Dead men, shepherds and orphans? What might they have in common? Well, in Lesotho, they are all beneficiaries of the kind generosity extended by Harvest FM radio.
On a recent trip to Maseru I was blessed and encouraged to hear how this radio station, under the leadership of Malichaba Lequoaba, has been reaching out to bless the needy in that little "kingdom in the clouds".
Harvest FM was established fifteen years ago when Malichaba (known to us as Mary) was a Bible school student in Australia. A team from Reach Beyond (then HCJB) visited the college to share about the opportunities that radio offers to proclaim the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ around the world. Something stirred in Mary's heart and she knew she needed to talk with the visitors. Could radio be a way to reach out to people in her country, Lesotho? The visitors directed Mary to contact Lee Sonius, the Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa at Reach Beyond and he enlisted the Africa by Radio group to help Mary get Harvest FM off the ground.
Mary receive her radio training in Cape Town and has led the team at Harvest ever since. Today, Harvest FM is one of the leading radio stations in the capital city of Lesotho and has a staff of sixteen. They also produce a quarterly magazine for women.
However, Harvest radio is not only about producing and broadcasting great radio programmes. Mary has real concern and compassion for the most vulnerable in her country. Hence, the outreach to shepherds and orphans.
Lesotho is a stunningly beautiful mountainous country, it is very rural. Sheep, goats and cattle thrive on its rocky slopes and in the lush valleys. These flocks and herds are tended day and night by young men. The sight of the shepherds is a distinctive of the country. They stride through the countryside leading their flocks, swaddled in long warm blankets, heads topped with the traditional pointed straw hat as protection against the elements; they spend hours every day in the open, sometimes in freezing conditions.
For all of its beauty and the abundance of resources, especially water, Lesotho is a country with great needs. 57.1% of its population live below the poverty line. Lesotho, with a population of only around 2 million, has the third highest incidence of HIV/AIDS in the world with the result that the orphanages in the capital city are bursting.
Mary is aware of these issues and has determined that Harvest FM be more than a radio station but actually engage in improving the lives of the poor and orphaned.
On Mary's birthday in August each year, she celebrates by blessing others.
One year Mary and her team gathered 400 shepherds together. Their normal stipend is the gift of a cow from their employers at the end of harvest season, so not much money is available to them throughout the year for toiletries, treats or even adequate footwear. Mary approached local businessmen and along with funds from Harvest they were able to provide rubber boots and backpacks containing toiletries and treats for these 400 young men. A tangible way of showing care and concern.
On another birthday, Mary gathered orphans together and sponsored a day out to the landmark Mohele Dam, in the Lesotho highland region. Set among stunning scenery, this dam was built as part of the greater Highlands water project. It serves not only the city of Maseru with clean drinking water but much of the Orange Free State in South Africa, the sale of which provides important revenue to Lesotho. The children were able to learn about their country, run around and play games in the fresh mountain air and then enjoy a barbecue together. A truly memorable day.
Such acts of kindness and generosity characterise Mary and her staff at Harvest. They understand that the Gospel is more than words, but that God’s love is demonstrated by action and deeds. These are visible evidence of our faith which compels us to love those for whom Christ died, often the poor, neglected and marginalised.
Oh – and the dead men?
In the offices of Harvest FM there is a certificate from the funeral directors of Maseru thanking Mary and her staff for their contribution to giving dignified burials to those who have been left, abandoned and forgotten in the funeral parlours. Harvest FM gives financially so that each person may receive a dignified Christian burial. This kind of concern and generosity, to those who will never be able to pay back or acknowledge the gift, characterise what it means to be a follower of Jesus at Harvest FM. Reach Beyond is privileged to partner with Mary and her staff.
*All statistics quoted from UNDF and Lesotho government website.