It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Our family was all dressed and ready for church. We got in our car, ready to drive to our morning place of worship, when behold, our car wouldn’t start. At the very same time that my husband was trying to figure out why our car wouldn’t start, I was receiving a WhatsApp message from my Muslim friend, Sarah*, asking how I was doing. This friend of mine lives in a different country than I, but we used to live in the same location. I RARELY receive messages from her unless I have initiated first. This is particular morning I find this unusual. It’s also unusual that our brand-new Toyota Fortuner car is not starting.
We have learned to see God is all of our circumstances. “All things work together for good to those who love God” says Romans 8:28. So I immediately start wondering what this means for our morning – this message from my friend, and our car not allowing us to go to church. Our university son who just happens to be with us mentions watching a sermon on TV. We turn it on and the pastor ‘just happens’ to be preaching on Mark 5 – the story of the lady who has had bleeding for 12 years, and how she reached out her hand to touch the hem of Jesus’ robe. THIS IS THE STORY I HAVE SHARED WITH SARAH ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS. Sarah has had bleeding, infertility, and many miscarriages the last few years, and she longs to get pregnant. I have encouraged her to “reach out to Jesus” just as the lady in this story. I have even given her a Bible in her own language, Urdu, and she has been reading the Bible.
Is this coincidence that we are kept from church, that I have received a message from Sarah at the exact time, and that this pastor is preaching the exact story which Sarah knows well? Could it be that God is showing me right now to pray for her, to share the story to her again, and to spend my morning reaching out to her instead of going to church? I believe my purpose on this Sunday morning is doing just that: connecting with Sarah.
I then share this happening with Sarah, and I remind her of Jesus’ love for her. Will you pray for Sarah right now? She is searching for truth. Jesus is her truth. Pray that she would reach out for His hem, and receive the truth into her heart. Also pray that Jesus would do a miracle for her – and allow her to conceive a child. Jesus wants her to be His child, and He can also give her her own child. This is my prayer.
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?”
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.
Everyday we see faces like this Antandroy man. He is listening intently to the stories from God’s word, trying to make sense of this new idea, Jesus, Savior of the world.
Men like this have been hearing these stories, believing and following Christ in faith. Many are also taking these stories and sharing them with their households and friends.
Praise God that children like these will grow up learning these stories! Pray they will come to know the Lord in a personal way and be able to take what they’ve heard and entrust it to those who will be able to teach others also.
Pray the Word of God and a relationship with Jesus Christ would take over as the ultimate source of power in each Antandroy and Antanosy person’s life. Break them away from the power and fear they live in trying to worship and cling to the traditions of pleasing their ancestors.
As they cling to this newfound faith, pray they would be laborers for the harvest is plentiful!