Back to Bulembu

This past week, the AR team, along with Vincent & Gloria and potential AR staff for the coming year, returned to Bulembu, Swaziland, where we visited in December.

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A few things struck me on this second visit. I loved Bulembu the first time but was secretly prepared for a less-romanticized experience, simply because we were already familiar with the place. I was surprised; in no way had Bulembu lost its luster. In fact, it was even more clear to us how God is using this village and drawing the right people into His mission there. Since December, a new primary school has opened, four times the capacity of the previous school; the arts & crafts center employing ladies from the village is ever-creative in the goods sold at the gift shop; the dairy is soon to open, which will provide more than 200 gallons of milk per day for the village and ministries; and most striking, an abandoned building we toured in December is now a beautiful welcome center for abandoned or abused children from all over Swaziland, before they are placed in specific homes in Bulembu. For more background on the incredible story of how a once-abandoned mining town is regaining life through the obedience of Christians, check out our previous blog post on Bulembu.

Our team was delighted to pay a visit to ABC Ministry and spend a morning with Robin and Gerry Richter. Once again, we were all incredibly moved by the amazing work ABC continues to do in taking in abandoned and unwanted children from all over the country, rooting them in God’s love and raising them up as leaders of the next generation. To hear Robyn herself explain ABC’s work, check out our multimedia piece.

We are excited that our friend from home, Katherine Donahoe, arrives in Bulembu today to volunteer at the clinic there for the next two weeks and that friends from our church and Will’s church who are interested in community development and sustainable enterprise will be returning there in early June. We hope that everyone of you will someday see first-hand the wonderful things that God is doing in this tiny corner of His creation!

Malealea Music

For our final post on the Lesotho trip, we share a video from the performances put on by local musicians at the Malealea Lodge. The singing and dancing was superb, complete with homemade musical instruments.

3D Pano: Malealea Band, Lesotho

The guests at Malealea Lodge in the tiny country of Lesotho enjoy watching the local band play their homemade instruments and dance just after sunset.

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3D Pano: Ribeneng Hut, Lesotho

This pano is of the inside of a traditional Basotho hut where Rebecca and I slept a night. We shared the hut with a couple of birds all night, who took shelter from the rain and cold. Located deep within the mountains, the village of Ribeneng is only accessible by horse or on foot.

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3D Pano: Ribeneng Village, Lesotho

This pano was taken in a remote village accessible only by horse or on foot, deep in the heart of Lesotho. The hut with the two white chairs just outside the front door is the one we stayed in overnight.

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Lesotho: The Kingdom In The Sky

This past weekend, Nate and I traveled to the tiny landlocked country within South Africa called Lesotho (pronounced Le-soo-too). The trip was nothing less than a real African adventure!

Called “The Kingdom in the Sky,” Lesotho is a spectacularly rugged, mountainous country populated by a hardy people, the Basotho, who live in isolated communities too small to be called villages. Having never been colonized, Lesotho boasts a culture mostly free of Western influence. Even in the more urban areas, of which there are very few, the Basotho wear traditional heavy wool blankets tied at the neck, muck boots and funny-looking Basotho hats worn by tribesmen in the more remote regions of the country.

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We stayed at Malealea Lodge, a unique model of guest accommodation in that it helps the locals in many social projects. Among the ways that it has had an impact on the community, the lodge helps raise money for the local school; hires and educates local guides for treks; runs an HIV/AIDS project, an irrigation project and a soil erosion project; offers skills development training and an adult education program; and more. There are numerous walks, drives, four-wheel-drive trails and horse treks from the lodge, which take guests to scenic waterfalls, lovely mountain expanses, ancient cave paintings and isolated villages.

We stayed overnight at the lodge one night before heading on a two-day adventure on horseback. Early Friday morning, we saddled up and, along with our guide Tsepho, rode six or seven hours deep into the mountains, crossing beautiful rivers, passing through tiny villages and stopping a few times to stretch our legs and take in the stunning scenery and expansive sky on what was a gloriously sunny day. It took us both a while to adjust to riding and to learn our horses—and to trust our horses, as some of the descents were hair-raising for sure. I wasn’t so sure about my horse, with a name like Judas…

Our journey ended at a remote village where we deposited our things in a traditional Basotho hut and were taken on foot by another local guide to the base of Ribeneng Falls. That night, we satisfied our trekker’s appetite over candlelight with a portion of the camping food we had packed and climbed into our sleeping bags at 7:30 p.m., as it was already pitch-black dark. Among the sounds interrupting our sleep during the night was a majestic thunderstorm rolling through the mountains, with thunder cracks lasting several solid minutes in length.

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Staying in the village was definitely the real deal in terms of experiencing Africa! The villagers at Ribeneng share life with pigs, chickens, newborn puppies and a donkey roaming around, all of which have to be shooed out of the huts from time to time! There is only one outhouse for the whole village, we had to purify the water we collected from a nearby spring and, no joke, we smashed a couple of pretty big spiders in our hut that night! Proudly, the village rooster announced the morning at first break of dawn, right as we had finally managed deep sleep.

We awoke to a drizzly morning and saddled up, heading home on a different route requiring our horses to navigate treacherous trails and steep ascents and descents down to riverbeds. It rained on us for a few hours, and there were moments of true excitement (or rather fright!) when our horses encountered and had to calculate their steps though particularly muddy or slippery patches. The scenery became even more lush and beautiful with the rain, so the feeling of being chilled to the bone by the wetness was something that didn’t discourage us too much.

After stopping to see San Bushman cave paintings, we arrived back at the lodge where we enjoyed hot showers, the nightly performance by the choir and band formed by the locals to entertain lodge guests, a home-cooked dinner by the fireplace and hours of conversation with a couple we met from the Czech Republic.

Overall, our adventure in Lesotho was a great getaway of a trip. We highly recommend Malealea Lodge to anyone and the overnight horse trek and stay in the village to the adventurous among you! We promise you’ll have fun either way.

We hope you enjoy a taste of the sights and sounds we enjoyed in this beautiful, special place. 3D panos of the village, our hut and the local band performing at the lodge are forthcoming.

3D Pano: Boys Dorm, Iris Ministries Mozambique

This pano was taken in one of the boys dormitories at the Zimpeto Ministry Center run by Iris Ministries in Mozambique. Thanks to Sharon Lee (the dorm mother) and the boys for welcoming us into their living quarters.

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3D Pano: Machava School Room


This pano was taken in a school room at the Machava Ministry Center run by Iris Ministries outside of Maputo, Mozambique.

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