Pastor John MacArthur taught me to sleep… and more

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What more could a nobody from an island pictured as a haven talking lions and penguins bring to the chorus of thankfulness to God for the longevity, depth, breadth, and fruitfulness of John MacArthur’s ministry? Not much. But I wanted to join in anyway and add to everything that has been said in the past few days because I am grateful.

I first benefited from someone who benefited from MacArthur’s ministry, so I am like a grandchild of sorts. Coming from a French-speaking country I knew very little of him in my early Christian life. Then, in 2010, I was blessed to attend the T4G conference in Louisville and heard him live for the first time as he preached on the “Theology of sleep”. My favorite line from that sermon (maybe not verbatim) was “I don’t sleep a lot, but I sleep well, knowing that God is in control and causes the growth”. Amen to that!

Afterward, I started to avidly listen to his sermons and read a good few of his books. I was puzzled by the fact that all he said or wrote seemed so obvious as it could be drawn from the biblical text and yet so profoundly thought through and so powerfully delivered.

It was at that conference that the Lord confirmed in my heart and mind the growing desire I had to study His Word. I could not think of another place to do so than the Master’s Seminary from which I graduated in May 2017; still wondering how that happened until now. I am astonished at the Lord’s provision that also enabled me to be ordained and for our family to be sent out by Grace Community Church as missionaries back to my own country! Our lives have been so profoundly impacted by pastor John’s ministries; we praise the Lord for what He has done through him.

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So here are 5 things I have had the blessing to take away from my interactions with Pastor John, from sitting under his teaching and from observing all the other pastors that are connected to his ministry. These are 5 things that I will endeavor to emulate for as long as the Lord grants me to be in ministry:

1- Fervency

No matter the occasion, a conference, a Sunday evening at Grace Community Church, a luncheon or a private meeting, his passion for Scripture exudes from every word he uses and undergirds his delivery. He has often said that he never prepared a sermon for the sake of it but always to grow in his knowledge of God and love for Him. Well, both are so evident in his life. He is not only an example at the pulpit, but every preacher ought also to learn from his keenness to study and his drive to share the truth to all around him.

 

2- Faithfulness

We are celebrating how God has kept him faithful for 50 years. This speaks to both his steadfastness in ministry and his authenticity. He genuinely believes all that he has preached and hasn’t changed his approach nor his strategy for ministry over these years. Someone attended the church 20 years after their first visit and said after the sermon: “Well, nothing has changed.” In this day and age, everyone is after novelty; we can celebrate the values of dedication, persistence, and loyalty to Scripture displayed in the life of pastor John.

3- Focus

Having the apostle Paul as his model for ministry, John MacArthur can definitely say with him “For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2, NASB) He is striving to exalt the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ at every sermon. It is so remote from the rampant anthropocentrism of our days. It is also so remote from the attempts by many pastors to draw attention to themselves. Being single-minded allows you to be stable (James 1:8), and so he has been for 50 years and counting.

4- Fraternity

He set as a priority early in his ministry to meet with men every Saturday morning to train and disciple them. The fruits of these weekly meetings will only be fully ascertained when we are in glory. This 2 Timothy 2:2 approach is still applied through the different ministries that have been founded since such as the Master’s Seminary and the Master’s Academy International, and it is what binds us together. The priority given to training men is now not applied only in an office building on Roscoe Boulevard, but in close to 70 countries worldwide impacted by his stand for male spiritual leadership and maturity. A band of brothers, that is what we are, sharing a commitment for the church, personal holiness, love for the lost and expository preaching.

5- Family

Many of us have heard the famous quote from his son: “Dad, when you are at home, you are not that special.” Or maybe have you heard him talk about the deal he made with his children, “you come to my sermons, I come to your games.” John MacArthur is a family man. He has modeled over the years putting his family first. He has faithfully loved Patricia and has raised his children in the fear and admonition of the Lord. He is a sweet grand-father, remaining available for his family despite the incredible amount of responsibilities he carries. He speaks kindly to them, never raises his voice and never loses patience.

He is also such a man to his friends and long-time church members. One of our greatest shared memory is the day when we celebrated the 92nd birthday of Charles Miller, a member of the church who was bed-ridden and who Lily and the kids visited weekly at the time. As they came in with balloons and a cake to surprise Charles, they were the one surprised to find John and Patricia there to also greet Charles for his birthday. John asked Charles what he wanted for his birthday, and Pastor John went himself to get the green tamales and milkshake he asked for. What an amazing display of kindness and care.

