In the heart of Southern Africa lies the small kingdom of Lesotho. This landlocked country, completely surrounded by the Republic of South Africa, is known for its high plateaus and mountainous landscape. In fact, more than 80 percent of the country is more than 1,800 meters (6,000 feet) above sea level. Its high altitude makes Lesotho’s climate much cooler than other countries in southern Africa.
Sotho-Tswana settlers colonized the area of southern Africa that now includes Lesotho between the third and eleventh centuries A.D. Lesotho—then called Basutoland—didn’t emerge as a country until 1822, when Moshoeshoe I, a local chief, organized several groups of Basotho tribes and became their king.
Over the next 46 years Moshoeshoe I struggled to maintain control of Basutoland as various wars erupted with neighboring tribes. In 1868 Moshoeshoe I appealed to Great Britain to establish Basutoland as a protectorate of England. This insulated the country from outside attacks for the next 98 years as it developed as a nation. On October 4, 1966, it gained its independence from England and changed its name to Lesotho. Since that time there have been political power struggles within Lesotho, but all have been relatively peaceful.
The people of Lesotho face many challenges. According to the United Nations, some 40 percent of Lesotho’s population lives below the international poverty level of US$1.25 per day. Another challenge is the high incidence of HIV/AIDS. By some estimates one in four people in Lesotho have HIV/AIDS. Additionally, Lesotho’s mountainous landscape and rural lifestyle make much of the country inaccessible by road. Many villages depend upon horses, foot travel, and light aircraft to get many of the resources they need. As a result of the hardships of life in Lesotho, many Mosotho men—as people in Lesotho are called—work in South Africa, especially in the diamond and precious metal mines, to earn enough to feed their families back home.
Adventists in Lesotho
The first Adventist to visit Lesotho was Stephen N. Haskell, who baptized Mosotho David Kalaka, Haskell’s guide, after his visit to the country in 1895. Four years later J. M. Freeman helped Kalaka establish Basotoland Mission Station in Kolo. In 1910 a second mission station, Emmanuel Station, was established. A third institution, Maluti Adventist Hospital, was later established in Mapoteng in 1951.
English (official), Sesotho (southern Sotho), Zulu, Xhosa
Christian, 80%, indigenous beliefs, 20%
ADVENTIST TO POPULATION RATIO
CHURCH GROWTH IN THE LAST YEAR
*General Conference Office of Archives and Statistics, 146th Annual Statistical Report
Lesotho is one of the countries that makes up the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This division, the newest of the world church, is made up of 11 countries in the southern third of Africa and a number of island nations in the South Atlantic and Indian oceans off Africa’s coast. Some 151 million people live in this division, and more than 2.1 million Seventh-day Adventists share their faith here. That is a ratio of about one Adventist for every 72 people.
This month the Southern Africa-Indian Ocean Division is hosting “Follow the Bible.” Sponsored by Seventh-day Adventist churches around the world, Follow the Bible is an initiative meant to encourage Adventists to take a deeper interest in daily Bible reading. As part of the initiative, a traveling Bible started its journey in the Philippines during the fall of 2008 and will finish at the General Conference session in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, in June.