Mahatsara Mission Trip Log – Day 3

Sore legs and happy hearts. These words sum up how we feel at the end of the day. We took off at 6:00am and managed to drive the car a little bit further up the road. 10 minutes less walking is a great bonus! No canoe today so we had to walk across the river finding a shallower area where we could walk with water up to the waist. That was really fun!

We reached the village 15 minutes before the start of the conference and thus jumped right into it. I taught for 3 hours, the first session on how Christ rebukes those who serve Him heartlessly from Revelation 2, then a second session during which I took them through the different “walks” in Ephesians 4-6.

Meanwhile, Hasiniaina, Joeny and Onja did a great job with the kids once more. These kids were amazing, with their number growing from around 35 yesterday to over 150 today! They had so much fun singing, playing and were very attentive during the teaching time.

Lunch was a problematic time for us. They had set us apart in a separate hut from the rest of the group and killed a chicken for us while all the other attendees had rice and leaves. We did not ask for such special attention, but they insisted, and it felt to us like we would offend them if we refused it. So, we ate the delicious chicken yet still with somewhat of an uncomfortable aftertaste to it.

In the afternoon, the adults were split into different age groups and our team was in charge of the youths.  We had around 150 of them gathered under the trees. Hasiniaina did a great job teaching on the importance of prayer in the life of the follower of Christ from the life of Epaphras. A very lively Q&A followed, and we were so pleased to see many of them asking deep and thoughtful questions. We ended up our time together with great singing. My heart almost burst a few times as I was just filled with joy to see these youths singing from their heart.

Now, any sanely-minded individual would have started the walk back to home base right after that time. But not us… we decided to stay in order to… play soccer with them. Yes, that’s how little we think through things at times as we were just excited to spend more time with them. Oh, and we had to walk for another 15 minutes with an extra 100-feet elevation to reach the pitch. Then, our team won the game… and so we decided to do another one! (By now, if you do facepalms as you read this I completely understand why…) At halftime of that second game, we finally came to our senses and asked to be subbed out and headed home.

The walk back was awfully steep, slow and hard. But we made it, somehow. We are tired yet still had to do our evening routine preparing meals, drawing water from the well and showering. The end of another “normal” day on the field.

Mahatsara Mission Trip Log – Day 2

The day started with us finding a small hut nearby with some locally made donut-like fried pastries.

 

We then went to the market to shop for what we needed for our next meals. The market was vibrant with colors and sounds, and a very friendly atmosphere. After finding all we needed including powder syrup to be used for Sunday communion, we went back to Mahatsara where the team started cooking while I had a working meeting. I was impressed and so delightfully surprised by the meal they prepared with mash potato, shrimp cakes, and tomatoes.

We left right after lunch and the car got stuck quickly after…We worked at it for an hour and finally got it out of the mud.

We though decided to leave the car there and continue on foot. 1h30min later we reached Tananan’i Lemanana after crossing a river on a canoe.

The killer part of the move was the 150-feet uphill climb to get to the church as the final part of the 90 minutes’ walk. Let’s say everyone smiled at our exhausted faces once reaching the top.

The worship service started soon after our arrival with around 230 people in attendance. The conference was opened up by the local pastor and I then taught from Colossians 2, reminding them of the price Christ paid so we could be His followers. In the meantime, the 3 youths taught the kids songs and lessons from the life of John the Baptist and the story of the good Samaritan.

The walk back went well after a very brief trial using bicycles. When we got home, the day was not over for us as we still needed to draw water from the well to cook and to shower. We then prepared dinner and washed the dishes before each crashing on our bed. Joeny exemplified servant-heartedness as she still gave the 3 of us a foot massage! She might kill me for mentioning this but she is incredible… and she is still single guys!

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We tried to rest as we knew we had to go at it again tomorrow, leaving at 6 and teaching all day once there. What a privilege to be spent for Him! And how humbling it is to know that what we experience is nothing compared to what the local pastors go through on a daily basis and to what missionaries of old had to endure.

Mahatsara Mission Trip Log – Day 1

Here is the first installment of a 4-part log of the trip we did between November 16th and 19th. I was invited to speak at a regional conference in a location 180 miles towards the East coast of Madagascar. I took Hasiniaina, Onja and Joeny with me, 3 youths from our home church eager to serve.