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For all of this and so much more, I celebrate the Lord’s goodness for enabling pastor John to be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor 15:58, NASB). Soli Deo Gloria!

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Working with the Young, Reformed and Restless

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Madagascar 3M endeavors to “identify, train and equip pastors for the work of the ministry.” As per the nature of the “identification” leg of our ministry, we are bound to work a lot with young people. And we made the chose to include many youths in our staff and intern team. Working with young people is exciting and has a few particularities either to be managed or to take advantage of.

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I have personally been impressed by the skill set and ingenuity the youth can offer in different aspects of the ministry. With the technological advances in the means of communication and administration, the youth have an edge on those of us who are familiar with bush-line telegraphs and telexes. There are also many young Christians who have acquired a diploma in a professional field and are looking for ways to serve the Lord with their abilities. They come with an amount of dedication and enthusiasm that are often lacking in veteran workers. They are also often very entrepreneurial, daring to take risks and explore new avenues. Their creativity is boundless, and they can bring a fresher approach to the way we do ministry, not compromising on truth, but using ways to make the communication of core truths effective and efficient.

Distraction

I would not want some of you to think that I would like to put everyone over 30 on early retirement. Working with youth comes with its lot of challenges. Millennials are notorious to have the attention span of a 5-year old in the workplace. The monotonous regularity of some aspect of the ministry bores them to death, the rote tasks are abhorring to them and they end up often wishing they were doing something else. They can end up being everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Scripture repeatedly compares the work of the ministry to the agricultural field. Perseverance and patience are thus necessary elements of being in the Lord’s service. Our young people need to re-learn the lost arts of meditation and contemplation.

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With their bubbling hormones and their quest for their own identity, managing relationships, in a team replete of godly young men and women, has revealed itself to be a very interesting exercise. They are at that age when they want to identify the one who will be their mate for life and are exploring their possibilities. I have had countless hours of “crush management”, pre and post-relationship counseling and answering the question “how do I know he/she is the God-sent one?”. The rubber meets the road here as it is about applying God’s Word to very real-life circumstances for these young people.

Discipleship

All of these are amazing opportunities for discipleship. My wife and I are passionate about pouring ourselves into the lives of these youths and see Christ being formed in them (Gal 4:19). We are eager to see our church applying the model set in Titus 2 where mature men invest in the lives of younger men, and mature women disciple younger women. The Great Commission in Matthew 28 calls us to be disciples of Christ making disciples of Christ of others. Discipleship is the heartbeat of the church. We have 2 Timothy 2:2 as a pillar verse to our ministry and we are so thankful for the fruits we have been able to reap already. We pray that the Lord will continue to bring along many young men and women eager to serve Him with the specific skill set and zeal He has granted them so that a new generation of godly church leaders would be raised, churches matured and the lost reached.

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The International Summit for Expository Preaching

In October 2017, Madagascar 3M was officially registered as a company immediately set things in motion to organize the first-ever conference for church leaders focusing on Expository Preaching. Then, the day came on October 10th and we are so thankful that God in His goodness allowed such a gathering to happen.

Our name stands for what we believe the minister of God should be: a preacher of God’s Word, a shepherd of God’s people and a servant of Christ. Our vision from the start has been to work with existing structures and contribute to the identifying, training and equipping of people for the work of the ministry. Nothing embodied more that vision and desire than this conference.

To see the 200+ people from different church denominations, from the city and the countryside, pastors and laymen, young and old, really filled my heart with gratitude.

For 4 days, the preeminence of God’s Word was asserted. We affirmed its inerrancy, its authority and its sufficiency. We looked at the responsibility of the preacher to preach the Word, as per the theme verse of this conference in 2 Tim 4:2. We delved into how he must do it and why He must do it. We examined what makes preaching a unique encounter with God.

I would like here to greet and thank the speakers and dear brothers who came to serve us for that week. We are from different countries, from different backgrounds, but we all share a passion for the exposition of the Word of God. They have been examples to me in following Christ, and their messages were all very encouraging and challenging.

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My prayer is that the conference was for those who attended it a blessing and a time of nourishment to their soul. I pray that it shaped convictions in their heart as to why and how the Word must be preached. I pray that relationships were built with like-minded brothers and sisters and that this would be the launch of a movement here in Madagascar promoting faithful exposition of the Word and a faithful representation of that Word by those who preach it.

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We at Madagascar 3M want to continue to serve and equip the church to do the work the Lord has called them to do. We want to be instruments to spread the glorious gospel of Christ in our land.

