Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Going To Be A Good Day

Katie shared her Nutty Bar with me this morning, I had a cup of coffee at the hotel, we hopped in the truck and, voila! we were off to Tulear.  We had spent a long day driving on Tuesday after packing a moving truck and two Land Cruisers.  After a night in Ranohira we only had a 3 hour drive on Wednesday to complete the trip, oh, and it was a beautiful drive still ahead of us.



Our crate truck was on it’s way as well and going to meet us at our new house - an African house - but still an exciting place to set up as our own, start ministry, and make memories.  Not having seen our personal effects for the past 14 months made us even more excited to arrive.  Caden wanted to see his toys that he didn’t remember but that I talked about all year; Ashley was eager to see American “stuff”; Katie longed to set up her desk and have her own place; Andrew had his sights on unpacking and assembling the basketball hoop Grandpa had sent as a gift. Yes, filled with such eagerness, I jumped in the truck and declared to the girls, “today is going to be a great day!”


The southern drive to Tulear is spectacular. After the hilly plateau with it’s windy, pot-hole filled roads, tree-lined landscape speckled with boulders, brooks, and rickety bridges, the openness of the southern drive is a stark contrast.  The road stretches for kilometers - as far as you can see, the sky is an outstanding blue and the perfect backdrop for the purple rock mountains in the distance and all around.  Although the dirt is still red, it is toned down when mixed with the desert sand.  There is no red hue that covers the landscape as it does on the plateau.  It’s bright, cheerful, and a touch mysterious as you pass through a few tiny mining villages in the middle of nowhere.
 
The road is highly favored by everyone because you can cover so many kilometers quickly unlike the day before weaving through the mountains.  There are however, a few neck-braking curves mixed among the openness as you wind through low-lying hills.  It was at one such blinding curve that the girls and I slowed and came around when I spotted the underside of a truck. It was laying on it’s side in the other lane perfectly perched to be hit from another car in any direction around the blind curve.  In Madagascar it is quite common to see overturned vehicles or broken-down buses on the side of the road. I am not a “car” person, so the bottom of all vehicles look the same to me - or, so I previously thought. As I slammed on the brakes at this wreck I instantly knew this vehicle was different. It was vazaha - foreigner. In other words, of the 6 beautiful people in my family, 3 were trapped in that metal structure.  I pulled to the side and told the girls to stay in their seats. I ran to the crash site as Ben’s arms were trying to push the driver’s door up towards the sky and heard him yell, “we’re, o.k., we’re o.k.” I tried to hold the door but my arms gave out just as 2 Malagasy men caught it for me so Ben and the boys could climb out. Andrew and Caden - after brushing glass off of them and inspecting my 2 sweet boys - they were really o.k. Hugging Andrew, I held Caden as he squirmed and wimpered that he needed to get his orange flippies from the car. More people were flooding around us and there was an outpouring of many languages.  I asked a man to have people put bushes in the road to warn on coming traffic of the danger - we needed to get away from the site as it was badly positioned to cause a worse accident. 

Ben and I climbed hills in opposite directions to get a cell signal - yes, that’s right, we were in the middle of nowhere and no one knew exactly were we were.  Failure on the signals. I loaded the 3 younger kids and myself in our other car and took off with Katie sitting next to me pressing “send” every few seconds. 15 kilometers away we reached friends to inform them of what just happened. Devising a plan through various phone calls, I ended all conversations with stating we were at kilometer marker 55.  It was vitally important to me that our location was known to someone, whether they could help or not. I returned to the site - not knowing what to find. We’re they really ok or would I find Ben or Andrew laying on the side of the road with internal injuries we failed to see before I left? Would cattle thieves have made their presence known and an old-west style shoot-out have taken place - yes, those are real fears.

I came upon the scene and couldn’t believe my eyes. The Land Cruiser was in an upright position and the area was swarming with missionaries. As stunned as I was to find the original accident, I was equally stunned when I climbed from the truck yet again and inquired of the happenings. A film team had been in Tulear filming water well projects and they were leaving the area when they saw the accident. The team went to work lifting the vehicle and prepared to tow it away, they were just waiting for me to return.