After 11 hours on the road because of multiple stops scouting hotels for another project, we finally made it to the village of Mahatsara. Tranquilin and his wife welcomed us warmly. They recently responded to the Lord’s call and became missionaries. We were able to be updated on what the Lord is doing in this region and were given basic instructions as to the way to minister to the natives. The 3 youths are unfamiliar with the local vernacular and got to learn a few key words in the Betsimisaraka dialect.

Missionary life in the countryside involves people coming at your door at all times of the day and of the night, asking for food or for help. One of the highlights for me was the visit of Jocelyn and his wife. Jocelyn has been struggling for a few years now in deep spiritual warfare. During his darkest hours, he is suddenly grabbed by forces giving him supernatural strength, in such a way that 4 or 5 men cannot hold this 5-feet man. These spirits also push him to hurt himself and anybody standing in his way. He has attempted to commit suicide a few times, but it has failed each time. “God does not want you dead yet until you come alive to Him”, says Tranquilin. Amid his spiritual struggles, Jocelyn has been looking for God. He often comes to Tranquilin for advice and comfort. This time he brought his wife to have her as his accountability partner on the path he wants to take to seek God. Tranquilin has repeatedly, and once more yesterday, taken him to the cross of Christ, the only way to God. Jocelyn leaves after an hour or so. The battle still rages on in his heart for its control. We pray that the Lord in His time will sovereignly grip his heart and that He will surrender his life to Christ and be freed. Another day ends on the field with mixed emotions; hope for Jocelyn as he has once more come to inquire about God, and anxiousness because of what he might do and who he might hurt until God changes his heart. Pray for him and many like him, in such need of the gospel to deliver them from the bondage of sin, whatever form it takes.

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Two New Adventures

The Lord answers prayers in His time and according to His plans. Two exciting new ventures were set by Him to take place this coming weekend.

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First, He has granted me a weekly radio show starting this Saturday evening. “Family Life According to God’s Will” gives me the opportunity to address week after week God’s intent, goals, and precepts for the family. The home nucleus has been much under attack recently and I am thus thankful for the prospect of providing weekly a biblical worldview on the family. I had a good time pre-recording the jingle of the show and Saturday’s first installment, planting a stake on biblical authority and sufficiency for all life and godliness.

Secondly, 3 youths from church and myself are leaving for an area 180 miles from the capital city, near Vatomandry, where I will be the speaker for their yearly regional conference gathering 14 churches from that region. The Lord is testing our faith through this trip as my car suddenly broke down today and thus we had to find a last-minute solution for transport and still have a lot of unknown as to the details of the trip tomorrow. We might have to walk for a few miles as the replacement car we found will not be able to reach the village where the conference will be held. We know that all of this was on the Lord’s agenda, and we would not want to miss what He wants to teach us on this journey.

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Please pray for health and strength for our team and travel mercies as we leave today (Thursday) and plan to return on Sunday after church service. Please pray for those who are going to attend that they will be challenged by God’s Word as we explore the theme of “Being a Follower of Christ”. Pray for me, that God will grant me clarity in communicating His truth.

Men after God’s Own Heart

LAFATRA is an acronym derived from the Malagasy for “Man after God’s own heart” from 1 Samuel 13:14. It is the name chosen for the 3-year church-based training for men that will be launched at Ankadivato Baptist Church on January 13th, 2018. It is also a suitable play on words as LAFATRA itself also can mean “mature” or “whole”.

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Around 90 men attended the announcement made yesterday of the upcoming training where the objectives of LAFATRA were explicated. It was a joy to see many of them eager to grow in their knowledge of God’s Word and their faithfulness in applying it to their daily lives.

The purpose of LAFATRA is to help men to know and love God’s Word as well as to equip them to faithfully carry out the duties the Lord has assigned to them in their different spheres of responsibility, within the home, at school, at work, and at church. Through the teaching and memorizing of God’s Word, the men will be challenged to evaluate their own lives against the divine standard, and, through mutual edification, to put off the remains of the old nature and increasingly put on Christ-like thoughts, desires and behaviors.

