WMU prayers touch Lesotho as 750 pray to receive Christ
By Susan Mires
March 10, 2005
JEFFERSON CITY — Benny Jackson knew something extraordinary was going on.
A Southern Baptist evangelist, Jackson has led revivals in 30 countries, but he’d never encountered anything like what happened in Lesotho last fall.
“We just had people make decisions in every home,” Jackson said. “The first five houses my wife and I went to, we got to lead people to the Lord.”
It wasn’t until he returned home that Jackson pieced together the spiritual forces at work. Catching up on his mail, he read about the Missouri Women’s Missionary Union (WMU) prayer rally “Lift up Lesotho.”
On Nov. 13, more than 150 people gathered in Jefferson City to pray for the lost people of Lesotho and the missionaries serving there. They were unaware that the day before, Jackson and a team of eight others had departed for Bethlehem, Lesotho. Working with missionaries David and Carla Bickers, they witnessed door to door and led crusades where more than 750 people made decisions for Christ.
“I’d never encountered that kind of response,” Jackson said. “I knew there had to be direct connection to those women praying.”
Barbara Popp, missionary advocate for the MWMU, was equally amazed.
“It’s something to think about all those years we prayed,” she said.
Missouri’s WMU members began praying for Lesotho in 1987. Popp has kept in touch with all the International Mission Board missionaries who have served in the tiny, mountainous African country and worked on coordinating the prayer rally for nearly a year. Special guests at the event were Wes and Beth Gestring, who currently serve in Lesotho. The group presented a new prayer book to the Gestrings to carry back across the Atlantic Ocean.
“It was a really touching time,” Popp said. “We had a great time.”
Lesotho has been a difficult field, she said. The landlocked country is completely surrounded by South Africa and very poor. Besides hunger, AIDS is a severe health problem. The country is traditionally Catholic, but most people do not have a personal relationship with Christ and some practice ancestor worship and witchcraft.
In 2001, Popp and her husband traveled to Lesotho. She said it is her calling to lift up the missionaries in prayer and to lead others to do the same.
“We’re always concerned about the missionaries’ health. There are a lot of safety issues for them,” Popp said. “We try to share those things so people can pray intelligently.”
Jackson knew the Bickers through his church in Memphis, Tenn. During the trip, Nov. 12-23, they stayed in Bethlehem and went out to share the Gospel in the townships of Paul Roux and Bohlokong where thousands of people live close together in tiny homes. The group also held meetings in the local community buildings.
“We just had all kinds of open reception,” Jackson said.
It’s no coincidence, he noted, that the WMU was praying at the same time; he said it gave him chills
“Never give up on prayer. We never know when God is going to answer,” Jackson said.
The church leadership is stronger than ever in some of the townships, Jackson said. Popp said they have been praying for the Lesotho church, which does not have strong leadership, partly because members cannot afford to pay their pastors. With more than 750 new converts, the revival was overwhelming to the missionaries and lay leaders, Jackson said.
“We just praise the Lord for it,” he said. He also has a message for the MWMU. “And I just wanted to thank them for praying.”