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.
I woke up on Friday with an overwhelming passion for the day. Friday was going to be different. Friday, I could sense, was going to be special.
We had spent our first week in Antsaribe researching the differences in Malagasy culture. I was intrigued by the similarities. To my surprise what people do in Madagascar (eat, sleep, go to the bathroom) is very similar to what people do in the States. How they do it is very different, but those thoughts are for another day.
Monday we were tourists. We traveled around town with our translator asking the people of Antsaribe tourist type questions (“What is that building?” and “Where can I buy bread?”). On Tuesday we asked church related questions (“Where do you go to church?” and “Where do you pray?”). Wednesday we asked questions from a missionaries’ point of view (“What is a missionary?” and “What should a missionary be doing in Madagascar?”). On Thursday we asked various medical questions (“How often do you go to a doctor?” and “What other options do you have when you're sick?”). But on Friday we were tasked with asking the most important question of all...“Do you know Jesus?”.
Several encounters throughout the week led us to believe that many knew of Jesus, but very few knew Jesus.
I talked to Erin that morning about the question of purpose. I was not questioning our purpose, but rather wondering what the Malagasy people would say to the question, “Why are we here on earth?”. I wondered if the question of purpose would effectively lead us to the “bigger” question.
Soon I would find out!
We turned down a main street near the center of town and there - among the countless street merchants, tourists, beggars and children - was a young man sitting alone in the median of the street. We introduced ourselves and then without hesitation I asked him...“Why are you here?” - “What is your purpose on this earth?” (Rather bold, I thought.)
His answer amazed me. He said he had been sitting there questioning that very thing! He had recently graduated and did not know what to do next. He did not have a purpose and was questioning his direction in life.
We shared with him God’s answer to his life questions and further explained how God's Word gives the answers. His religious background kept him blinded to the truth, but eventually he understood the freeing message of God's amazing gospel. Without prompting he prayed one of the most doctrinally sound prayers that I’ve ever heard from a new believer.
After he prayed to receive Christ I explained to him that he now had a life purpose. Out of a love for what Christ had done for him on the cross he could now spend his life sharing this Good News (gospel) with everyone he meets. I asked him if there was anyone he knew who did not know the gospel. Before he could answer we noticed a young man sitting near our group who had been eavesdropping on our conversation. I asked him if he thought the young man knew the gospel. His response - “Do you think I should tell him?”. I said, “Go ahead!”. And he did!
Immediate reproduction...how awesome is that!
Pray for this man as he begins to walk with Christ. We will prayerfully be able to walk beside him over the next few months as we live in Antsirabe.
The sun comes up. It’s somewhere between 5 and 5:30 am. Somewhere beyond the walls of the house a rooster crows. Contrary to popular belief they do not only crow at sunrise to wake the farmer, they actually crow all night to keep the missionary awake! The constant hum of the oscillating fan produces a very deep and restful sleep through the cock-a-doodle-do’s. I start the coffee pot and then step over to the sink and open the window. I love the windows in this house - white paned, long, vertical glass doors that swing in when I open them in the mornings. I flip the curtains up over the top of the window doors to hold them open and let the breeze and sunlight in. The smell of charcoal and wood burning fills the air as the neighbors start their fires to begin their breakfast. I slice a piece of bread from the loaf purchased at the local bakery yesterday and pop it in the toaster. As toast and coffee are brewing, I slip out the back door with the load of wet laundry from the washing machine that started at bedtime and hang it on the line. When it is dry this afternoon it will be quite stiff and scratchy and have a tinge of charcoal smell - it’s a comforting smell and reminds me of camping with my grandparents when I was small. I return to the dining room table with coffee and toast and see a pair of big, beautiful blue eyes staring beneath a mop of curly brown hair. My Ashley is awake and is ready to read with me. After pouring her a bowl of cereal we open our Book to Daniel.
In the first chapter, Daniel is taken captive, ushered into Babylon and forced to learn a different language and culture in order to serve in the king’s palace. Language and culture. I smile as this is our “job” right now too, only we haven’t been taken captive, we’ve willingly followed God’s leading. What catches my eye a few times in this chapter is the acts of God: God delivers the king of Judah into the hands of the king of Babylon, God caused the official to show favor to Daniel, God gave knowledge and understanding of all kinds of literature and learning. I see quite clearly that nothing was out of focus looking through the window of Daniel’s life, God orchestrated everything - it was not left to chance. He was faithful to obediently worship God in this circumstance, not for his own sake but because God deserved his worship. God lead him into a position and gave him the knowledge and wisdom to lead him through. God has lead us into a situation - living in another culture to tell others about His story - and we must trust him for the wisdom and knowledge to learn the language and culture here.
By the time we are finished reading the first chapter another pair of eyes has joined us and a bowl of cereal has been placed before this little snuggly man. We finish our small discussion and pray that God will heal the weak bellies in our household that seem to want to interrupt our morning. We place our cereal bowls into the sink, get dressed, apply sunscreen to everyone, brush the teeth and out the door we go. Today we are meeting Nina, a new Malagasy friend that translates for us as we walk through the town learning the culture in which we live...
Off we GO! So, how does one spend their last night in the U.S. before heading overseas for a few years? Watching a Cleveland Browns game, of course! Popping a couple no-bake chocolate cookies and washing them down with a cold glass of milk. Normal, huh? We like normal even though we live anything BUT normal lives.
I am dwelling on the many things our Father has done this past year: sold the house, provided for ALL our needs and a little extra during our medical delay, surrounded us with a great multitude of prayer partners, introduced us to wonderful friends, encouraged us via many friends and family, sold our van,...we could go on but we think you get the idea. The message in church last Sunday was Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." This has been a challenge this week I do admit. I am incredibly thankful God spoke this passage during Sunday's message as it was constantly in my heart this week and will be as we step onto the airplane...and step OFF of the airplane!
A comforting passage. Isn't that how we are supposed to feel by the Word? Thankful, comforted, guarded by the peace of God. That's not to say a pain-free or an easy life, but guarded by the peace of God. This should be normal.