Getting Ready to Return
We are currently in the middle of another road trip across the states, meeting with our church partners and communicating the vision for the next phase of ministry in our little corner of Madagascar. We are hoping to be back by August, just a few months away. Before we begin a new season of life with you, we wanted to share the highlights of what has been going on in Nosy Be from the past year…
2015 was the final year for the Sakalava Nosy Be TIMO team. It would be another year of the highs and lows that come with living cross-culturally… in a village… on a tropical island… in Madagascar. The weeks where it rained everyday and shoes became useless because they would drown in the blood-red mud. Marking the passing of the year not by months, but by which delicious fruit was coming in season (Litchis! Jackfruit!). People came for visits, neighbors passed away, babies were born, and village life continued in its cyclical, unhurried pace. Our team had been living with the Sakalava people sine 2013, and we felt comfortable in our new country among our new friends. And in this context, God was present and at work; in our lives, our families, and our team. Although from different backgrounds and countries, our team was able to stick together through difficult circumstances, but only because of God’s grace. And that same grace extended to our Sakalava neighbors…
The Band: In Rosina’s village of Ambatozavavy live 5 guys in their mid-20’s, Ladys, Matis, Edme, Fabio, and Lino. They are talented musicians and became friends with the team in 2013. By 2015 they were writing and creating songs using scripture that our team had translated into Sakalava. While recording the songs at a studio in town we formed a relationship with the local radio station and now many of these scripture songs play regularly across the island and even to the mainland. The band’s songs were a critical part of our monthly evangelistic outreach events, called “The Gathering,” and they were always happy to come along and play. This attitude continued as they would come to the church plant that was started in the village of Bemonondrohely. Throughout this time God was drawing these men to Himself, and in October they each made a public declaration of faith at an AIM retreat. Since then they have been a big part of the new church plant in the village of Ambatozavavy.
The Gathering: With scripture, stories, and music, we continued to engage our 3 villages with “The Gathering,” a time for us to publicly proclaim who God is and what our response to Him should be. In 2015 we extended our reach of this event to include 3 other villages that required a boat to make the trip. It was encouraging to see our friends and neighbors make the trip with us, and many of them were able to hear the same stories and scripture multiple times. Some of them became so engaged that we were able to include them in the gatherings that occurred later in the month; telling bible stories, reading scripture, or praying.
Sakalava Church: God was clearly at work among the Sakalava, and by May of 2015 several people had chosen to follow the path of Jesus. Our team decided that we should cease our weekly English fellowship and begin coming together with our new Sakalava brothers and sisters on Sunday mornings. Alexi and Mbotazara, a married couple with children from the village of Bemonondrohely, were among the first to confess their belief in Christ. The first Sakalava speaking church began meeting in their yard, on grass mats in the shade of their trees, in Mid-2015. The band would come and we would all sing, there was a time for corporate prayer, and we would hear from the word on who God is and who He calls us to be. Later in the year the people from Ambatozavavy formed another Sunday service back in their village.
2015 was a year where our TIMO team, together with our Sakalava neighbors, saw firsthand God’s faithfulness to the nations, His love for His people. Together we can sing with David…
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits,
Who forgives all your iniquity,
Who heals all your diseases,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
(Psalm 103:2-4 – ESV)