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Pray for these men as they prepare to embark on a journey to become better fathers, better husbands, better stewards and servants of God’s Word. Pray that we will grow together in our love for God, His Word, His people and His work for His glory.

Church Planting Amid the Plantations

Last week, we were at Ampopoka Golf Biblical Baptist Church in Fianarantsoa, a city 270 miles from the capital city, where I had the opportunity to teach on the topic of “Christians and sin”. I was really moved by the interaction and how we were all challenged by God’s Word to strive for holiness.

However, one of the highlights of our visit was the opportunity we had to visit Sahambavy, a smaller town 25 miles from Fianarantsoa. Sahambavy is the tea “capital” of Madagascar and is as such characterized by beautiful lush green tea fields surrounded by humble habitations.

My parents started to pray 25 years ago for the gospel to be able to penetrate Sahambavy, a bastion of Roman Catholicism. In 2014, an evangelization campaign was conducted using both door-to-door evangelism and a Christian movie played in the townhall. 200 people attended then and a handful of people were saved. A home cell was started at one of their homes. Since, the church in Fianarantsoa led by Pst Francois regularly sends teams to continue the evangelization efforts and build up the believers.

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Subsequently, more people got saved, around 15 have been baptized and 2 men are currently being groomed to lead this budding congregation. We had the privilege to visit them and they welcomed us in one of their very modest homes. I encouraged them from God’s Word to have an unadulterated devotion and a vibrant love for Jesus Christ. They reminded me of the Macedonian believers, poor and fervent.

They are very simple people. They are brothers and sisters in Christ. They are looking to build a basic church building where they can gather. If the Lord places on your heart to contribute to this need or if you would like to know more, please free to contact me.

Genesis 22 to Philippians 3…

Pages were falling off this young mother’s Bible. “Yes, it is rather worn out. But it’s the only one we have in our family. It got even more damaged during the last hurricane. Now I only have Genesis 22 to Philippians 3; the pages before and after are all gone!” Many were in similar circumstances.

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We were blessed to be able to distribute Bibles to a few ladies during our visit to Ambohimanja Biblical Baptist Church, around 110 miles from the capital city.

Lily was invited to be the keynote speaker for the church’s annual women’s conference. Around 140 women were in attendance as Lily taught on “Loving your Neighbour as Yourself.”

She first laid down the biblical principles on the necessity for believers to live a life characterized by a love for God and for others, and then she expounded 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 helping the ladies to understand how a loving heart practically impacts one’s dealings with others.

Furthermore, the men provided a practical example of love and servant-heartedness as they elected to be in charge of preparing the meal so the ladies can enjoy the conference.

We were blessed by the rich fellowship and the eagerness of the ladies to learn from God’s Word. Some heard about the conference by word-of-mouth and walked around 20 miles to be able to attend. We filled the car to the brink in order to give a few of them a ride home.

We left encouraged, thankful and prayerful. We were invigorated by their hunger for the Word. We were grateful for being used by the Lord as instruments to bring His Word to His people in Ambohimanja. And we were imploring the Lord about the men; that He would touch their heart so that they would lead these godly wives spiritually, love them sacrificially, and parent their children alongside their spouse. We prayed that these ladies would faithfully love, respect and submit to their husbands. “Loving others as Yourself” starts within the home. We pray for many fruits from the conference, for many homes governed by biblical truth and marriages thriving through the Word.

 

 

Yes, Genesis IS History

The recent opportunity I had to teach a group of students on creationism vs. evolution brought me back to a couple of months ago. In July, I was granted the privilege of joining a group of Christian leaders for a 7-day trip of a lifetime rafting down the Grand Canyon. The prospect of being amidst PHDs, college presidents, professors and field experts was a bit daunting, but I figured that I could not say anything dumber than I really was, so it was worth going even if it were just to entertain them.

23 attendees, 5 trip leaders, and 3 boatmen were divinely brought together for the trip. My confidence in the biblical account of the flood got bolstered as we looked at the text of Scripture as well as the scientific evidence of a 6-day creation and a Global Flood from the rock and fossil records in the Grand Canyon.

