Jeff & Susan Moore - Lesotho
It's evening in the southern African nation of Lesotho. I am sitting in the home of Rev. Malikopo Mohlatsane. Rev. Mohlatsane's parish has been hosting an HIV and AIDS workshop I am leading for pastors in the Lesotho Evangelical Church.
The pastors have just finished supper, and are sitting in front of the large fireplace sipping tea as the night outside becomes cold. Rev. Mohlatsane begins to tell us about a funeral sermon she preached last week. (Pastors in Lesotho often participate in three funerals a week – a frightening reality in one of the countries of the world most affected by HIV/AIDS.) “I read Psalm 11 last week, and I couldn’t get my mind off of verse 3: “If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?” “I feel like the foundations of our communities are being destroyed by this pandemic,” she says. “I told the people that we must have hope, and we must remain faithful. We must stay together and try to live in righteousness.”
An older pastor asks a first-year pastor to read Psalm 11 aloud in Sesotho. As she reads, all of the pastors listen closely. They agree that the foundations seem to be crumbling…
The air and the mood in the room are heavy. I wonder how these pastors can live with the incredible burden of sickness and death in their congregations and communities. How can we have hope when we are burying our young people at an alarming rate? As I sit here with my colleagues and friends, wishing there were something we could do, something we could say, a pastor begins to sing. His voice is clear and steady, and as he sings, all join in, singing in the beautiful four-part harmony so often heard in the Lesotho Evangelical Church. His song is a hymn of hope, a hymn of trust in God’s presence and promise. We sit together, watching the flickering flames and the dancing shadows, and we sing. As soon as the hymn is finished, another begins. The next two hours become a hymn sing, and the pastors begin to smile and even laugh as they choose their favorite hymns and sing them together. The foundations are being renewed.
Easter comes to us like a hymn of hope in the darkness. Just as Mary Magdalene met unexpected joy as she wept in the dark near the tomb, we are called to open ourselves to the presence of hope - the presence of the Risen Christ - even in the midst of unbearable sorrow. As we sing hymns of joy this Easter, pastors and lay people, children and adults, people from around the world celebrate hope in the midst of sorrow. And we do not sing alone – God is with us.
Jeff and Susan Moore are missionaries with Morija Seminary in Lesotho. Susan serves as a teacher of psychology and English. Jeff serves as a teacher of theology and Biblical studies.