‘Ruth’ and the dog of Moroka

Moroka is a small rather nondescript village northeast of Francistown, just off the main road to Bulawayo, and only a few miles from the Zimbabwean border. Most houses are modest, small rectangular buildings with metal or tile roofs, with dirt yards swept clean. Some are the traditional round dwellings, thatched, with smooth painted walls. Mrs. Lydia Maleho, the lay leader of the small congregation here, has both.

She isn’t home, but her grandson, named Witness, is. "I will take you to her," he offers. "May I let the cattle out first?" Polite. Rev. Callender, of course, assents. Witness frees them from their overnight pen, and they wander on off.

The congregation meets in Mrs. Maleho’s small living room, but a church building is on its way up. Witness takes us there first, where we see the cinderblock walls of what will be St. Alban’s Church standing on a large plot, awaiting a roof, among other things. The Diocese of Newcastle, which has a companion link with Botswana, has offered to help complete the work.

We return to our van, head back to the narrow tarmac, then turn left onto a dirt track next to a small shop named ‘Why Not Fresh Vegetables.’ It’s closed. No doubt that’s why not.

The future St. Alban's Church, with Witness and George Callender

Mrs. Maleho is at her farm, several miles along the twisting track. Finally we come to a gate, consisting of huge thorny branches. Witness hops out and pulls them aside. We drive a short way, then park and walk. We can see her in the distance.

She brightens up when she sees us. No doubt part of that is genuine hospitality, but I can also imagine she happily envisions a ride back to her home as well.

She’s been gleaning the remnants of her harvest, sorghum mainly, but some rather sad-looking sweet potatoes too. ‘Like Ruth,’ Rev. Callender says.

We lug the bags back to the van and climb in. Her dog, who has accompanied her, looks up. ‘He’ll find his way back,’ she tells me, but the dog has already gauged that in me he has a potential ally. He has big eyes. ‘Surely we can make room for him,’ I say. I hear a sigh. Witness lifts him up into the van, and he settles nicely between the seats.