Isaiah 42:10 says:

“Sing to the LORD a new song,
Sing His praise from the end of the earth!
You who go down to the sea, and all that is in it.
You islands, and those who dwell on them.”

May the Lord’s name be sung unto the utmost parts of Madagascar.

We are already planning and inviting you to attend the second International Summit for Expository Preaching which will take place on October 9th to 12th 2019, Lord willing.

Therismos – Fueling the Lord’s Harvest

We are proud to announce the launch of Therismos Investment Company, a joint venture between Madagascar 3M and iBluesky, LLC headed by visionary Christian entrepreneur and Amazon best-seller author, Steve Adams.

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“Therismos” is the Greek word for “harvest” in Matthew 9:36-37: “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into His harvest.” Our motto is “Fueling the Lord’s harvest”. We are unapologetically committed to use the profits made to contribute to the advancement of the kingdom of God.

Despite its many resources, Madagascar is one of the poorest countries in the world. Almost 75% of the population lives with less than a dollar per day. Churches in major cities and in the countryside are struggling financially. Pastors are usually bi-vocational holding an additional job as a farmer or a stock breeder.

The vision of Therismos Investment Company (TIC) is to contribute to help pastors and church leaders towards a sustainable income so they can focus on the ministry of the Word and prayer. TIC also desires to support the evangelism and missions efforts carried out by our partner churches and Christian organizations. Finally, TIC has been established to contribute to making Madagascar 3M self-sustaining in a few years, and thus be a model to other local Christian businesses.

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Ethanol is an alcohol found in alcoholic beverages and is used in industry as a solvent or disinfectant. Concentrated and hydrated, ethanol becomes bioethanol, a biofuel that is mixed with gasoline or diesel for the consumption of engines. Bioethanol can also be used in homes, with specific stoves, as a replacement to coal or gas. It can be made from cassava or sugar cane. Cassava is going to be the crop of choice for the project because it is a crop that grows with minimal water, and also because people are stealing sugar cane to make illegal alcoholic beverages.

In the first phase, TIC will help countryside pastors to plant cassava and then sell the produced cassava to a partner company which produces ethanol.

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In the second phase, TIC will look at diversifying by exploiting other cassava-based products for the local and international market.

Finally, our ambition is to be able to build a Bioethanol distillation plant in order to give work to some of our church leaders and members, as well as to increase their income as they sell the finished product. This will also contribute to a change in practices as we will encourage people to move towards a green source of energy.

Please pray that the Lord would be merciful to us as we will soon plant the first batch of cassava. Pray for rain, for good soil, for growth and protection of the crops. A new venture for our organization, yet with the same God and the same desire to serve Him.

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Soles for souls

The discussions are raging currently within the evangelical church in the USA around social justice. These are I believe important ponderings, especially when it pertains to the preeminence of the Gospel. Yet, one of the things that sadden me is to see how easily it has become a war on semantics and a conflict of perspectives, to the expense of developing a Christ-like compassionate heart for others. I have been even more saddened because I saw a more empathetic attitude from the members of a non-Christian organization, Soles 4 Souls, who were here in Madagascar to give away shoes to the poorest.

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I have been observing these ladies washing dirty feet, hugging children, wiping snotty noses and giving away even their own shoes and clothes to the people we visit.

They are not doing it for a photo-op, but out of love. They are all from different religious backgrounds and walks of life, but they all share the same heart and zeal for people.

In the span of 7 days, we were able to distribute shoes in 7 different locations, giving away footwear to children aged 4 to 14 in partner children clubs. The monitors within these clubs are giving their time, energy and often from their own money to take care of these children every Saturday; it was so good to see the smile on their faces as brand-new shoes were placed on the feet of the children they love and share the Word of God with.

Even though it was a short visit, these ladies have developed a heart for our country and I am thankful that the Lord brought them our way. I am thankful that Soles4souls chose to entrust Madagascar 3M with the organization of the trip. I am grateful for all the interns and volunteers who helped us with the planning and the distribution.

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As we gave to the “little ones” (Mat 10:42), we were the ones who gained the more. I pray that this partnership will continue in the future. These children are being taught from Scripture every week; the salvation of their souls remain our utmost priority. But they do need shoes, and clothes, and school gears, and health care, and so much more. Are we not to help them if we can?

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I am not confused about the priority and singularity of the gospel, but as gospel bearers in a country where poverty, injustice, and corruption are vividly part of our daily reality, every believer in this country ought to contemplate how he practically can live out loving his neighbor as himself. Why are we not as Christians pouring out into the lives of others around us the love we have undeservedly received from above?