There are no words to explain, but if you are a believer, you know the incredible hand of God you sit in and you know when you physically feel His palms embracing you. Enough said.

We unrolled the straps and hooks (thanks to our training I actually knew how to use!) and towed ourselves 55 km to our new town. You’ve seen someone limp across the finish line? Yes, that was us.  I sat in the towed, mangled car to steer. Ben and kids were in the front car. I cried. All 55 kilometers, I cried. Thankful that everyone was ok  - there was no help if they weren’t. I recalled a passage that was preached in our small Malagasy church several weeks previous which sparked in me a study of the book of Philippians. Rejoice in the Lord always and again, I say, rejoice! I could honor God in that moment. I could recognize He was in control. I wasn’t the least bit “happy”, but I could rejoice in my Maker. Paul was sitting in jail when he penned the words. God was with him, I can’t imagine he was “happy”, but he continued to rejoice.

Here are my take-aways:
1. God always knows where we are. I was adamant that our team knew where we were - km marker 55. Whatever else happened, I needed to know that others knew where we were. God did. God does. God always will.
2. Rejoice always - good times, bad times, thankful times, irritating times, gut-wrenching, heart-stopping bad times. Rejoice. God, through Paul, tells us to rejoice.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Beautiful Feet

And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

It was Saturday, the end of another week filled with the ups and downs of life.  I was in a “pit of despair” the week before and God hand delivered such encouragement that it had left me almost breathless and quite in awe. So, you can imagine the disappointment in myself when I found myself, again, the following week - this week - in need of uplifting again. Remembering the encouragement and love from the Father the week before, I have trudged through this week only because of Him. 

We were invited to travel to a nearby village with friends of ours as they were in the middle of teaching sessions with a few people in the village.  We were aware of the program sponsored by their church to go to smaller surrounding areas and introduce a 12 lesson series presenting the foundations of our faith from creation to the story of the cross and the relationship reaching beyond both.  Because this also is our job and calling on our life, we wanted to observe their methods and so forth. Before we left for the afternoon, I asked God if He possibly could fill my heart with encouragement again. Would there be anything in this little trip that could cast the dark cloud away?

We arrived after a short 15 minute drive through terrain that would have taken an hour to walk through. I made a mental note to thank our organization again for the outstanding vehicle that could get us to our place of ministry! We set up a few little stools and 4 people emerged from the mud houses amongst the harvested corn fields. Two couples sat down and we made introductions. We sat in a circle and our friends, husband and wife, began a brief review of what the small group had been learning  and then they launched into the new lesson. They opened the borrowed Bibles they were handed and flipped from passage to passage throughout the Old and New Testaments and one man was avidly scribbling notes in a small notebook. The group answered review questions but mostly sat quietly and took in all that was being taught. Ben & I were immediately engrossed in concentrating on the language, we were taking mental notes of the new words we were hearing and the ease in which the husband/wife team casually yet, eyes sparkling, explained theology of sin. When we reached the end of the lesson, the couples began to share a few words. One lady in particular said she never thought she would see her husband with a Bible in his hand…he was the one avidly taking notes. Tears began to slide down her cheeks as he spoke and thanked the teaching couple for coming. He had originally been very unfriendly of the teachers arriving and sharing in the village. I looked at the entire circle of people. Some with shoes, some without. Some on chairs, some seated on the cold dusty ground. Some clean, some dirty. All proclaiming, “Your God reigns.”

Beautiful feet carry the good news, proclaim peace, bring good tidings, proclaim salvation, and say “Your God reigns!” ~Isaiah 52:7

Do I need to say that I praised God the rest of the evening for yet again encouraging my heart? Yes, yes I do, because my God reigns!

