July 2, 2018 by Kgalalelo
Today is the first Monday of July. In my books, July is the coldest month in Bloemfontein. The province of the Free State I would say, is one the coldest in South Africa. We have the small town of Bethlehem in the Eastern Free State province which takes the first title in terms of the severe winters in the province, then Qwaqwa which is nearby, followed by Bloemfontein and then Welkom. I grew up in the North-West province which is not as cold as the Free State. I had to quickly adjust to the freezing temperatures in July when I first came here and though I have been in Bloemfontein for the past eighteen years, it hasn’t gotten any better. There are also other parts of the country that are bitterly cold in winter like Sutherland in the Northern Cape. I have never been there before but judging by the weather forecast in winter as seen on television, it usually tops the charts compared to the rest of the country.
Bloemfontein is only an hour and half’s drive to the border of Lesotho, a country which is also known for its icy winters. Lesotho is such a beautiful mountainous country. It is green with vegetation, the air is fresh and huts are scattered around the horizon. You see both men and women wearing their signature Basotho blankets everywhere. I have one of those too. It was given to me by my father who received it as a gift from my brother’s in-laws when he got married. My older brother is married into the Zulu family and in that culture, gifts are presented to the husband’s family by the bride’s family soon after the wedding and so my dad received a blanket that he later gave to me. It is a beautiful blue blanket, called Seanamarena, meaning ‘to swear by the Chiefs’. The blanket has a history of its own and it’s a trademark and a crowning jewel of the Basotho. It’s a wonderful gift that my dad received with great appreciation and love and giving it to me was even better.
I have been to Lesotho twice, once to the capital city, Maseru, with my husband considering its nearness for sight-seeing and the second time to Leribe, a district in the north-western side of Lesotho for a women’s conference. We had been invited as a group of ladies by a preacher, who lives in Lesotho. We were fifteen women in the minibus representing our own ministry. The pastor had welcomed us into her home which she built with her husband. The large property housed a school with a hostel for lodging that they had constructed to educate children living in the vicinity. They were missionaries and so their first mission was to spread the gospel and consequently the church was also on the land they had acquired.
We travelled on a Saturday and spent the night, and as a result accommodated in the hostel as the learners had gone home for the weekend. We thus, had the lodging all to ourselves. We were received well in a loving home and since it was winter and we knew it would be cold, every woman brought a blanket along for the night and a thick jacket. The purpose of the visit was spiritual and for this reason, the focus was not particularly on the cold weather but on fellowshipping with other women. When we arrived in Leribe, the minister gave us some time to freshen up as we still had to drive over 60 kilometres to another village where the conference was actually held. As soon as we were ready, we all went back into the minibus and began another long trip. We travelled more than 30 kilometres on the flat surface and we began a steep descent up the mountainous road which meandered causing the minibus to slowdown. It was dark and the only lights we could see were the headlights of the minibus. The journey took forever as our safety was a priority to the driver and our travelling companion, the minister.
When we finally arrived and the bus came to a standstill, we still had to take a walk down the hill to reach the venue. It was freezing cold and dark and only the tent where the conference was held was alight. There were a few women in the tent waiting for us including the host who was also a missionary. The service immediately began with worship and despite the cold night of winter, we praised and worshipped the Lord and the villagers walked a distance to come and join us. They were drawn by the light in the tent and the praises and made their way to the venue. The service ended in the middle of the night and we all departed. The women in the village walked back home in the night and I was full of admiration as it was not easy to leave home in the night in winter and walk a distance for anything. We all rather be indoors sleeping in cold winters but they chose worship. The area was safe and you could tell that the women were used to walking by themselves without fear of being attacked in the night. We also drove back to Leribe in the middle of the night where we had our lodging. It was pitch dark outside and the village was asleep and we were all in a hurry to get back and so drove in silence.
We arrived very late at the lodging and went directly to bed as we had to travel back for the Sunday morning service the following day. We had single beds with blankets we found there and used our own as well for extra warmth. Falling asleep for me is easy anywhere and as soon as I got into bed while other ladies were chit chatting, I fell asleep. When we awoke in the morning, we had to take turns in the showers as there were few of them and unfortunately the first group of ladies used up all the hot water and the rest decided to boil water in pots. I opted for an icy shower instead and in no time I was finished.
The Sunday service was as good as the first and we spent the entire morning until noon in the tent worshipping. The morning assembly was followed by group counselling sessions which ushered us right through to lunch time. The reception in Lesotho was outstanding and the ladies made us feel very welcome. They cared for and loved us unreservedly. The warmth of their love overrode the cold and when the entire programme of the day came to an end, we headed home. I knew as I was leaving that I would want to return again if the opportunity presented itself again.
I have learnt through this trip that winter is not really a bad season and whatever you are able to do in summer, spring or autumn, you can do in winter too. Life doesn’t come to a standstill because it’s too cold; kids still go to school, we go to work and run our businesses, and we run errands and take trips in winter as well. There are many who have given birth in winter, including myself and others still get married in winter no matter how cold it is. The cold is not a deterrent to life, it is a part of life. The winter is as precious to the Creator as any other season and there are many fun activities that can be undertaken only in winter. God created everything to His glory and as such, every season serves a divine purpose no matter how hostile it may seem. He has created earth and all in it to adapt to every condition. Polar bears survive in the Arctic because it’s their habitat, that’s how God has created it. There are people who cannot stand the heat in summer and thus prefer the winter and thrive during that season.
We also experience winter in our own lives, where life seem cold and our experiences are not as glorious as we’d like them to be. People go through depression, money runs out, ill health kicks in, relationships goes sour, people attack you and everything goes south. Things fall apart in all direction and during that period, we think that the winter will never end. We sit indoors and hibernate forgetting that this too shall pass. We need to take courage in the knowledge that conditions such as these are temporary when we are in God. He can turn things around for you in an instant. Scriptures are full of accounts of men and women who went through winters in their lives but their faith in God kept them strong and God rescued them from possible calamites. Let the below scripture strengthen you today if you are experiencing discomfort of any sort in your life.
“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
he drew me out of deep waters.
He rescued me from my powerful enemy,
from my foes, who were too strong for me.
They confronted me in the day of my disaster,
but the Lord was my support.
He brought me out into a spacious place;
he rescued me because he delighted in me” (2 Samuel 22:17-20).
Footnote: Scriptures taken from the The Holy Bible, New King James Version, 1982: Nashville, TN, Thomas Nelson, Inc. & The ESV Global Study Bible®, ESV® Bible, Copyright © 2012 by Crossway. All rights reserved & The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™
Kgalalelo Saane Mphephuka
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