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.

Ministry to Tratramarina

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

A Zeal for God and a Love for People

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I was on my way to the West Coast of Madagascar to visit a couple of churches when I received a phone call informing me that my mum was taken to the hospital as an emergency as she was not feeling well. As she was not able to make it last Sunday to church to listen to me preach (and she would never miss that for anything in the world), I knew there was something really wrong. I called Lily and told her to go to the hospital with the kids. She called me back half an hour later in tears, telling me I had to come back. My mum had passed into glory.

There is so much to say to celebrate what God has done in her life and through her life. She has left quite a spiritual legacy and so many reasons to glorify God. She has shared the gospel faithfully. She did so both with the highest in the Malagasy society rungs, ministering to the wives of people in authority or army generals, and with the lowest, walking sometimes 35 miles in the countryside at age 72 to bring the Word of God to rural villages. And she was faithful both outside the home, and within the home. I remember that when I was still in my parents’ home, even as a 22/23-year-old man sometimes coming home at 1am following business meetings or time with friends, she would still wait for me as she had committed to pray with me every night, and so she did. That’s my mum. The greatest thing my mother has given me is a model of love for God and His Word. I have decided to preach on Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 for her funeral on Friday May 5th 2018, as a tribute to her. Please pray for me, that God would find me faithful to His Word. Please pray for the service, that as her life was not in vain, so won’t be her death. And that even as we put her body in the grave, many would turn to Christ and would have, like her, the assurance of the future resurrection at the Lord’s return.

 

Sommet International de la Predication Textuelle

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A Madagascar 3M, nous affirmons que la Parole de Dieu est divinement inspirée, qu’elle est sans erreur et qu’elle est absolue. Nous affirmons qu’elle est suffisante pour contribuer à la vie et à la piété de chacun (2 Pierre 1 :3). Malheureusement, Les Saintes Ecritures ne sont plus la seule source de vérité divine pour les prédicateurs sur notre ile ; beaucoup leur ont suppléé les rêves, les visions, les traditions ou la sagesse humaine.

Le Sommet International de la Prédication Textuelle (SIPT 2018), qui aura lieu du 10 au 13 Octobre 2018, sera le premier du genre à Madagascar et, nous l’espérons, pas le dernier.

Cette conférence de 4 jours permettra de mettre en avant la prédication textuelle et inclura des ateliers, des prédications, de la louange, et des sessions de questions-réponses. Elle réunira des orateurs anglophones, francophones et malgaches, tous unis par leur amour pour Christ et leur attachement à la prédication textuelle.

Nous prions que 300 pasteurs et leaders d’église venant de toutes les dénominations, églises indépendantes et associations chrétiennes se joignent à nous pour cet évènement. Nous prions également pour que ce soit le lancement d’un mouvement local rassemblant les pasteurs désireux de revenir à la Parole. Nous souhaitons former une communauté fraternelle d’encouragement mutuel pour que chacun s’applique à dispenser droitement et avec passion la parole de la vérité (2 Tim 2 :15).

Sommet International de la Prédication Textuelle

  • 8 Prédicateurs de 5 pays différents

  • 300 Pasteurs et Leaders d’église

  • Un livre sur la Prédication textuelle offert à tous les participants

  • Un 2eme livre offert aux 100 premiers inscrits

Pour que cet évènement soit un succès, nous avons besoin de votre aide, par la prière et par votre contribution financière pour nous aider à couvrir les frais logistiques de la conférence. Merci de nous contacter sur contact@madagascar3m.org pour tout renseignement, pour vous inscrire ou pour nous supporter financièrement.

“Prêche la parole, insiste en toute occasion, favorable ou non, reprends, censure, exhorte, avec toute douceur et en instruisant.” 2 Tim 4:2

 

 

A Faithful God

An Unexpected Call

Another week, another miracle. Hasiniaina and Henintsoa were called to lead a youth camp in Ampefy, 90 miles from Antananarivo. As they had been already serving together in a ministry with youth and teenagers, the association “Avotr’aina ho an’nyankizy” (literally “Life Rescue for Children”) called upon them to lead their camp just 2 days before that camp started; a difficult challenge given the short time they had to prepare. They were told by many other team members that they were very blessed to serve together, yet they needed this opportunity to appreciate that blessing again, as both their hearts were heavy with concerns related to their future wedding. But they shook these off, put their trust in the Lord and taught the kids on the theme of “ A New Creature”, emphasizing what it means to follow Christ. “Avotr’aina ho an’nyankizy” is an association which takes care of orphans and poor children, exactly like Fitarikandro’s Ministry, where Hasiniaina and Henintsoa have been serving since 2015.

