Twenty days, seventy miles of walking, and many bowls of rice and cassava leaves later, the nine-member missions team has returned from the deep bush. The team consisted of both local Madagascar 3M affiliated missionaries and the five American missionaries on a short-term trip from The Master’s University (TMU). We were again reminded of our great need for the Lord, both physically and spiritually, as we set out to serve Him on the field.
The trip began with the long drive from the capital, Antananarivo, to the eastern coast. We were welcomed in Mahatsara by the local missionaries who showered us with hospitality. The first destination was Ambohimanarivo, where a regional conference for both adults and youth was being held. It was at this event that I was able to share from the Word about spiritual warfare, and his message was accompanied by many questions from the eager listeners. It was clear that the people truly longed for the pure milk of the Word, a beautiful embodiment of the exhortation in 1 Peter.
During our stay at Ambohimanarivo, the team participated in a worship night, a soccer match, some teaching sessions for the conference, the Sunday morning service, and many games with the children. The short-term team, fresh from the America, not able to speak any Malagasy beyond a simple greeting and thank-you, were able to find creative ways to interact and communicate with the kids. You would be surprised at how blowing in between two blades of grass to make a whistling noise can break down barriers!
After returning to Mahatsara, the team spent a day at the beach with other missionaries serving in the area, gaining energy before the long trek the following day and getting to know one another better for the sake of unity.
After the day of relaxing, a good night’s rest, and an early breakfast, the team set out to Tratramarina. The journey took two days, including an overnight stay in the village of Tananan’i Lemanana. Some youth from the village met us 2 hours before our arrival and carried our bags for the rest of the way. When we arrived at our destination, before even greeting us, the people took the time to pray, thanking the Lord for His provision. This is a common practice, done because the people desire to acknowledge God before they acknowledge man.
From the time we arrived in Tratramarina until the time we left, the believers in the village did not cease to show us the utmost hospitality. Their sacrificial hearts spewed the love of Christ. Each day had a similar schedule. In the morning, I would teach the adults on the subject of the Kingdom of God. I was met with must receptivity and curiosity, similar to the believers in Mahatsara, even with the theologically complex nature of this subject. The rest of the team would work with the children. Each session consisted of teaching, singing, games, and review. The team put together two two-hour sessions each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Throughout the two and a half weeks, the team taught through the main events of the Bible, leading up to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The gospel was presented several times to the kids. We pray that they will retain what they have learned and that the Holy Spirit would be working in their hearts.
Every other evening, we projected a Christian movie in the middle of the village, attracting many onlookers, and we always concluded the evening with a clear call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. We were able to do the same in nearby villages who invited us to come to share the Word in their location and project a movie.
We also were involved in the preparation work for the building of a new church in the village. It was amazing to see young and old, vazahas (the word for “foreigner” in Malagasy) and Malagasy work together towards the same goal.
Our goodbye was accompanied by both singing and tears. The members of the church were very thankful for our visit to their village, always making sure we were healthy, fed, and had a place to sleep. They were so inclined to express their gratitude when we left that they even gave the team four chickens as a parting gift. Seeing how little they had and how much they sacrificed was very humbling for the team. We saw a beautiful picture of the body of Christ, which is not distinguished by race, gender, language, or age. Because of their great kindness, we left with not just full stomachs but full hearts, excited by the ministry in Tratramarina and encouraged by the body of believers there.
Despite being physically exhausted, our team has been very spiritually refreshed. The trip was a great reminder that the same Holy Spirit that is in work in the hearts of the big churches in developed countries is at work in the hearts of a small church in a remote part of Madagascar.