Cave House contains a small museum with exhibits about the peoples of the area, Ellenberger’s life and the natural history of the area.

16 Masitise LEC The Cave House is on the property of the Lesotho Evangelical Church at Masitise. This is the current church and is well over 100 years old. It is located a few hundred yards from Masitise High School where I live and work.

17 A painting showing Jesus healing the Basotho.
At the front of the sanctuary is this large painting showing Jesus healing among the Basotho people. It was painted in 1933 by Myrto Debard, the wife of the missionary pastor at the time. She did it to help the Basotho people understand that Jesus did not come only for white people, since most, if not all, the pictures of Jesus at that time always showed him with only white people. The painting is particularly special for the people of Masitise because she portrayed actual members of the church in the painting, and the mountains in the background are identical to those you see when looking out the windows of the church today.

18 Rev. Zacharias Ramonotsi & family
Rev. Elsie Mohlatsane Our current pastor is Rev. Zacharias Ramonotsi, shown with his wife, 4 sons and a nephew. Rev. Ramonotsi has been at Masitise a little over two years and has become not only my pastor but also my best friend. Pastors in the LEC are frequently rotated because there are not enough pastors for each parish. There are well over 100 parishes but far less than 100 pastors. Our previous pastor was a woman, seen at right here, Rev. Elsie Mohlatsane. Rev. Mohlatsane served five years at Masitise, a typical length of ministry at one parish in the LEC. A growing number of the LEC pastors are women and currently make up around 15% of the denomination’s ministers.

19 An LEC Service of Ordination
The LEC has a small seminary, graduating about 5-8 seminarians each year. There is also a Bible School for training evangelists. Services of ordination are special events at which most of the pastors participate, as shown here when three pastors were ordained at one service.

20 Outdoor worship at one of the out-stations.
A parish can consist of anywhere from 5-15 or more congregations or out-stations. Masitise is one of the smallest parishes with only 5 congregations. This is one of the out-stations when we gathered together for worship. Each parish has at most one pastor and perhaps one or two trained evangelists to assist him or her. Because of this shortage of pastors, the services are frequently led by the lay people. Even when the pastor is present, you may still find lay people leading the services and doing the preaching. This is one of the strengths of the church in Lesotho and perhaps an important reminder to us in North America that the church is not the pastor or the building, but the people, the body of Christ. Sunday morning worship services are fairly traditional and follow a set liturgy. Many of the hymn tunes are the same as ours here in the States. However, the offering time is often a lively, prolonged and celebratory event where various groups and sections of the congregation are called one at a time to bring their offerings. Sunday morning worship at Masitise LEC

21 Receiving the offering is a time of celebration and joy.
As each group is called, there is joyous singing, people stand, clap hands, sing and sway to the music. At a regular service the offering can easily take minutes, while on special occasions, like the one shown when we joined together with another parish, the offering can take as much as two hours! All the money given by a group or section is carefully counted, recorded and announced. Often there is competition among groups to see who can give the most. Receiving the offering is a time of celebration and joy.

22 Masitise LEC Youth Choir
The Basotho love to sing and church services often feature choral groups. This is the youth choir at Masitise LEC. There is no musical accompaniment when choirs or the congregation sings. Everything is done a cappella. So singing at outdoor services and celebrations is not a problem. Masitise LEC Youth Choir

23 Women’s Fellowship groups.
Women make up around 60% of the membership in the church and play a very important role. The women shown here are members of the Mother’s Union, a women’s fellowship group. They meet every Thursday for Bible study, prayer and fellowship. Like women’s groups in other denominations, they have uniforms which they wear. These ladies are members of another women’s group, Basali Ba Kereke, or Women of the Church, which has been formed recently and tends to involve younger, working women. Both the Mother’s Union and Basali Ba Kereke help the church by raising funds, helping those in need and assisting families with funeral preparations which involves cooking for and feeding many relatives and guests over a long weekend. Women’s Fellowship groups.

24 The Men’s Fellowship group leading a chorus.
The men of the church are also active and have a fellowship group. They are well-known for their singing and clanging bells which keep the beat when leading the singing. The Men’s Fellowship group leading a chorus.