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Material aid has never been and will never be the first responsibility of the church; making disciples of the crucified Christ is. But along the way, I pray and challenge us as individual Christians to not close our eyes to the depravity around us, not only at the spiritual level but also at the physical level. Needs are everywhere, within the church and outside. The same heart of compassion compelled Jesus to teach people many things and feed them (Mark 6:34-44). May we all seek wisdom from the Lord and follow His example.

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TMAI President visit to Madagascar

We had the privilege of having Dr. Mark Tatlock, president of The Master’s Academy International (TMAI), visit us a few weeks ago. He is one of the pastors of the fellowship group we attended at Grace Community Church and was my boss at work during our time in the USA. We became friends and I have always looked up to him as one of my mentors and so always cherish any time I have to pick his brains and learn from his example.

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His visit was very encouraging to me as I was able to show him the context in which we serve as well as hold a few key meetings and discussions on what a TMAI involvement in Madagascar can look like.

 

He was also able to visit and preach at our home church, have lunch with some of the members of the congregation, and meet with the eldership team.

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There are still a lot of building blocks that need to come together for this to become a reality, but it was so uplifting to be able to frame the potential future a little bit better. Please continue to pray as the Lord is at work to raise more worshippers and witnesses of His great name here in Madagascar.

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You can read Mark’s impressions from his visit here.

My Time in Madagascar

By Hannah Cullen

From the moment I first heard Faly entreat the students at The Master’s University to come to do ministry with him in Madagascar, the Lord put it on my heart to chase that supplication until it became a reality. Now that I’ve experienced what Madagascar has to offer and what fervent ministry is being done each week on the large African island, I am eager to witness more of what the Lord has in store for Faly and my other brothers and sisters in Christ serving there.

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After landing in Antananarivo and driving through the busy city, I was surprised by the landscape. Maybe I was expecting to be in the jungle? Maybe I was expecting lemurs on the side of the road? What I did know was that I had been to Africa before but the scenery was far from what I had imagined it to be in Madagascar. I was reminded it was a third-world country.

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Being immediately struck by the friendliness of Faly and his team, I was on the edge of my seat ready to get started with the next two weeks. We spent our first few days meeting people from church, adapting to the lifestyle and prepping for a Vacation Bible School (VBS). Then on our first Sunday afternoon, we went into the heart of the city to meet with children varying from ages 2-14, introduce ourselves and share some of our testimonies. The smiling faces on each child’s face brought instant joy to every member of our team. I would say it was a greater encouragement for us to experience the eagerness and generosity we received from them as they welcomed us into their classroom.

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The more we discussed the logistics of the VBS, the more excited I was to have a massive sleepover with hundreds of kids. My teammate Sarah and I began preparing the crafts and all the supplies we needed to bring. Even so, there was a factor of mystery. We had no idea what our “craft room” would look like, how many kids would actually attend, if we had enough supplies, and whether or not the message behind each craft would leave an impact on at least one child. It was our first test of faith. Sure enough, on Monday morning, with the help of some of our team, Sarah and I began building our craft tables out of bricks and old doors. We had prayed the translators would understand our instructions to the kids and would know of ways to occupy their time with us. The the first wave of children came. It was just the right push and from then on we were motivated to bring the gospel into each craft, prayer and activity.

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Whether we were washing our own dishes in a small water bucket or sleeping on a sheet of wood, those three days taught me three things: you don’t need a shower or mattress for a successful VBS, children around the world are virtually interested in the same thing, you can never have too many glue-sticks.

 

 

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Prayer and flexibility gave way to an exciting, small week of worship, fellowship, and creativity to a team of Americans. Remembering why we were where we were was just the motivation we needed to set aside our comfort and serve a group of children who were thirsty for the pure milk of God’s Word. It is for that reason, our Savior never stopped providing for us.

Teaching Out of my Comfort Zone

By Ferris Smith

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An American who had never been out of the United States going to the bush of eastern Madagascar was an incomparable experience, to say the least. After two days of hiking into the bush, in the rain, we arrived at Tratramarina.

The people there were such a blessing to us. They served us coffee sweetened with sugarcane and more rice than we could eat. The next seventeen days were nothing that I could have fully expected. The hospitality of the villagers was something that I cannot ever forget. They gave us everything they could. When we arrived, they gave us a hut to stay the day in, and before the day was over, they gave us two more huts to sleep in. When that was not enough room for us, they gave us ground, enough to set up two tents on. In the first day, they did more for us out of kindness – yet they had no way of knowing anything about us or what we could do for them – than anyone has done for me in my life. When we left, they gave us chickens out of the abundance of their hearts.