P.S. What will become of this little group when they've finished hearing, learning and accepting these truths? They will be in charge of telling the rest of their village - a new church will be planted - and the story continues!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Top Ten List: Driving in Mada


Top Ten Reasons Why Driving in Mada is Different than Driving in the United States

Madagascar (Mada) is roughly the size of Texas, and just like the United States, Mada has major “highways” for traveling North, South, East, and West.  However, the road conditions in Mada are not quit the same.

#1 Cattle:  In America you may slam on your brakes for the occasional deer, or if you’re from our neck of the woods in Florida, an alligator.  In Mada screeching to a halt for a herd of Zebu, goats or chickens is an everyday occurrence.
#2 Babies:  As you race through the windy, mountainous roads of RN7 (the major highway headed south toward Tulear) you not only need to dodge the ever present herd of cattle and goats, but more heart wrenching are the small children on the road carrying small babies attached with cloth lambas on their backs.
#3 Speed Bumps: AKA “potholes”. Really, potholes isn’t even the best word. More like craters that open up from nowhere and try to swallow the vehicle in one gulp!
#4 Kilometers:  Painted rocks which resemble tombstones help us keep track of how many kilometers we are from the next town. They are surprisingly accurate and help us pass the time due to the fact that the license plate game is not an option here.

#5 Beggars: When the car approaches a town, you may see children or men holding shovels or rakes smoothing straw or gravel over the potholes in the road. When they see you slow down, they open their arms palms up in hopes of money for “improving” the road conditions.


#6 Scenery: Oh, it’s absolutely beautiful. The scenery changes so drastically throughout the trip that you wonder if you are still in the same country. From mountains and greenery to grassland plains to rock mountains to the desert - there is a little bit of everything! Do you remember the Sunday School flannel graph background of a green hillside with random large rocks…yep, you can almost see the story of the lost sheep, or Jesus multiplying bread and fish on the drive south.
#7 Rest Stops: Tall grass on the side of the road. No need to say more.
#8 Check Points: These can be tricky. Random checkpoints are set up around the country and run by local police or military. If they wave your car to the side they can be looking for 1) a bribe, 2) a bribe, 3) a bribe. We have been stopped for all three!
#9 Traffic: The entire week of Easter in this country is considered a holiday week - oh, not for Passion Week mind you, no, it is more like Panama City on Spring Break. Traffic is absolutely horrid. The roads are solid kilometers of foot traffic. It is like driving through the mall area in Washington DC just after the 4th of July fireworks have ended. 
#10 Baggies: After traveling for a while you will begin to notice that there are small plastic bags every so often on the side of the road.  If you happen to follow a taxi brousse (large public transportation vehicle loaded with 45 people in 12 seats) too closely you will see a blue, pink or yellow “baggie” being tossed from the vehicle. Maybe you are more familiar with the white paper bags located in the seat back in front of you?  Word to the wise...don't pick them up!


Monday, February 24, 2014

Thrive

You were not meant to SURVIVE. You were meant to THRIVE...Surviving is for those who have no hope. That's not you - not if you're God's child. You were meant to THRIVE! - Mark Hall

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

All In!

All In!
A. W. Milne knew he would never return home.  He left family, friends and all comforts to live among a tribe of head-hunters who had martyred  every missionary before him.  Still he went.  For thirty-five years he lived among them and loved them.  On his tombstone, resting in the middle of their village, the tribe members wrote this epitaph:

When he came there was no light. 
When he left there was no darkness.


Wow!  After four months living in Madagascar we are more resolved than ever to be His light.  We live among the darkness, not because we are in Madagascar, but because we are in the world.  The world is dark.  The world desperately needs the Light.

Please continue to pray.  Prayer penetrates the darkness.  Prayer reaches into the hidden crevices and dark alleys long before we arrive and paves the way for His light to shine.

John 1:5 “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.”

Until the whole world hears!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What we do for fun in Madagascar




A local French hotel where we stopped for lunch.
Overlooking the town of Antsirabe.

Monopoly - in French!