25 The campus of Masitise High School.
We now come to Masitise High School where I have been teaching for the past 13 years. It is a school for both boys and girls. Its roots stretch back over 50 years to 1956. The school is located in a rural area and has a large campus which is shown here. It is a school for over 1100 students and has been growing steadily in size over the years from the 700 students enrolled in 1996 when I first arrived. About half of the students are boarders and the rest commute each day to school. The campus of Masitise High School.

26 Snowcapped mountains are not unusual during the winter months at Masitise.
Since our school is located in the lowlands, during the winter it is usually only the mountains around us that have snow on them, although the overnight temperatures can easily be below freezing during much of June and July. On rare occasions we do get an inch or so wet snow, and when we do, the students enjoy making the most of it!

27 Day students arriving at school.
Here are some of our day students coming to school. Some arrive on foot, while others use public transportation. We have roughly the same number of boys as girls. One of the interesting facts about education in Lesotho is that girls tend to be better-educated than boys. This is because so many of the boys are busy working as herd boys and do not attend school or only attend for a few years. More girls complete high school than boys. More girls attend the national university then boys.

28 Morning assembly begins each school day.
Each morning school begins with an assembly during which a passage of Scripture is read, a hymn is sung and a prayer is offered. Announcements are also read. As you can see, the students wear uniforms and this is the practice throughout the school system in Lesotho. Our headmaster, or principal, is Mr. Monareng, pictured here in the blue shirt. He is a native of the area, a former pupil of Masitise and taught English at the school for many years before becoming the headmaster two years ago. Mr. Monareng, Headmaster of Masitise High School.

29 Helping students during a math lesson.
A cold classroom! Helping students during a math lesson. I teach mathematics at the school, as well as a Bible course on Luke & Acts. As you can see here, the classrooms are pretty spartan. Just the basic furniture of desks and chairs and a chalkboard at the front. The rooms are not heated so it becomes quite chilly during winter! A high school education in Lesotho encompasses five years. The five different grades are called Forms A, B , C, D, and E. Primary school education is now free and most children do attend primary school. However, there are still fees required for attending high school.

30 Part of a very overly-crowded classroom of 80 students!
Class sizes are huge compared to the United States. When I first started, most classes were around 40 students. But now most classes have students, and the one shown here actually had around 80 students. The educational system is quite competitive. At the end of the 7 years of primary school, a national exam is written, which must be passed in order to move on to high school. After the 3rd year of high school, Form C, another national exam is written and must be passed to enroll in the final two years. And at the end of Form E, the final year of high school, more exams are written which will determine whether you are able to further your education at a higher institution of learning. Part of a very overly-crowded classroom of 80 students!

31 A stack of exercise books to be marked for one class.
I don’t have many problems with classroom discipline and I thoroughly enjoy teaching; the actual teaching is not a problem, though it is difficult to give much individual attention with so many students. The worst part of teaching for me is marking the exercise books, which you can see stacked here! These are the books for just one class!! A stack of exercise books to be marked for one class.

32 A chemistry lesson in the science lab.
Computer classes are very popular. The curriculum includes your usual subjects, like Math and Science. This is Mrs. Bohloko, one of our chemistry teachers. Of our staff of 40 teachers about half are women. The medium of instruction in high school is English. They have English and Sesotho lessons each day. Students begin learning English in primary school but find it a difficult subject. If you fail English on the national exams, you have to repeat and this happens to many students. Besides the core subjects of English, Sesotho, Math and Science, a number of practical subjects are offered like agriculture and accounting. In recent years we have added computer education and this has proven to be very popular with the students.

33 Basic Handcrafts class.
Home Economics class. Most of the boys, and sometimes a girl or two, do woodworking and metalworking courses, while the majority of girls and sometimes a brave boy or two, do Home Economics, which involves cooking classes and also needlework and sewing instruction.

34 One of the dormitory areas on campus.
Here is an overview of one of the dormitory areas at the school. Since it is one of the few boarding schools in the area, the demand for boarding is quite high. The dorm rooms are generally quite crowded. A small room like this will have 4 bunk beds and 8 students, although in the boys’ dorms I have even seen triple-decker beds. Inside one of the dorm rooms.