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Even though my assurance of the inerrancy of the Genesis account of creation comes from Scripture, I was amazed to discover the numerous proofs from nature of the truthfulness of the biblical text. As an example, the “Great Unconformity” is the name that has been given to the unexplained absence of material between two layers of rocks (here between my index and middle fingers) which are dated one billion years apart. If such an amount of time really went by between the formation of these layers, where did all the sediments go? This question remains unanswered by secular scientists.

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I also learned about the Coconino sandstone. I found out it was not a Hawaiian beach cocktail but one of the layers of rock in the Grand Canyon formation. Old-earth proponents claim that is composed of fossilized sand dunes formed by the wind. However, sampling and observations made by young-earth scientists revealed that the grains in the Coconino are more angular and are sitting in a gentler slope than what is observed of desert sand dunes; in fact, their features are similar to underwater sand dunes (here demonstrated by Dr John Whitmore).

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I believe in the biblical account of Genesis. God created the earth in 6 literal days around 6,000 years ago. He then sent a literal global Flood to punish mankind because of its sinfulness. The recently issued movie “Is Genesis History?” investigates biblical, historical, and scientific evidence for Creation and the Flood with interviews from dozens of scientists, including Dr. Andrew Snelling who was one of the leaders one the Grand Canyon Tour. Invest time and money in this movie if you are still making up your mind on this matter. Also, make sure to check out  answersingenesis.org where the biblical worldview is defended and many of the questions you might have answered.

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The majestic Grand Canyon is the result of God’s judgment. How much more beautiful will the New Heavens and the New Earth be, where God will dwell eternally with those who repented from their sin and gave their lives to the One Seed of the woman, Jesus Christ, who crushed the head of the seed of the serpent (Genesis 3:15) through His death and resurrection.

Madagascar 3M is Air-bound

Someone said, “Be careful what you pray for, you might get it.” Well, we have been praying for having the opportunity to have a presence on a local radio station, providing more sound teaching as an alternative to the “feel-good”, heretical or theologically hollow teaching most commonly aired in the capital city of Madagascar. God might have answered our prayers as I had the privilege yesterday to be invited as a surprise guest speaker on “Olivasoa Radio 91 FM”, one of the main Christian radios in the capital.

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The show was very interactive and organized around conversations between the two hosts of the show and myself as we discussed on the theme commitments, and the importance to keep them regardless of the cost especially when they are made with God, because of who He is, His promises and the heavenly reward promised to those who faithfully endure to the end. A power cut towards the end of the show led to the unfortunate loss of the recording.

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After the show, the hosts and I discussed the possibility of more regular appearances in the future as we enjoyed the view from the radio station studio. We will see what the Lord has in store for us, but the prospect of airing 50 messages a year or so, is very exciting! Please pray with us as we seek God’s will for that aspect of the ministry. We will keep you posted.

Beseeching the Lord of the Harvest

After two days of travel, the first from 2 am to 2pm, the next from 5 am to 8:30pm due to boat delays, broken cars, overheating engines, late buses, etc. we finally arrived in Tana. The team was exhausted but still in a jovial mood. After a quick dinner, everyone went to rest to be ready for the Lord’s day.

Today, we visited Ankadivato Biblical Baptist Church, our home church. What a joy it was to be reunited with the body of believers we grew up with and we served prior to going to seminary. They gave us a heartwarming welcome and immediately adopted Dave, Ashley, Scott and CJ as their own.

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The youth leaders kindly offered on the spot us to take over the Sunday afternoon youth meeting. Dave had the opportunity to share his testimony, encouraging the teenagers and young adults in attendance to examine their own hearts to determine who was the Lord of their lives. Scott then taught from 1 John on the zeal for sanctification through confession and repentance as being a test of the genuineness of one’s salvation. A spontaneous Q&A followed suit and we were able to leave only after many one-on-one conversations, hugs, and pictures.

Dave and Ashley are leaving Madagascar tonight, while Scott and CJ leave on Tuesday. It is very difficult for us to see them go.

We are praying that the time they were able to spend here would help them to ascertain the Lord’s will for them and see the great need for biblical teaching on our island. We are praying that the Lord will provide for all their needs, spiritual and material. We are beseeching the Lord of the harvest that they will come back soon. Here, the workers are few.