The first day was a day of discovery of nature and biodiversity. While visiting the “Geysers of Ampefy”, they saw firsthand the greatness of God, who created everything and who also designed a marvelous plan of salvation. The 80 teenagers were divided into 5 groups named Paul, Matthew, Maria Magdalena, the Samaritan Women and Cornelius. Five people made a profession of faith during the camp.

The second day started with a meditation on Colossians 3: “Think of the things above”. Then the teaching was about “Being a Real Follower of Christ”. The teenagers were very happy to discover and understand the real meaning of receiving Jesus as Lord, and not only Savior. They were told that following Christ in one’s daily life includes giving up everything and being ready to die at any time for the cause of Christ. They were challenged with life-defining questions, “Are you ready to surrender your will, your thoughts, your everything? Are you ready not to yield whatever the cost? Do you realize you have nothing to lose on earth and all to gain in heaven?”.

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Where is Your Home?

These kids and youth had a very difficult upbringing and have known poverty since their birth. As they are fighting on a daily basis for food or bed, it was easier for those teenagers and children to understand that their real home is not here on earth. It’s such a blessing to see their smiles and tears of joy when we talked about the fact that Jesus prepared a home for us in heaven and that death is not the end, but just the beginning of all that they would have been living for in the. The second day ended with the youths having to do a “news report”, during which they shared in their own words how to be a real Christian.

Getting Real…

The final day was all about applying what they had learned. Hasiniaina and Henintsoa talked about showing love and forgiveness to others. The teenagers were surprised as they opened their lessons with of the top 5 difficult words to say. The first one was “AcideDesoxyriboNucléose”, and the list culminated with “I am sorry, please forgive me”. It is even harder to forgive each other sins, but if we take a look at Matthew 18, we see the story of the bad servant. He was forgiven by the King but refused to show mercy to his friend. We often do the same.

The camp finished with a visit to “Chute de la Lily” waterfalls where they discovered the beautiful work of God once again.

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Ultimately, Hasiniaina and Henintsoa learned afresh to trust in the faithfulness of God in every situation. In his own words, “Even when everything seems gloomy and messy, we cannot forget that the Lord is on our side. We cannot overlook the fact that our real life is what awaits on the other side of eternity. Our mission here on earth is to proclaim His holiness and His love. We need to lose our pride and fear and keep our sight on the incomparable promised heavenly life. Our temporary afflictions here are nothing, really nothing. So, let’s all be strong and courageous!”

Catharina von Schlegel famous anthem is a fitting reminder of the sweetness of the promise those who believe in Jesus have to one day meet their beloved Savior:

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul; thy best, thy heavenly, Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

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In One Single Act

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Though differing in their views on the extent of the atonement, evangelical theologians would mostly agree on the array of theological implications of the single sacrificial act of Christ. As we celebrate His death on the Cross this Friday, let us savor afresh the array of benefits which Christ wrought to His own in one single sacrificial act on a tree of torture outside Jerusalem. In one single act, Jesus secured:

Our Reconciliation

Reconciliation is broadly defined by a Greek lexicon as “the exchange of hostility for a friendly relationship” (BDAG, 521). Mankind broke the existing relationship with God at the Fall. Man is now separated from God and needs to be brought back into family fellowship with his Creator yet cannot do anything on his own to bring about this reconciliation. It is granted to man based on Christ’s perfect obedience and substitutionary death on the Cross. 2 Corinthians 5:18 has “us” is the object of the main verb, which has been argued to refer either solely to Paul and the apostles, or to all men, or to all believers. Yet, here Paul is calling the Corinthian church, especially its leadership, to be involved in the ministry of reconciliation. Paul elaborates on the divine ordination and accomplishment of that reconciliation. Every believer is made a new creation (v. 17), not only those with an apostolic ministry but to all those within the human race whose life has been controlled by the love of Christ (2 Cor 5:14). As such, the objective recipients of the reconciliation work of Christ are those who place their faith in Him.

