×
A race against death for Lesotho’s people
Baptist Press
December 02, 2010

A race against death for Lesotho’s people

A race against death for Lesotho’s people
Baptist Press
December 02, 2010

MASERU, Lesotho — As the

woman lies dying, a spiritual struggle begins.

The woman’s body has wasted

away. Her organs are shutting down. Sweat beads on her emaciated face. She

smells like death.

Southern Baptist missionary

Babs Dial leans over the woman and whispers to her about the love of Jesus

Christ.

The woman’s mother, a witch

doctor, interrupts: “She does not want to hear that.”

Dial persists and asks the

woman if she understands what Jesus did for her. The woman nods.

Does she want Jesus to be

her Savior?

“No, she is dying,” the

witch doctor insists. “She wants to hear happy things.”

The woman’s eyes flutter.

She nods once more.

“The way people measure

value in this world, she has absolutely none,” said Alan Dial, Babs’ husband. “The

combined wealth of her entire family would not pay for a bag of groceries. But

she’s passing into eternity. Does it matter? Yeah, it matters.”

The Dials know just how

much. For six years, they labored in the tiny African country of Lesotho to

bring salvation to a people for whom time is running out.

The Dials went to Lesotho in

2004 from Tallahassee, Fla., to work among the mountain Basotho people, who

languish in the grip of death. They are desperately poor, often lacking basic

food and clothing. Nearly a quarter have HIV/AIDS, by official estimates, but

the Dials think it may be closer to 60 percent. They have been in villages

where everyone has the virus.

The Basotho also are poisoned

by the stinging, oily smoke from the fires they build inside their huts.

“Almost all of them have

some degree of tuberculosis or other chronic pulmonary disease,” Alan said. “Their

eyes are always red and watering, and they all cough.”

BP photo

Babs Dial looks into the face of the Basotho people’s future, a future she prays will be free from AIDS and filled with the light of Jesus.

Hungry and sick, their

bodies ravaged by AIDS, the Basotho perish in droves, most before the age of

45. Fewer than 2 percent know Jesus as Savior, Alan said, and their people

group is becoming extinct.

“We cannot get to them fast

enough to give them the Good News about Jesus before they die,” Alan said.

That knowledge fuels the

Dials’ urgency. By foot, horseback or truck, by themselves or with volunteer

teams, the couple has trekked to countless villages with the message of the gospel.

At each village, the Dials

ask the chief’s permission to share with the people. Almost all the chiefs are

eager for their people to hear about Jesus Christ. One chief who wasn’t a

Christian welcomed them anyway.

“He said, ‘Christians don’t

beat their wives, steal their neighbors’ animals or get drunk,’ so he wanted (his

people) all to be Christians,” Alan said.

“We heard him tell his

people they needed to change, that the way they were living was not working,”

Babs added.

The Dials spoke to the

villagers about AIDS and orphans, trying to change the destructive way of life

that fills so many Basotho graves. They told Bible stories during town

meetings, showed the “JESUS” film and went home to home, talking about Jesus.

The grip of African

traditional religion, which is steeped in ancestor worship, makes for rocky

spiritual soil. The Basotho coordinate everything in their lives — from

marriage to funerals to naming their children — with clan witch doctors. They

have little concept of sin and believe that no matter what they have done, they

simply go to be with their ancestors when they die.

“Clinging to that, being

taught it and living it day in and out, is a tenacious thing that keeps (the

Basotho) from surrendering to ‘the white man’s God,’” Alan said.

More sinister forces also

oppose the Dials. Alan remembers a harrowing spiritual attack while he was

showing the JESUS film to a room packed with 400 high school students.

“During the crucifixion

scene, just as the nail was put in Jesus’ hand and the hammer struck the nail,

the most blood-curdling scream I have ever heard in my life came from the

middle of that crowd,” Alan recounted.

The crowd passed a girl over

their heads to the Dials. She was stiff as a board, lying in the crucifixion

position, screaming hideously, with terror in her eyes. The couple prayed over

her for 20 minutes until she stopped screaming and went limp. She had no memory

of what had happened.

With opposition from demonic

forces and tribal religion, bringing the Basotho to Jesus takes patience.

“It takes a while for them

to come to Christ, but they are coming,” Babs said. “They’re not coming in

masses.”

The rate at which the

Basotho are perishing means the need for workers to spread the gospel is

urgent. Health problems with Alan’s back will probably prevent the Dials from

going back to Lesotho after stateside assignment to join another missionary

couple and local pastors who continue the work. It is a heartbreaking reality

for the Dials, who have given their hearts to the Basotho.

“When we came down the

mountain before leaving, I just wept, because I knew I wouldn’t be back,” Babs

said. The Dials plan to serve in another area where Alan will have access to

ongoing medical care.

Alan’s voice burns with the

passion of a man who knows the people he loves are dying. There are not enough

missionaries, money or resources, he says. If something is not done, the

Basotho will be only a memory of a people who perished in their sins.

“Somebody has to go tell the

story before they die.”

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The

ministry of Alan and Babs Dial as International Mission Board missionaries is

made possible by the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions

and the Cooperative Program of the Southern Baptist Convention. To watch a

video on “Basotho … the forgotten people,” go to the Entire Church Videos section

of imb.org/LMCOvideo.)