Vassula in Maseru, Lesotho - Africa
January 13 - 16, 1999
Wednesday 13th, 1830:
Is Vassula Ryden really coming to Lesotho at long last? Will I wake up from my reverie to find that I was just daydreaming after all? Suddenly the loudspeaker in the Bloemfontein airport (South Africa) gave me a jolt as it blared out:"Flight SA 807 from Johannesburg has just landed". My heart began to pound, my pulse accelerated and the palms of my hands went limp and damp! ... After touch down, the doors of the plane finally opened. One by one, the passengers descended the stairway on to the tarmac. All of a sudden, there she is! Vassula has indeed arrived! Thanks be to God. She finally entered the terminal building. There were hugs and introductions ... Georgia Braun from Monte Carlo, Monaco who was accompanying Vassula: She is also a Greek Orthodox friend who was around to assist in any way during these three days in Lesotho; she was quietly and obtrusively helping here and there; Ulla Barak (Lesotho) originally from Germany, was accompanying Evelyn to meet Vassula. She was the "(k)night driver" (my eyesight is not so good at night). Five minutes later Norman Servais also arrived on Flight SA 1345 from Cape Town to shoot a video of Vassula's visit to Lesotho.
There was more luggages than one car could carry; however, Providence smiled on us and came to our assistance. Mr. Tsepo Mokuku of Maseru drove Norman with, some of the luggage, straight to his hotel at Maseru Sun Hotel. We, four, got into the 'Knight Rider's" car with the rest of the luggage to the Lesotho Sun where, Vassula and Georgia were to be accommodated. The 145 km drive felt like a 45 km one; for we talked a lot â€“ about the program, the arrangements and generally catching up on the early eighties when Vassula, her husband and their two sons lived in Maseru, Lesotho.
This is the day of the BIG MEETING that the Lord has made; we rejoice in anticipation of what it holds for us.
Vassula scheduled a meeting with Norman. Georgia and I were present. The content, form and style of the video production and presentation covering Vassula's visit in Lesotho was discussed. Thereafter, Norman strolled leisurely around, taking shots of Maseru from strategic viewpoints and of its landscape, to give background material to the video.
'AD' LEBONA fetched Vassula and Georgia from the Lesotho Sun Hotel to the venue of the BIG MEETING i.e.. The CONFERENCE CENTRE at the MASERU SUN CABANAS HOTEL. The hall was well arranged. The tables were draped with white cloths and rose-coloured overlays, laden with tall jugs of iced-water and glasses, strategically placed along the walls of the hall and also at the table on the stage. This was a VERY HOT DAY!!! At the rear end of the Hall, TRUE LIFE IN GOD books of various kinds were displayed for sale after the BIG MEETING.
Fr. Thomas Manyeli O.M.I., a Mosotho Catholic Priest of the OBLATES OF MARY IMMACULATE opened the Meting with a Prayer in English and in Sesotho (the local language). After a warm welcome was extended to all present (an ecumenical gathering of Greek Orthodox, Catholics, Anglicans, Methodists, Evangelicals, and any other), an invocation to the HOLY SPIRIT was sung in Sesotho: " TLO HLE MOEA O HALALELANG". Fr. Manyeli was the interpreter for the evening. He has a background of Theology - He is the Senior Lecturer at the NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF LESOTHO (NUL) and also at the ST. AUGUSTINE MAJOR SEMINARY in ROMA (Lesotho). With these credentials, he ably interpreted Vassula's address given in English into good Sesotho, enunciating some of the theological, scriptural and philosophical concepts lucidly. Even the uninitiated understood Vassula's message in its simplicity and profundity. He did a good job. Thereafter, another hymn was sung in English, to set our own minds and spirits in tune with Vassula's message, (which might be unfamiliar and strange to some): "Help us, O God, to hear Thy Word, save us from religious pride and narrowness of mind that we may recognise God's love in all humankind".