35 A basketball game held at Masitise.
Besides teaching, I am also involved with sports at the school. Basketball was not a big sport in Lesotho when I arrived but it has gradually spread in popularity through the country. Being an American, it was assumed I knew the sport, so I was asked to start up a basketball program. We started with one basket on a dirt court and were routinely beaten at the beginning. But we have moved forward to where we have a hard-surface court and are regularly one of the better teams in the country. A basketball game held at Masitise.

36 A Sunday afternoon gathering of the Scripture Union group.
Besides teaching and basketball, I am heavily involved with Scripture Union. This is an international and nondenominational Bible-based youth organization. The lamp symbol reminds us of the Scripture Union motto which comes from Psalm 119:105, “Your word is a lamp for my feet and a light for my path.” We call the Scripture Union group at Masitise “Friends of God” and we meet on Sunday afternoons.

37 Bible study is done in small groups.
The main focus of each meeting is a small group Bible study. We don’t do the Bible study with a group of 20-30, but rather break into small groups of 4-6 so that everyone will have an opportunity to share. Bible study is done in small groups.

38 Scripture Union student leaders.
Each year some of the members of the group are given training for leading these small group Bible studies. I’ve been blessed with some great kids who go on to be involved with Scripture Union after they leave Masitise. The other teacher at Masitise who is assisting me with Scripture Union is one of my former SU members. Scripture Union student leaders.

39 A Scripture Union rally
Hiking up a mountain Sometimes we have special activities, like picnics and hikes. And once each year we have a rally with other Scripture Union groups in the southern part of the country.

40 Summer camp Bible study
Another annual event is the Scripture Union camp which is hosted by a school somewhere in the country. Sometimes it has been held at Masitise. We usually have around 10 students from our school going to the camp each year. It is held at the end of our school year, in December during the summer, and is like a typical church youth camp here in the States. There is time each day for group Bible study... Summer camp Bible study

41 Canoeing on one of the dams in Maseru.
Enjoying watermelon! And time for doing outdoor activities. For most students, this is their first opportunity to do things like canoeing. Another camp highlight for many of the students is getting to eat a variety of foods, like watermelon! At the camp they will eat meat every day, something most of them do not experience at home.

42 Supper at Masitise is simple: bread & tea.
Or at Masitise High School, where the diet is pretty basic. For our students, breakfast and supper consist simply of bread and tea. In the evenings the bread is served with jam or peanut butter. Supper at Masitise is simple: bread & tea.

43 Enjoying a lunch of papa, cabbage & sausage.
The main meal of the day is lunch. On this day the meal consists of a sausage, green vegetables like cabbage and papa. Papa is the white substance you see in the dish. It is white maize meal that is cooked into something like the consistency of dry mashed potatoes. Enjoying a lunch of papa, cabbage & sausage.

44 One of the cooks in the kitchen stirring the papa
Here in the kitchen you can see one of our cooks stirring up a large pot of papa. Papa is what almost everyone eats everyday in Lesotho. Basotho also eat rice and potatoes, but most of them will tell you that papa is more satisfying and filling. So our students are served papa every day for lunch. Besides being served with a sausage, on some days it is served with boiled beans, as shown here. Other days it will be papa and eggs, or papa and fish. Papa and something, 7 days a week, every day of the year. A meal of papa and beans

45 Attending church on Sunday mornings
Being a church school, on Sunday mornings the boarding students are required to attend church at Masitise Lesotho Evangelical Church. So they walk over from the school and completely fill the sanctuary and then some. There is a service just for the students prior to the regular service for the community.

46 Staff houses at Masitise.
Pictured here are some of the staff houses at Masitise. Most of the teachers live on the campus, including myself. We are quite fortunate in that we have electricity, indoor plumbing and safe drinking water. These are luxuries not commonly found in most homes. For contrast, we are going to visit the places where some of my students live. Staff houses at Masitise.

47 A “line house” outside the school campus.
Here are three of my students who live off-campus in rooms of this “line” house. It is a series of unconnected rooms, each about 10—12 feet square, which are rented out. There is no electricity, water or plumbing. Inside one of these rooms, one of the boys has a small paraffin burner for doing his cooking. In another corner would be his mattress.

