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!

Highlights from Mada

Language learning - Learning a language is a lot like solving the following quantum mechanics equation that I stole from the internet (if you are a quantum mechanics major, I apologize for insulting your intelligence with the use of such a “simple” equation):



The deuteron is a nucleus of "heavy hydrogen" consisting of one proton and one neutron. As a simple model for this nucleus, consider a single particle of mass m moving in a fixed spherically -symmetric potential V(r), defined by V(r) =−V 0 for r < r0 and V(r)= 0 for r > r 0. This is called a spherical square-well potential. Assume that the particle is in a bound state with l=0...  



(I decided not to finish the equation since I probably lost most of you, including myself, after the word deuteron, but you get the point.)



Reading this quantum mechanics equation is a lot like trying to understand Malagasy.  While I recognize a few words it is impossible to make sense of an entire sentence, let alone a whole paragraph.  While listening to the Malagasy people I can pick out a few words (which is an accomplishment in and of itself), but I have no idea what they are truly trying to say.



Then there is the occasional misinterpretation.  For example:  vady and vody are completely different words although they sound very similar.  One means a spouse (vady), the other your backside (vody).  You do not want to make that mistake when introducing your lovely bride!



Please pray for supernatural understanding, patience and grace as we learn this language.

Meeting with a local church pastor - I have developed, in a very short amount of time, a great friendship with a local pastor in Antsirabe.  His name is Kris and he pastors a local Baptist church in town.  He has the heart of a missionary which has led to our strong kinship.  We have been meeting each week to discuss faith, family, and the daily burdens of leading the church.  He is also a musician and song writer! 



Please pray for Kris as he leads his growing church to fulfill their God-given mission in Antsaribe and around the world.


Starting a band - I have taken on the challenge of developing a band.  In the few weeks that we’ve been in Anstirabe, pastor Kris has allowed me to begin working with members of his church in order to expand their worship.  Somehow I always get myself into these situations, but I secretly love doing it!  The Malagasy songs are written in the Do-Re-Mi style of writing (think Sound of Music).  It has been a challenge to not only communicate with a group of non-English speaking musicians, but also transition my own thinking away from notes and chord charts to Do-Re-Mi’s and Fa-So-La’s.



Please pray for this young, inexperienced group of musicians as they seek to glorify God in their worship.

Building relationships with Malagasy families - Our family has developed a strong relationship with two Malagasy families.  Our language teacher, Fanja (pronounced Fanza), as well as our children’s language teacher, Nina and their respective families have become very good friends of ours.  Andrew and I play basketball on Saturday mornings from 6:30 - 8:00 with Nina’s husband Tina (who is an unbeliever) and a number of other men from the neighborhood.  We have joined Nina in praying for his salvation.  

We ate dinner at Fanja’s house last Friday night, and although our children and their children could not speak each other’s language, they played and laughed as if there were no barriers.



Please pray that our relationship with Nina and Fanja will lead to the salvation of their unsaved  friends and family members.

How the work in Madagascar is even possible -- Christmas is right around the corner and with it comes a great opportunity for you and your church to support the work here in Madagascar and around the world through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.  There are over 7.0 billion people of which 3.9 billion have limited or no access to the Gospel.  There are currently 4,854 Southern Baptist Missionaries serving overseas with the IMB (which includes approximately 4,000 children!) working in 134 countries to serve 874 people groups.  Please prayerfully consider supporting the global work of the IMB (International Mission Board) through the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering.



Please pray for the annual Lottie Moon Christmas Offering as well as the financial demands of countless other mission’s organizations who support the needs of spreading the gospel around the world.