Any involvement in ministry has its ups and downs.
In Fort Dauphin, we just wrapped up a week of ups! Sixty brothers and sisters in Christ came together every day this past week to learn under the teachings of a seminary professor and pastor from the States. In the mornings, they studied and discussed Christian Ethics. These sessions included much conversation about cultural influences on a Christian’s life. In the end, the Word of God is the plumb-line. Each afternoon, they looked at God’s grace. What an amazing study with unfathomable reason, but for grace! These individuals represent 25 churches that have been planted in recent years. There was not enough space for all our partners, but these individuals will go back and teach their disciples and congregations what they’ve learned. Pray they will continue to ponder the truths they learned as they teach others and spur one another on. Also, praise God for all he’s done and is going to do in the Antandroy and Antanosy regions!
How often do plans get changed?
Why are we surprised?
Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Yet when it comes to plans any change can be so hard to accept. Recently, there was a bush trip planned. Brett and Katelyn were so excited to follow up with a village they had shared at previously. About two and a half hours into the trip, their car broke down. They wanted to press on but were advised to turn back so the car could be repaired and they could be safe. They obliged. But it wasn’t until they arrived in town after being towed in and got the news that the issue with the car was serious that they accepted the change and were thankful they’d turned back. The next day they got word that the national partner they were going to work with had a baby that morning. We don’t always know why plans change, but we can rest assured that God is not surprised. His ways are higher than our ways. May we trust him at all times in all ways!
Making disciples is a journey. It takes each believer along a learning curve that is continually ebbing, flowing and growing. The vastness of strategies, ideas, trainings and books that offer suggestions for what’s best can be overwhelming. In the midst of all these amazing ideas and tools, one truth remains, the plumb line, the best strategy, the Word of God. As missionaries and national partners go out proclaiming the gospel and seeking to make disciples it’s important to take many things into consideration including context, reproducibility, longevity and end goal. It’s also just as important to know “what’s next”. Each time a new relationship is formed or a group meets, the missionary or national partner, every believer, should ask themselves, “what’s next?”
In Fort Dauphin and the surrounding bush villages much thought, discussion and planning has gone into this process of making disciples. There is continuing discussion on best practices and consideration for what needs to change. Two years ago a group consisting of the six leaders over Antandroy and Antanosy work met together. Recently, another group of leaders over these same two regions met. This time there were 30 leaders. The gospel is spreading. Disciples are making disciples. Workers and leaders alike are rising up. As you pray for this work to continue, don’t forget to ask yourself, “What’s Next?”
Storms come whether you are ready for them or not! In life these storms can take on many forms: sickness, stress, loss, and chaos. How do you respond when life brings you a storm? We’ve been in the rainy season here in northern Madagascar for the last few months and it has been a good one. However, we’ve had several storms come through our area as well. Through the lightening and thunder we get the glorious rain. That made me think about the storms of life, even through the chaos we can come out the other side to “glorious rain” as long as we trust in the One who can calm those storms. My prayer is that those we walk beside each day, those we teach, those we share His story with, and us as well, would come to hold tight to Him through the storms of life. May each of us hold tight to His promises and comfort shared in His Word. “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
Recently, Adam made a trip to the capitol, Antananarivo, to visit the seminary and convention leaders. As he was at the seminary he was able to see a handful of students from the South of Madagascar. As he was reporting back to me on the visit and as I later saw the picture of some of the students I was so encouraged.
Sometimes we forget how the Lord has worked and moved in the lives of the nationals when they go away to pursue theological studies. May we reflect and remember all the Lord has done and may we pray as Paul in Philippians 1:3-6, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” God is doing a mighty work among the people of South Madagascar. Would you remember them in your prayers and agree with me that he who began a good work in each of them will bring it to completion?
The people were all smiling as they came out to greet the missionaries driving into their cactus lined village. The national partner arriving with the missionaries made introductions as they all sat down on the woven mats laid over the dirt. The nationals and missionaries exchanged proper greetings. The missionaries asked, “Do you want to hear about Jesus Christ and sing a song to God?”
“Yes!” the villagers responded.
“What song do you know?”
“We don’t know any songs to sing to God. Teach us.”
The missionaries proceeded to teach them a song along with the gospel. A few people showed interest in following Jesus.
Within a few months, as the national partner continued visiting and sharing with the people, many came to Christ. They were hungry for more stories from the Scriptures and insights into how to follow Jesus.
The missionaries were able to visit every once in a while, but the national partner was key in meeting with the villagers regularly. The time came for the new converts to follow in baptism. In the deserts of South Madagascar water is scarce. Finding a water hole deep enough to baptize is a huge challenge. On this day, the villagers and missionaries walked 10 miles to get to the ocean and back. The lead missionary, along with a few volunteers from Louisiana, stood on the shore surrounded by the new converts and modeled how to baptize. After a little more teaching and verification that the people understood what this step in their faith meant, the leaders of the village took each new convert one by one and baptized them! The people from the village sang praises to God and celebrated with a meal on the beach; rejoicing in this step of obedience in their new found faith.