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During our time in Tratramarina, the rest of my team and I were responsible for teaching the children the bible. Starting in Genesis, with Creation, through the Old Testament to the Gospels. It was, of course, impossible to cover everything in that time, especially with kids. However, we made it our goal to touch on the important points in-between Creation and the Gospel that would most prepare the children to understand the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. I taught only twice while in Tratramarina. I taught the ten commandments, and I co-lead the lesson that recapped the whole time of teaching at the end of the time in Tratramarina. Teaching the Ten Commandments to three to twelve-year-old children was a difficult thing to do. I am under the conviction that if you teach and you do not show in your teaching that God is great, then you have failed in your teaching. Teaching the Ten Commandments was more than telling them some law that Jesus summed up. I knew I had to give them the theological reasoning that should be behind us when we obey the Ten Commandments. In other words, I had to answer the question, “why does this commandment matter so much to our relationship with God and other people?” It might seem impossible to teach such theological principles to kids, however, I am now under the conviction that most children can handle more theology than we give them credit for.

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At the end of that lesson, I realized one of the biggest problems I would have here in Madagascar: I couldn’t have any type of verbal or non-verbal reaction for my audience to better understand if they truly understood what I was saying. So I had to make sure that everything I taught had to be grounded in 3 things: an accurate representation of the Word of God, an effort to show that God is great, and a full trust that the Lord would permit everything to be translated correctly, so that that they were understanding exactly what God wanted them to understand. It was difficult for someone like me who is usually able to know how the audience reacts to what he says when preaching or teaching.

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The Lord grew me in many ways while I was in Tratramarina, but the biggest lesson for me was to realize that I had some measure of fear of man in my teaching. There, I had to trust God for the content of my message and for the ability of my hearers to hear it. Learning to trust God and not myself was the most liberating thing, not because it took the responsibility off me, but because it was a way to worship the Lord wholly in my teaching, as I feared Him and no man, woman or child.

Trust in Suffering: A “Vazaha” Experience

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By Chris Pena

Here amongst the Malagasy people, the word for a “white foreigner” that is commonly used is “Vazaha.” This is a name that we would continue to hear for the duration of our time on this six-week missions trip. Upon my arrival in the country of Madagascar, it was a quick turn-around to what we would call the “Deep Bush.” It was an eight-hour drive to the small village of Mahatsara, followed by a twenty-seven-mile hike to the village of Tratramarina.

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We quickly experienced a taste of the harsh realities that the Malagasy people face daily. Once we finally reached this remote village, our goal was to do a series of Biblical lessons that would cover the Old Testament, culminating with the resurrection of Christ. It came time for me to teach on Jesus healing a blind man. Now, in this chapter, we see that the question is posed to Jesus as to what sin did this man, or his parents did to make this man born blind. To which Our Savior responds, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him (John 9:3).” This became one of the most humbling experiences of the trip and here is why. Some of these villagers were slowly dying by a parasite called “Schistosomiasis”, also known as “snail fever”.  What this parasite would do is when it would enter the body, mainly due to drinking contaminated river water, is that it would attach itself to the inner linings of the lower intestines and then multiply to the point of rupturing the intestines. There were about 8-10 people in this village that were living with this parasite in their body, and many of them had witnessed fellow villagers dying from this parasite. Not only were the conditions grim due to the scarcity of food, clean water, and proper healthcare, but also with this parasite that if left untreated would literally eat them from the inside out.

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Since I had been there for about two weeks at the point that I taught this lesson, I was aware of the kids that had this parasite, and the ones that had lost parents because of it. These kids were no strangers to suffering and the challenging part for me was to look these kids in the eyes and from the Scriptures explain that all suffering gives glory to God. Compared to these children, I am a pampered American that just so happened to be living with them for a short time. But the Word of the Lord rings true no matter what status I may have. It was humbling in the sense of knowing that I cannot relate to what they are dealing with, but what I can do is point them to the One who knows the suffering of His people and is inclined to hear their prayers.

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God’s Word was the all-sufficient means of reaching the people of Tratramarina, not the words of a “Vazaha.” This is but a sample of the humbling experiences that has so caused me to trust in the sufficiency of Scripture and therefore lay hold of the promises that lie within it.