48 Lebelang with his parents outside their home.
In a village a little over one mile away from school lives this young man, Lebelang, who is standing here between his parents in front of his family’s house. Many years ago his father worked in the mines in South Africa, but he has been unemployed for a long time. His mother is a dressmaker and earns a little money to help support the family. Lebelang with his parents outside their home.

49 The kitchen and living room in Lebelang’s house.
Their home does not have electricity or running water. In the upper right photo is the kitchen inside their home. A two-burner hotplate is on the table at the right. The other picture shows their small living room. Lebelang is an excellent student and one of my best math students. He receives some assistance from the school in paying his fees and he also works for the school maintenance department between school terms.

50 Sebabatso lives with his brother at his grandmother’s home.
In the blue shirt is Sebabatso. He lives with a younger brother in his grandmother’s home. His father died a few years ago. He was a casual laborer in South Africa. His mother is still in South Africa and is trying to find work. The home has no electricity or water. The grandmother is in poor health and partially blind.

51 The kitchen where Sebabatso cooks.
So besides going to school, Sebabatso has to do the cooking each day. Not only that, he tries to earn the family some money by brewing sorghum beer and selling to people who stop by the house. He is only an average student, but I’m sure he could do much better if he had more time to study.

52 The living room inside Keneuoe’s home.
This girl is named Keneuoe and her family is quite well off compared to most. Her father has been working in the gold mines in South Africa for many years, though he is currently not working due to injury. Their home has electricity and you can see the very nice furniture and TV in the room. The living room inside Keneuoe’s home.

53 Collecting water is a daily chore for most people in Lesotho.
There is also a large, spacious and well furnished kitchen with a big refrigerator and stove. The large buckets by the wall contain water, which Keneuoe draws from a nearby tap. Fortunately for her and her family, it is only about 100 feet from their home. Many people have to walk much longer distances to collect water each day. Collecting water is a daily chore for most people in Lesotho.

54 Four former students from my first group of students.
Liketso Lemohang Lemohang Liekelitsoe Liketso Mothepu Liekelitsoe Mothepu The greatest joy for a teacher is to watch their students grow in understanding and maturity, and to follow them after they leave school. Here are 4 former pupils who were in the first group of students I started teaching math in Form A at Masitise in Each year I moved up with them until we completed all five years together. The photo was taken a few years ago after they had completed their studies at the national university. Lemohang, the girl on the left, majored in Computer Studies and now works for a major bank in South Africa. Liketso, in the white blouse, has been teaching math while pursuing a masters in economics. Liekelitsoe, the girl on the right, majored in nursing and now works in a hospital. The young man, Mothepu, majored in economics and statistics. Unable to find a job in those fields, he has become an outstanding math teacher at another school in our district. The school had a history of very poor math results, but he has single-handedly brought about great improvement. Although offered chances to work in South Africa, he has decided to remain in Lesotho to help his country. Four former students from my first group of students.

55 A beautiful summer scene in the valley where Masitise is located.
One of my favorite places at Masitise is a rocky plateau above the school which looks out across the valley to the mountains on the far side. During summer when the rains are good, the green scenery is a reminder of God’s beautiful creation. On the plateau overlooking the church and valley is a large metal cross which can be seen from far away, another reminder of God’s love and grace, shown for us through his son Jesus. A beautiful summer scene in the valley where Masitise is located.

56 A rainbow of hope for Lesotho’s future.
Often, after summer rains, this valley is graced by rainbows, the biblical symbol of hope and promise given by God to Noah. To end, in the oldest existing church in Lesotho, in Morija, where the first missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society settled, there is another cross, an even better symbol of the hope and love we have in God. The words in Sesotho are those of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.”

57 Global Ministries is able to send missionaries, like Mark
Behle, on behalf of Disciples and UCC because of your generous support of Disciples Mission Fund (DMF) and Our Church’s Wider Mission (OCWM). Thank you for sharing the story! Often, after summer rains, this valley is graced by rainbows, the biblical symbol of hope and promise given by God to Noah. To end, in the oldest existing church in Lesotho, in Morija, where the first missionaries of the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society settled, there is another cross, an even better symbol of the hope and love we have in God. The words in Sesotho are those of Jesus, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” 57

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