Jordan and Rebecca Brown are originally from New Life Church, Biggin Hill in the UK. However, in September 2021 they moved to Clarens in South Africa to serve on the leadership team of Dihlabeng Church.
Once at the valley of the mountain, waiting for us were those who had come to meet us from the village including Ntate Masheane and Mme Matshepang. We were so encouraged to see them and we had a new burst of energy for the remainder of our journey. Little did we know what was ahead… I think in many ways God intended for us to do the final 3-4 hours of our journey in the dark so that we could not see the scale of the mountain climb we had ahead of us. We went from the very bottom of the valley to practically the mountain peak… I have no idea how many hundreds of meters we climbed or slipped our way up! In total, we travelled 8km – on unstable terrain and mostly in the dark!
When we woke the next morning we were in awe of the view before us! All of last night’s difficult mountain climb in the darkness seemed to pale into existence in comparison to the revelation we now had. All of the hard work, the feelings that we couldn’t go on, were all worth it for this stunning place we now found ourselves in. We were surrounded by the most incredible view of the mountains.
The day’s work consisted of the men and women being separated doing their daily tasks, which is the norm in the mountain villages. So, Jordan, Pete, Ntate Sifiri, Ntate Tlala, Ntate Masheane and a couple of other men from the village went to work on the church building. The site where the church is being built is a 20-minute walk down the mountainside to a level plane which also has two ‘tuck shops’ and a clinic. The foundations, walls, roof, door frame and window frames of the church building are all in place. The next step was to render the window frames in readiness for the window panes to go in the following day. So, they spent the day mixing cement, sand and water by hand using shovels and rendering the window frames. We found it fascinating to realise that all their materials have been sourced on the mountain… There is no hardware store they can pop to! I watched how they would collect rocks and using another rock against them would smash them into tiny pieces by hand. Much of the sand they gathered from the river and carried up the mountain!
Mme Matshepang and I spent our day boiling water on the stove in order to wash the dishes, making lunch, taking lunch to the men at the church (via the 20-minute walk down the mountain), returning back up the mountain to the hut, boiling more water, washing up from lunch, preparing for dinner – and because of all the time taken in waiting for the water to boil on the stove, it took all day to do this! Thursday was similar: I spent my day with Mme Matshepang again doing the daily washing and cooking, but the next task for the men was to put the window panes in. This was a very difficult task as the window panes were all slightly different sizes, not intentionally but through slight differences during the production. In addition, the window frames were not exact and therefore each frame was a slightly different size too. So, they spent the entire day holding different panes of glass up to all the different frames, in every which way around that the panes could go. At the end of the day, 34 panes were in and there were 30 remaining which didn’t fit anywhere. This led to Ntate Masheane attempting to trim the edges of the panes using a pair of pliers!
Life in the mountains is incredible. It is tough and humbling. I’m just in awe of these people. They spend all day every day of their lives on the simple daily tasks of living e.g. growing food, cooking, washing, cleaning – and the cycle goes again… And, it does actually take all day to do these things as there’s no fast way of doing it – no taps to fill the sink with hot water, no showers to have a quick wash, no washing machines, no machines to plough the fields, no quick food to make. They live without a single toilet, not even a long drop. So, the things that are quick in our lives (jumping in the shower, shoving some food in the oven, doing your online food shop) take up all of their daily lives. It’s such a simple way of life, but this is their life: their norm and they are happy with this life.
Although coming from the West, I’d put them in the poverty bracket: I can’t help but think that no one here feels that they are poor. They like living here, they have all that they need: they have homes (huts made of rocks, mud and animal faeces), they have the food that they grow, and they have one another. There is such a wonderful community way of living here. They share what they’ve harvested with others, they help one another prepare meals, and they all just chip in whenever there is a task that needs to be done. It’s a different way of life: such a wonderful way of life.
Mme Matshepang told me how it has taken time to gain the trust of the people in the village because although they are both from Lesotho they are not from the mountain village culture, and there are some who are still a little wary of them, but I have seen how as a couple they have been so gracious in gently getting alongside the villagers, befriending them and gaining their trust. In these villages, there are prominent people including the chief and a man called Ntate Martina who are very influential in the village. Their opinion is highly respected in the village and if they tell people to avoid the church then they will. We praise God that Ntate Masheane and Mme Mathshepang have established a good relationship with the chief and Ntate Martina. Ntate Martina has even been helping with the practical building of the church!
I don’t think I’ll ever forget one conversation that I had with Mme Matshepang. She said that: “So many people think that they will only be happy if they get all that they want, but they should be happy by having what they need”. Hearing these words coming from someone that I witness to have so little in terms of my western thinking was probably the most humbling words I’ve heard: “happy having what you need” and she is so right! The more I consider this the more I realise how little in this world I really need. It is not wrong to want nice things, but the problem comes when we feel we need these things in order to be satisfied and when we place these things of higher importance than knowing and walking with Jesus Christ. The more I look into what the Bible says about this the more I read how all-satisfying God alone is.
On our final evening together, after we had eaten dinner, we spent some time sharing our hearts with one another. We shared our experience over the last couple of days and how challenging we had found it, but also how inspired we had been by all of them and especially how much we admired Ntate Masheane and Mme Mashepang for how they had laid their lives down to come to Halechesa. Our conversation all together that final evening reminded us, regardless of our differences, of the unity we have together because we are all united in Christ.
Our journey home was a lot easier than our journey there. Incredibly, the weather couldn’t have been more perfect! It rained for the first time throughout that final night and stopped that morning which meant the air was cool and perfect walking weather. Plus, we discovered that last night’s rain caused the gravel-type terrain to grip together and it was not slippy at all! We had a successful trip and managed to do it in 3 1/2 hours – what a difference the light makes!
Reflecting on our time in the mountains we have had a few challenges, to say the least, but all in all we have had an incredible opportunity to witness first-hand what life is like for this inspiring couple who lead the church. We are so blessed and privileged to have been able to experience some of their day-to-day lives. We have been humbled through their lives expressing what it is to be happy to have only what you need, and we have been reminded that all we truly need is Jesus Christ: the Son of God who lived a perfect life on earth, who died as a sacrifice for our sins on the cross so that we can go free and have an eternal relationship with God if we choose to put our faith in Him and follow Him.
Written by Rebecca Brown, Dihlabeng Church, Clarens, South Africa.