Teachings continued and the new converts gained more and more understanding of the Scriptures. After some time the missionaries were asked to come back and teach about taking the Lord’s Supper. The people were all smiling again as they came out to greet the missionaries driving into their village. The missionaries had permission to set up a tent and stay for the night. They got the tent up and began fellowshipping with the people. Some women missionaries were cooking with the women in the cooking house. The missionary kids were teaching the village children how to play hop scotch and the men were sitting and beginning to discuss the steps to take the Lord’s Supper, described by the Scriptures. It was an incredible experience to be a part of these milestones in the lives of new Christians who had no preconceived ideas of what these actions should look like. From the time they confessed Christ as their Lord and Savior and learned songs to sing to praise him, to following him in baptism and then learning what it means to remember the Lord through taking the Lord’s Supper, the missionaries were determined to teach them to do everything based upon what the Scriptures say.
Pray the people in the village of Amby will grow in their faith according to the Scriptures. Pray they will weigh every action in light of the Scriptures and that they will be able to stand firm in the midst of persecution and temptation. Pray for the people in the church to grow stronger in their faith and be diligent in sharing the gospel with their neighbors.
If the answer is YES, then you might be feeling like this tree, all alone, at high tide! Sometimes doing what is right and following the truths outlined in the Bible, can leave you standing all alone. I know for our national brothers and sisters, following Christ and His teachings, can leave them either physically or emotionally alone. Our prayer is that even in the midst of many people, they would feel the sweet presence of the Lord. That they can find encouragement and support through His Word, His people, and others that may come into their life. Our prayer is that they would never feel alone, but stand firmly planted in Christ! “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
Every rut, every rock, every turn made my brain feel like it was bouncing inside my skull. At the end of the longest day, my whole body felt out of sorts and I wasn’t sure if my head would stop hurting. I never felt like I was in such bad condition that I needed medical attention, but a few times I wondered, “What in the world are we doing!” You see, a few weeks ago our family spent two weeks traveling around the Southern part of Madagascar visiting national partners, new churches, teammates and taking care of a few errands. We we’re on the road anywhere from 4-11 hours in a single day with some days interspersed of little to no travel. The saying rang true for us that the people are “unreached for a reason.” The roads are terrible! There are a few nice stretches but others were nearly impassable. As you pray for the people of South Madagascar today, ask the Lord of the harvest to send workers from the fields. Pray more nationals would continue to evangelize and make disciples. We’re seeing the beginnings of a movement, but it won’t come without resistance from the enemy. Pray these national believers will be able to stand firm as each and their respective families are persecuted and face spiritual warfare like never before.
Faucet? Well? Bucket? An old used vegetable oil container, called a jerry can? Lately, we’ve been getting our water during the day from jerry cans, just like the ones in this picture. As we gather water from our faucet each night, when we have running water, I’m reminded of those that have to gather at the local community water pump each morning to fill their jerry cans and buckets. They use this time to visit. catch up, some are even washing clothes. Sometimes they just leave their buckets in line and come back later to pick them up. I started thinking about our “living water” and the source. Do we put our buckets in His line and decide to come back later to pick them up? Or do we decide to stop and stay at the Source each day to visit and spend time with Him. There are many in our community who are dry, not only because its the dry season and the water source is low, but there are many who are spiritually dry. Many are gathering at wells that don’t offer any source of “living water”, they are hoping to get nourished, but coming up empty. Please join us in praying for the peoples of northern Madagascar to seek the true source of “living water.” “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water i give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Have you ever looked out amongst your city or the place where you live and wondered, “If everyone needs a chance to hear the Gospel, where do I start?” It can be a daunting task. One of our national partners, whom we are walking side by side in church planting here in in Antananarivo, came and asked the same question. “Where do I start?”
My husband asked him, “Where is your Jerusalem?” In other words, where do you go every day and who do you see? After some thought, our national partner begin to list his daily routine. One of those routines included taking his children to school each morning. When he thought further, he realized that he talked to the security guard at that school every day.
“That’s your Jerusalem!” said my husband. With a smile on his face, our national partner said he understood. The next day he shared Christ with with that very security guard and the guard was ready to accept Christ as his Savior. Our national partner was so excited.
He called us and said, “It worked! Now I’m ready to disciple him.” We are now working with our national partner giving him ‘just in time’ training so he can disciple his new brother in Christ.
Where is your Jerusalem? Where do you go everyday? Who do you talk to? Matthew 28:19 instructs us to “go”, but that verb actually mean ‘as you are going’. As you are going to work… As you are going to school… As you are taking kids to practices… As you are going to the bank… As you are going to the grocery store. As you are going, proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s your Jerusalem!