Exploring Madagascar

We have been busy the last few weeks! First, we took a trip as a team to Mahajanga, a city on the west coast of Madagascar, where we met up with other AIM missionaries for a retreat. It was great to meet brothers and sisters from all over the world serving in Madagascar. Just when we thought it couldn’t get any better, we arrived home and within a week received some exciting news. First, some background information:

– Rosina, our Malagasy team leader, owns a villa (“sweet house” in French) on the beach of Nosy Be

– Dion, a South African Christian/husband/father/contractor/surfer/fisherman has brought a catamaran yacht to Nosy Be to be used for missions and business.

– This catamaran is anchored in the bay in front of Rosina’s villa and Dion: is awesome/loves to fish/loves to explore/wants to get to know our team.

– We have a Malagasy friend, Gerdenie, who built our house, and our chicken’s house, and who teaches us language, who is currently living on Nosy Mitsio, which is several miles away. Although you won’t see it on Google maps, Nosy Mitsio is actually the largest island of an incredible archipelago just northeast of Nosy Be.

– The island of Nosy Mitsio will have a team of missionaries living there next year, much like our team, except much more remote and rustic.

– Rebe and I want to: see everything/visit Gerdenie/see Nosy Mitsio/go fishing/explore the world.

Well, everything came together and Dion took us on a trip to Nosy Mitsio to: fish/snorkel/surf/visit Gerdenie and villagers/explore/fish some more…please enjoy this photo blog of our last few weeks, but first, a story that must be told.

On day 3 of our voyage, we anchored near a beach on the main island of Nosy Mitsio. It was 2pm, and everyone was tired from exploring/snorkeling/fishing/swimming the whole day. That being said, Camden saw some nice waves and wanted to build on his new-found surfing skills. He also wanted me to go with him to the beach (100 yards away) because there was a village nearby and he wanted to make sure it was O.K. to play on the beach there. I finally gave in and said I would go with him, and both Myla and Keely immediately said they wanted to go too. So, we jumped in, Camden on his surf board and the girls and I in a 2-man kayak. About 20 yards in, we all immediately regretted our decision. We were tired, the waves were strong, and my kayaking skills are limited. In front of us: large waves, coral, and rocks. The result: rolling our kayak, crying kids, frustrated dad, and the realization that it is going to be HARD to get back.

I immediately see an old man from the village walking toward me. By now I can speak enough of the local language to get by, so we start talking, and he says that I need to move to the other end of the beach (200 yards away) because there are too many rocks where we are now. He proceeds to pick up the front of my kayak, and I pick up the back, and we start walking… only I soon realize that this plan is no good because I will only have to move the kayak back when I want to return to the catamaran. 50 yards into our journey, I tell him to stop. He then asks for money, which I have none. Then he says in Sakalava, “Can I have your shirt?” I don’t want to give him my shirt because it is the only Longhorn shirt that I brought! He seems equal parts frustrated and intrigued that I can speak his language, and walks back to the village.

30 minutes later (although it seems like 3 days) we are still trying to figure out how we are going to get back to the boat. Meanwhile, I notice that the people of the village are trying to move their one, huge, communal lakana, to an area above the tide line. A lakana is a canoe with an outrigger, and this particular one is extremely large. In fact, the entire (small) village is out trying to move it before the tide comes in, women and children included. Most likely, it is in need of repair, as the lakanas in my village are always leaking. I see that they are struggling, and I decide to walk over and introduce myself to the village. They receive me warmly, and I ask if I can help them bring their canoe in (FYI-I am about twice the size of the nearest villager). They immediately say yes, and we proceed to haul in the giant canoe to an area where they can fix the problem without the fear of it rolling into the sea. When everything is complete, I casually walk over to the old man from the beginning of the story and say, “Can I have YOUR shirt?” He looks at me with a wry smile and starts laughing so hard, I have to hold him up. Apparently sarcasm crosses cultures…


This is the boat where we will live for the next 4 days

Boat2 The catamaran is kind of awesome…


A Southern Right whale waves goodbye as we head northeast to Nosy Mitsio.


Fishing doesn’t get better than this!

cam waking

Day 2-Camden checking out the archipelago of Nosy Mitsio…luckily for us it was archipelago week in our home-school curriculum.


Bryan, Camden, and Myla swimming to Nosy Mitsio


Dion teaching Camden how to surf


Camden coming into his own…


Camden with Dona, Rosina’s nephew and the boat’s second-in-command.


This is Gerdenie, our friend and the man who built our hut, in front of his temporary house on Nosy Mitsio. It was great to visit and pray with him.


The temporary house for the missionaries who are preparing the way for the Nosy Mitsio TIMO team next year.


The Antakarana tribe came to this island to escape the Merina tribe who were trying to take over Madagascar. The king of the Antakarana planted this tree in celebration of reaching the island and avoiding capture.

dried fish

Dona did not want to release any fish. This is dried fish “jerky” that he made on the voyage.

rowing to shells

Day 3 – kayaking to a small island to collect shells




The most amazing coral reef…”Are we really snorkeling off a remote island in Madagascar?”

dada 1st fish

Dona has grown up on the sea…but this is his first fish on a rod and reel and the smile didn’t come off his face for hours.

dada cam

Dona teaching Camden how to sail.

next move

Camden and I taking it all in.

My beautiful wife enjoying the ocean breeze.

My beautiful wife enjoying the ocean breeze.

dion bryan

Dion and I bringing in a big one!

bad day

The girls and I about to get rolled onto shore…

bad day cam

Camden barely makes it back to the boat.

bad day girls

Dona rescues the girls from the island…

rebe fish

Rebe’s first King Mackerel


The girls resting after the kayak experience that left them rolled out on shore.


Yes, Dion is South African and yes, we did have a grill on the boat, and yes, those are Wahoo steaks…

bryan cuda

Day 4 – Baracuda!


Learning to captain the cat…

cam shad

Camden bringing in a torpedo shad.


The kids loving the adventure…


Perma-smiles from this amazing trip!

Here are a few photos from our team retreat in Mahajanga…


Arriving on the mainland for the trip to Mahajanga


My last thought before we board the taxis, “Are we really about to take a 15 hour van ride with 6 kids through the night on these dark and bumpy roads?” “Yes…yes you are.”


The ladies from our team sang karaoke the night before the retreat began. They dared to try some Malagasy songs as well. our waiter. Yes, that is our waiter with them singing Dancing Queen.


Missionary kids from the retreat sharing songs and scripture with all of us!