H ello everyone,

This is an update just to let you know that we’ll be visiting the US soon!  Our team members’ training time (TIMO) will be coming to an end in December, and with that also will end the first phase of our outreach to the Antakarana people on Nosy Mitsio.

Lora, Matimu, and David looking out at the "harana" - the sharp limestone crags that are where the Antakarana got their name.

Lora, Matimu, and David looking out at the “harana” – the sharp limestone crags that are where the Antakarana got their name.

It was over 3 1/2 years ago that Lora and I last left the US to move out to Nosy Mitsio and begin this outreach to the unreached Antakarana people.  In that time we’ve accomplished a lot and have also grown so much in the process.  We were the first foreigners to live on Nosy Mitsio, the first long-term missionaries to attempt outreach here, the first Christians to share the Gospel with them in their own language.  It has been, and still is, very much a pioneering effort.

When we first arrived we knew nothing of their dialect (only a related language in the Malagasy language family), we had few local contacts, and initial relationships with the people were challenging with almost no hospitality.  We had no house to live in (only a tiny hut used for storing rice – about 60 square feet) and no reliable transport to and from the island for buying even basic food supplies.  But since then we’ve learned the local language, we’ve learned much about the local culture and spiritual worldview, we’ve developed deep and interdependent relationships with many local people, we’ve built our own house, houses for all of our team members, and we’ve found reliable transport (a motorized wooden boat) and learned all the skills for operating it and maintaining it.  And that was just to start with!

Almost two years ago now, our team arrived here in Madagascar to join us in outreach to the Antakarana.  Every one of them were new missionaries (8 total), new to long-term cross-cultural outreach, and new to living as a family (or individuals) in another part of the world, let alone such a remote and isolated part of it as Nosy Mitsio.  Over the last two years, we’ve trained them in learning the local language, cross-cultural adaptation, evangelism, Bible story translation, and church-planting.

It was always busy, tiresome work, it wasn’t often easy, and we’ve had a few team members leave early.  But we’ve got a lot to show for those efforts!  Not only do we now have 5 well-trained and experienced missionaries, but we’ve made great progress, as a team, to seeing the Kingdom of God planted among the Antakarana.  We share every part of our daily lives with our neighbors here, finding every opportunity to pray with them and share with them the unlimited power and love of God in every aspect of their lives as Antakarana people.  We’ve maintained a ministry to the children in the local school, we’ve begun a basic healthcare ministry benefiting all the communities of northern Nosy Mitsio, and we’ve completed translation on an evangelistic Bible story set – the first such set of Bible resources in the Antakarana language!  With that we’ve begun sharing Bible stories in each of our villages, gathering groups of people to listen, discuss, share, and hold each other accountable to following God in what we’ve learned from the stories.  This is the first opportunity the Antakarana people have had to deeply consider the claims of God, the salvation of Jesus, and the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit, in their lives and in their culture.

 G etting this far hasn’t been easy and it’s not without challenges now.  We’re still constantly confronted by the claims of the Antakarana ancestors, who would prohibit the people from hearing God’s stories, who possess the people and curse them with sicknesses and pervasive restrictive taboos.  We’re at a sort of turning point where many people want to hear the stories about God’s revelation, but they’re also afraid at the same time, afraid of disobeying their ancestors and of the consequences they bring.  A few people on Nosy Mitsio have been eager to pursue more of God regardless of everything else, but most are in that middle ground, still very cautious and keeping their distance from God’s truths.  More work needs to be done, more time spent demonstrating God’s love and power, and more obstacles overcome to see God’s Kingdom grow and multiply in their midst.

Matimu has been getting really good at climbing trees lately. Here he is climbing in one of his favorite trees above the cooking area for our neighbors - at the same time as his friends are cooking their mid-morning snack!

Matimu has been getting really good at climbing trees lately. Here he is climbing in one of his favorite trees above the cooking area for our neighbors – at the same time as his friends are cooking their mid-morning snack!

So that’s what our last few years have been like here on Nosy Mitsio: exciting!  Challenging!  Full of promise, hope, struggles, loss, and gain.  In it all we see God at work.  He’s maintained us, given us strength and perseverance when we’ve needed it most, and he’s opened our eyes to see more of his character and his wonderful ways.  We’ve seen him begin to soften the hearts of the Antakarana people, to draw individuals to him in surprising and unexpected ways, to let the people see that he’s near and he’s listening, and we see that he’s keeping his promises.

The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice!
 – Psalm 97:1

We know that someday the Antakarana people will be part of the great multitude from every tribe, tongue, and nation worshiping Jesus before his throne.  We believe that we’re seeing the beginnings of that even now, on Nosy Mitsio.

 S o, after so many years working here away from our family and friends in the US, it’s a great time for us to come back for a long visit.  Our plan is to visit as many of you as possible, and also to get some rest and rejuvenation there so that we can return strong for continuing work here next year.  We’ll arrive in the US just in time to spend Christmas with our family this year, and we plan to be there until early September 2017, when we’ll return to Madagascar.  We have a big increase in necessary spending during this time (particularly our travel costs – plane tickets alone are expected to cost more than $6000 for our family!).  So if you’d like to contribute, you can donate here – your one-time gifts for this would help us a lot!

We’re still arranging our schedule for our time in the US and we’d love to visit you, speak at your church or Bible study group, or even just catch up individually, talk more about God’s work on this side of the world and where you are, and pray together.  We’ll be spending a lot of our time in the St Louis area, because a family member there has made a home available to us during our “home assignment” next year.  We also have a car provided for that time, so we’ll have plenty of opportunity to travel and visit as many of you as possible.

For church groups, we’re available for preaching a full sermon to encourage the church body, for a short presentation on our work, for question and answer sessions (during or after the service), or even simple informal discussion times – pretty much anything – just let us know what you’d like!  Please let us know if you’re interested in having us visit and when the best time might be.  We’ll try to plan our travelling so that we can visit several churches or individuals in one trip, so it may take a little time to sort out the details and specific dates.  Right now our schedule is pretty wide open, but please let us know now if you’re interested in having us visit and we can start making plans!

Currently I’m working on a video to share more about the Antakarana people and our work, and I hope to have it done within a week or two.  I’ll let you all know as soon as it’s ready.  In the meantime, we’ve just posted a new photo album, showing the first 8 months with our team on Nosy Mitsio and lots of aspects of local life.  You can view the photo album here:

PHOTOS: Our Team Arrives on Nosy Mitsio! Nov 2014 - June 2015

PHOTOS: Our Team Arrives on Nosy Mitsio! Nov 2014 – June 2015

As always, please be keeping us and the work here in your prayers!  Especially now during the last couple months with our current team on location, and the transitions involved in home assignment and returning next year for ministry.  Pray especially that the seeds that have been planted and the work begun by the Holy Spirit would continue to grow into fruition!  Please visit our prayer requests page for more specifics to pray for.

Looking forward to seeing you soon!

In Christ,
Adam, Lora, Matimu, and David Willard

 

Matimu hiking out of a large cave in the Ankarana national park. It's one of the caves where Antakarana people used to bury some of their ancestors.

Matimu hiking out of a large cave in the Ankarana national park. It’s one of the caves where Antakarana people used to bury some of their ancestors.

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