Lemohang Rakotsoane

Lemohang Rakotsoane

MASERU – DEAF but hungry to be an active member of the church, Letšekha Ntlale always made it a point to attend church services every Sunday – until he decided to stop because no one seemed to care for his needs.
“I gave up on going to church,” Ntlale says, pointing out how, despite being a regular churchgoer, he never got to hear the word and church authorities seemed oblivious to his problems.

Thanks to an innovation by some churches as well as the Bible Society of Lesotho, Ntlale and people with other disabilities have begun to attend church again, and this time they are able to follow the services to the end.
“When I went to church (before) I did not get anything because there were no interpreters. Now I am happy,” Ntlale says through a sign language interpreter.

Last Sunday the Bible Society of Lesotho celebrated the beginning of the Bible Month at the Assemblies of God Church by catering for the deaf and the blind.
The idea, the church says, is to turn them into active members of the church.
The Bible was interpreted and read to the deaf through sign language while Bibles are being produced in Braille to benefit the blind.

After 50 years of existence in the country, the Bible Society of Lesotho is planning to make the Bible accessible to previously marginalised people who are living with disabilities.
The presence of interpreters in church is an encouraging development, said Ntlale, noting that he is now able to follow sermons without a feeling of being left out.

The Bible first reached Lesotho through the Paris Evangelical Missionary Society in 1833. The missionaries, with the help of Basotho language experts who understood French, translated the texts into Sesotho.
But the growing population of the deaf and the blind was left behind.
Mokene Matsau, who has been deaf since the age of 11, says he was forced to abandon his childhood church because of lack of interpreters.
“After going deaf I decided to switch to another church (where interpreters were available),” Matsau says.

The General-Secretary of Bible Society of Lesotho, Inahaneng Tsekana, says the organisation is planning to translate the Bible into Braille and Lesotho sign language.
He said the organisation is currently in the process of translating the Bible into Sephuthi, a minority language spoken in the southern parts of Lesotho.
“So far we have not been able to distribute the Bibles across the country,” Tsekana says, adding that the society has been battling to translate the Bible into all the numerous languages spoken in the country.
He said the society, formed in 1967 with the aim of translating, producing and distributing the Bible, has so far managed to translate the Bible into Braille.

The Society also has been targeting the distribution of the Bible to herd boys and prisoners, who are some of the country’s most marginalised communities,” he says.
“It is important for the herd boys because much of their time is spent in the mountains, far away from villages and sadly away from any church,” says Tsekana.

Many herd boys are illiterate and the Bible Society had to establish evening classes to help them read the Bible for themselves.
Tsekana says the Society has started a Bible study programme where people are taught basic Greek and Hebrew to help them understand meanings of some passages in the Bible.

’Makhotso Rakotsoane


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