Evelyn Lebina then gave a brief introduction of Vassula, the former socialite, tennis player and painter in Maseru (1982-1984) and presently a mystic of the latter part of this 20th century. When she stood up and walked towards the podium to give her long awaited and anticipated address, she was accompanied by loud cheers. Her African Tour had started on the 7th inst. KENYA, then ZAMBIA, and culminated inst. in LESOTHO. From here, she flew straight to her home in Europe. So when she opened her talk by announcing that she had received a message from Jesus Christ, that very morning, there was a hush of anticipation of the unknown.
She read the message:
"I am; My faithful love will not forsake anyone. I shall leave no one hungry for My blessings; I bless every nation in which I am sending you and pour on its people sanctifying graces from the ardent flames of My Sacred Heart's love; therefore keep Me locked in your heart, as I. Jesus, have locked you in Mine; -be happy My child and feel loved by Me, your Saviour IC".
There was a very enthusiastic reception of this "Message". She then began to trace her lifestyle before her 'conversion' till now when she lives on a spiritual level and dimension. Some of the points she touched on were: her tutelage under her guardian angel, Daniel; the kindness and gentleness of God; filial intimacy with God to the level of a true Father or "Abba" or "Daddy"; the slow rendition of Our Lord's Prayer with deliberateness of concentration and meaningfulness, the wide spectrum of Love â€“ (to neighbour and enemy alike); the Rosary - the one prayer that chains Satan; the outpouring of the Holy Spirit; the wonderful role the Blessed Virgin Mary plays in our lives - Mother, intercessor, her paramount activity of leading us to Her Son, Jesus; Prayer â€“ i.e. prayer with the heart (and not with lips only) which is a revitalising spiritual exercise when engaged daily and tenaciously. It brings bountiful results and manifold graces in one's life. Faith, hope, trust, and love are the embodiment of TRUE LIFE IN GOD. Her whole address kept everyone spellbound in its simplicity and depth. When she had finished, there was a thunderous applause from the hall. Yes, God the Divine Potter, chooses His own "clay"; He moulds it as He pleases - where, when and how He wills. Vassula is one such clay; moulded by Him gradually over the years.
Without sitting down, she then led a prayer of the Rosary in Aramaic - a Semitic language used by Jesus. Only one decade - the Fifth Joyful Mysteries - was recited. It was moving to listen to this ancient language that was used six centuries before Christ was born.
Immediately after, Vassula prayed the prayers of healing by the Holy Spirit. Instinctively, many went down on their knees, with reverence and obeisance to the Holy Spirit. A minute of silent prayer intensified this communion with the Holy Trinity. Whilst most were enveloped in this meditative and pensive mood, the assembled sang with great feeling a hymn invoking the descent and infusion of the Holy Spirit in our souls; first in Sesotho "TLO MOEA MOPI OA RONA" and then in English (sung to the same tune) "O COME CREATOR. SPIRIT! COME!"
Fr. Gabriel Tlaba O.M.I. - a Mosotho Catholic Priest, formerly a lecturer in Philosophy at N.U.L. at St. Augustine Seminary and at ST. JOHN VIANNEY (S. Africa) presently serving as General Manager of the Mazenod Institute and at the Mazenod Printing Works, gave a very expressive and meaningful vote of thanks to Vassula on behalf of all present. He articulated the feelings and sentiments of all present splendidly and eloquently.
This blessed day ended with the singing of the Lesotho National Anthem. Its second verse was sung as a closing prayer: -
Molimo a k'u boloke Lesotho
U felise lintoa le mats'oenyeho
Oho fats'e lena
La bo ntat'a rona
Le be le khotso.
O Lord, preserve Lesotho
Bring to an end,wars and strifes
O this land
Of our fathers
May it enjoy peace?
As people left the Hall, singing:
"Bind us together Lord with chords that can not be broken
.. Bind us together with love".
Donations were collected at the door to help defray some expenses that had been incurred. Vassula was gracious enough to meet the people, and let them shake hands with her as they expressed their gratitude and joy for her presence, message and visit to Lesotho.