Our Justification

Justification is the sovereign forensic act of God by which He declares the believers righteous, erasing their guilt before Him because of their sins, and imputing to their account the perfect righteousness of Christ (2 Cor 5:21). Mankind has broken God’s law necessitating a punishment, which is death (Rom 6:23; 1 Cor 15:56; 2 Cor 1:9). This price has been paid in full by Christ on the Cross. It is granted by faith alone, in Christ alone (Phil 3:9; Rom 1:17, 3:28, 5:1). It excludes all those who have not come to saving faith. Moreover, faith is not what justifies the sinner, but rather the Object and the Enabler of that faith. This implies only two possible statuses before God, in line with the federal headship of Adam and Christ: man is either condemned or declared righteous now and on the day of judgment (Rom 5:10-21).

Our Substitution

Echoing the Reformers sentiment, Calvin has labeled the truths of 2 Corinthians 5:21 as the “wondrous exchange”, in which Christ bore the punishment for sins on behalf of sinners, dying in their place, and His righteousness was imputed to them. Thus, the sinners stand forgiven and adorned by Christ’s righteousness. Christ is the Suffering Servant fore announced as bearing the penal consequences of sin as a substitute, bearing the fullness of God’s wrath for sins (Isa 53:5, 10). This fully satisfactory payment and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness are the basis of the reconciliation and the believer’s justified stand before God. Additionally, the substitution necessarily leads to a union with Christ through mutual indwelling.

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Our Redemption

Jesus was not only a substitute but a ransom. This idea is conveyed in Scripture through the use of a word in the original carrying a legal and commercial idea of the redemptive act (Titus 2:14; 1 Pet 1:18). The concept replacement is reinforced by the use of another related word in 1 Timothy 2:6 which can only be found there: “…who gave Himself as a ransom for all…”.

Christ’s penal substitutionary sacrifice freed the believer from the bondage of sin and fully paid his debt to God for that sin.

The Greek verb translated “to buy” is also used to express the idea of redemption (1 Cor 6:20. It is defined as “to acquire things or services in exchange for money”. It was the word used in biblical times for the purchasing of slaves. In the same way as a master would go to the slave market, select and procure slaves, so the believer has been delivered, on account of Christ’s payment with His own life (1 Cor 7:23; Rev 5:9) from the kingdom of darkness and ushered into the kingdom of the Son who is now his owner and Lord (Gal 4:7).

Our Propitiation

A holy God is rightly angry against the nature, the presence and the effects of sin. Christ’s death on the Cross was the only propitiation acceptable to God to satisfactorily remove that anger (Rom 3:25; 1 Pet 2:24; 1 John 2:2; 1 John 4:10). The propitiation was in the Greco-Roman literature a means to regain the favor of a king or a deity. The gift, if appropriate, made amends for the offenses of the one who brought it. The sinner has broken God’s holy law through his inherited sinful nature and his sinful deeds, words, and thoughts. The sacrifice offered to atone for these had to be perfectly spotless. Only One who never has sinned could be that propitiation, and so was Christ. The need for propitiation underlines the stark contrast between the sinner being under God’s increasing wrath (John 3:36; Rom 1:18) culminating on the day of judgment (Rom 2:5; Heb 10:26-27) on one hand, and the believers who are saved from that wrath, now at peace with God (Rom 5:1) on the other hand.

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The provision of Christ as penal substitutionary atonement is part of God’s salvific plan, which has been determined and ordained from eternity past. The time, means, purpose, and beneficiaries of Christ’s death have been fixed by the Trinity before the beginning of time as part of the New Covenant. The triune God has determined and designed from eternity past a covenantal relationship with a determined group of people. The divine plan of salvation indivisibly comprises an electing decree by the Father, a purchase of redemption through the blood of the Son, and a sealing by the Holy Spirit of an eternal union with God. What a joy to celebrate that One Single Act on this day.