Friday 15th, 11:30
After a good night's rest, and refreshing breakfast, Vassula and Georgia were fetched from Lesotho Sun Hotel to "Adeve Cragmal View" ("AD" and Evelyn's home) to meet and thank all those who helped to make the big meeting a success, in particular, the General Manager of Maseru Sun Hotel, Mr. Sam Mphana for his extreme generosity; and Mr. RAMAN of Lesotho Sun Hotel (in absentia) for his generosity also. As this was the day of the burial of the ex Prime Minister of Lesotho, late Dr. Ntsu Mokhehle at Teyateyaneng ("TY"), some helpers went to pay their last respects to him.
During the course of the day, Ulla had brought a Pink Rose bush to be planted at "Adeve Cragmal View" as a gift and memento of Vassula's visit here. What a kind and thoughtful gesture! Vassula duly planted it. Its fragrance will always symbolise the presence of the Holy Trinity, its thorns â€“ the acceptance of suffering and trust in God; its beautiful rose colour - God's graces and blessings. A glance at Vassula's painting of "The Mosotho Man on A Horse" in the lounge, and the "Vassula Rose" outside in the garden will strengthen the Message and implant the seeds of a True Life of God.
We had a good wrap-up session, which proved very beneficial to all concerned (TLIG in South Africa & Lesotho) and especially to me in particular. This was the first time that I was involved in organising a TLIG meeting. "But Our Father up there in Heaven is very rich" (Vassula's quotation)- He helped us TREMENDOUSLY. THANK YOU, JESUS FOR ORGANISING YOUR MEETING!
Vassula, Georgia and the eight of us formed a party of ten that drove 45 kms in two cars, to the beautiful Roma Valley is nestled amongst lovely undulating hills. We paid a pilgrimage visit to the grave of Blessed JOSEPH GERARD O.M.I., who was beatified by POPE JOHN PAUL II on September 15 1988. It is enclosed at the eastern side of the Pro-Cathedral in Roma (Lesotho). The enclosure has an altar, few pews and two mohair wall hangings depicting his missionary life in Lesotho. He was the first missionary to bring Christianity (Catholic faith) in Basutoland (as it was known then). There was also a large painting of Blessed Gerard O.M.I. painted by Fr. Ernest Ruch O.M.I. The first Archbishop of Maseru (late Archbishop Emmanuel Mabathoana) is buried in the Pro-Cathedral. Norman had a field day taking shots of the surroundings.
As we were about to leave Roma, we met a very interesting man, "the farmer". He was very curious about this motley crowd of Greeks, Basothos, Nigerian, Portuguese, South Africans and a Belgian. We told him about Vassula, this Greek mystic and her message. "Atch!" (This is a Lesotho exclamation of wonder and surprise). "That is impossible", he exclaimed in disbelief. A poster/flyer still stuck on the Pro-Cathedral door (advertising Vassula's talk in Maseru at 5pm on 14th January) confirmed that she is the one standing before him. Luckily, he could understand and speak a good smattering of English, so Vassula engaged him in a conversation. He turned to me and said, "Atch"!!! I believe, but this is not possible; how can a live person who is not yet dead have a conversation with Christ Himself, hear His voice in dictation and write His words? Atch!!!" Then Vassula gave him some holy "goodies" one by one, at intervals - a prayer card, ... then a Rosary, ... then a medal. "This was too much for me", he said. He was bowled over with joy and gratitude. As though that was not enough, Vassula asked for a photo of him, i.e. snapshot. Wow!! He pulled himself absolutely straight erect "to attention", tilted his old straw hat back at a jaunty angle in order to reveal his WHOLE face, caressed his left cheek with his forefinger and third finger in an exaggerated "arty" pose, his umbrella leaning against his torso; He looked straight into the camera without blinking an eyelid or moving. "Please", he said in all seriousness, "Do send me the snapshot when it is ready. I want to show it to my neighbours in the village; to my Parish Priest over there (pointing at the nearby Presbytery) and to the congregation at large. They will have to believe that I, PHILLIP (beating his breast with his third finger) and not a holy priest actually shook hands with this lucky lady, a visionary sent by God Himself to deepen our faith. I am afraid they will just have to believe when they see my photo in juxtaposition to this poster bearing the image of this lucky lady!!"
There is no doubt that he is going to be a SOWER of the SEEDS in this Roma Valley (Luke 8:4-15). Some "seeds" from his mouth might fall on the disbelieving "on the path"; or on some confused ones "on the rocky ground"; or on some negative ones "amongst the thorns"; however, some will fall on the believing ears - the "rich soil", from which TLIG groups will start to grow, flourish and have their lives and their faith deepened. There were also two seminarians who promised with fervour (after many questions) to plant the "seeds" as soon as the "set of TLIG books" are received, for their libraries i.e. - at St. Theresa's Minor Seminary and St. Augustine's Major Seminary. As we drove towards Maseru, we deviated and went to St. Michael Mission Church - the first and oldest Mission opened by Fr. Gerard. His first house and church still stand to this day.
We drove back to our own respective homes and hotels, full of thanksgiving for the different encounters of a spiritual kind, at times of the humorous nature. We felt blessed that we could enjoy fellowship with Vassula and Georgia practically the WHOLE day.
Saturday 16th, 06:00
Evelyn drove Norman to the S. African Border Post to have his passport stamped with an EXIT entry. This was too avoid joining a long queue later on in the day as he was due to catch his Cape Town flight from Bloemfontein at 14:15, Flight SA 1348. Thereafter, he returned to go to Mass at Archbishop Bernard Mohlalisi's Chapel and ate his breakfast afterwards leisurely.
The same applied to Vassula and Georgia. While they were having their Passports attended to, I waited in my car which was parked next to a Police vehicle. Suddenly two Policemen remarked to me, "Hmm! You are travelling with two beautiful women." I chuckled. "Of course . I will introduce you to them when they have finished having their Passports endorsed," I said tongue-in-cheek. Upon their return, I introduced them to the said gentlemen, explaining who Vassula was and why she was visiting Lesotho. They were taken aback and embarrassed. However, they listened to Vassula with genuine interest and asked endless questions. They hoped to receive the promised books from me. As we drove back, I divulged their real intent, i.e. they wanted to 'chat them up'. We had a good laugh! TLIG certainly has some amusing ways of introducing itself to prospective members, albeit with initial devious motives.
On returning from SA Border Post, we went to "KINGS GRAZING" - an area of a row of UN houses, one of which was once occupied by Vassula, her husband and their two sons, from 1982-1984, in Maseru. These houses are flanked by The Masonic Lodge and Jehovah's Witnesses, at each opposite of the street!!! We started from the bottom, Masonic Lodge end. First house? Definitely not! Second? third? fourth? not!
Then, all of a sudden EUREKA - "There it is," Vassula exclaimed with glee and surprise! As Georgia and I followed her gaze and her pointed finger we could hardly believe what we saw. There nailed on the wooden gate was a small dark grey rectangular wooden board with RYDEN printed in white paint!! You could have knocked me down with a feather! What? after all these FOURTEEN years!! Why did none of the subsequent occupants (and there were several) think of replacing RYDEN with their own names !!! It was my turn to exclaim "Atch!!!" - amazing!!
When "AD" drove Norman to Ladybrand, to be driven by CHRIS LEBONA to Bloemfontein Airport, they went via KINGS GRAZING to take the final shots of some of Lesotho's unpredictable surprises "RYDEN". Well, Jesus kept the last of His "bon-bon" to the last at the end, just as He kept the best wine in Cana to the last, at the end!
The "Knight Driver" sailed through the border to Bloemfontein, without any of us coming out of our car! The departure of Flight SA 1012 at 15:50 was announced. We hugged and said our "au revoirs" (not good-byes) to Vassula and Georgia, for we hope that next year, 2000, Deo Volunte, we will meet again at established TLIG presentations in Maseru, and possibly Roma also.
What a blessed spiritual mini-odyssey it has been!!
"All Praise and Thanksgiving go to "Our Father up there in Heaven, Who is very rich" with blessings, graces and Divine Providence. Thank you Vassula, for including Lesotho in your African trip. Thank you Georgia for your companionship.