Most of these photos were from when Lora’s sister, Heather, visited us in Madagascar in April-May 2012. We spent time in Tana, Antsirabe, and moved from there to Tamatave, stopping to see some awesome animals along the way.
(06/01/2012, 116 Photos)
Our discipleship group at Antanamazava today was very refreshing! We discussed the story of Jesus healing the lame man and everyone had a lot of great things to share. Each person discussed some of the weaknesses in themselves and some of the obstacles external to them that have made it hard for them or others to approach Jesus. Through that several people shared testimonies either from their past or present and it was great for everyone to hear and be encouraged in the ways Jesus can overcome the obstacles to work in their lives.
One older lady shared how six years ago she wanted to begin following Jesus and all of her family told her that the ancestors would curse her if she tried and that the possessing ancestral spirits would kill her. But she felt compelled and so she defied them all to follow Jesus and she has been safe and protected from any ancestral curses or spirits ever since. Her daughter has also been coming to the discipleship group and she's seeing her own life and character be transformed and she's growing bolder to share with others.
Our tuk-tuk driver has been consistent to come to the meetings four times now, and he's clearly very motivated for his own participation in them. He was also one who shared a personal testimony about some of the obstacles he's had in the past to being able to follow Jesus. As we were leaving the village, he commented that the others in the group seem to have "really good spirits/souls" (or technically you could translate it literally as "holy spirits" - though it's not the same phrase typically used to translate the name of God, "Holy Spirit"). Our ministry partner explained to him that there's really been a lot of transformation in their lives over the last few months. I pointed out to him that what he was seeing was the evidence of God's Spirit at work in them, that their spirits weren't in and of themselves "holy", but that God's Holy Spirit is present in them and we can also sense him in them that way. It's been great to see over the last few weeks how his excitement and enthusiasm about becoming a disciple of Jesus has really grown!
Please keep praying for the disciples in Antanamazava. Please pray that they would grow in boldness to share with others outside their families, and that others would also see the evidence of the Holy Spirit's work in their lives. Pray that God would reveal to us which ones he's calling out to take on greater leadership roles in his continuing work there and beyond, and that we would have the wisdom to train them and commission them well! ... See MoreSee Less
We had another good time with the discipleship group in Antanamazava today! It wasn't a regular meeting, as several of the most motivated regulars weren't there... everyone (including us) was a bit confused as to what the local restrictions were for combating covid-19 and whether or not transport was allowed and at what times. So a lot of people thought we weren't going to be able to come today (and only one has a phone so we can call and communicate well in advance). But we found out this morning that travel for us on Tuesday afternoons (the time of our weekly discipleship meetings there) is still allowed! We're happy that this can still continue for now.
But naturally, covid-19 has become a big topic of conversation in the village as well. So we were able to better explain to people the method of transmission, the general risks (including which types of people are usually most vulnerable), and why the government is requiring everyone to wear face masks in all public places, how to do that properly, etc. - to clear up a lot of confusion and rumors for them. Not everyone there this week was there last week when we provided some face masks, so we encouraged the others to all be ready next week, so we can help take care of our "neighbor's" health as well as our own.
Because of this topic of conversation and because a lot of people had different concerns, this week we focused on having a full group prayer time rather than continuing our Bible story set. It was really good because it was the first time that *everyone* in the group had an opportunity to pray directly to God. We've been working them all up to it little by little, but a lot in the past have still been too shy, afraid in case they say the wrong words or that maybe God is too far above them and they can't approach him. This week, everyone took turns thanking God for something good in their lives over the last week. Then they all took turns asking God to help with the prayer request of the person next to them. We encouraged them that God is very happy to hear the voices of the people he's created, and that God is not "proud"/"haughty" - something they've been learning every week in the stories we've shared.
And then everyone who wanted shared short testimonies about the transformations they've seen in their lives since they began participating in the discipleship group.... it was really cool to hear how many feel like God has changed things instrumentally in their lives! Some said their attitude towards others have changed for the better, some said they're now thinking about God regularly throughout the day and even speaking to him multiple times during the day, some said God has removed their shyness so they're able to speak up during the discipleship group and have also been given boldness to share the stories they've been learning with others outside their family.
The young man (our "tuk tuk" driver) that I wrote about a few weeks ago also shared that God is giving him a growing desire to follow him (unlike before). He visited me at home earlier this morning and told me that he's been telling his friends about the discipleship group and how the meeting goes and how everyone can share what they're learning and everyone can go and tell others the stories they learn, that it's simple and not tied to one of the church denominations in town, but very clear/understandable and encouraging. He said his friends are eager to meet soon and he suggested that this Friday afternoon we'll begin meeting with him and several other young men here in town (after he confirms the time with them). He brought one of those young men with him to the meeting in Antanamazava this afternoon, and his friend seemed eager to participate also. I'm excited about the possibility of having more men as disciples and future disciple-makers, especially a group of young men who will likely have more free time on their hands. Please pray and ask God to bring the right people to this meeting this week, and that his Holy Spirit would be active in their lives, drawing them to him, and giving them boldness to share what they learn, to begin discipling others.
As a whole, it's exciting to see God continuing to move, to see the growth in the lives of the disciples in Antanamazava, and to see their enthusiasm beginning to spread to others in their area, who are also eager to be discipled regularly. Please continue praying that we'd have wisdom to make the transition to some of the local people taking more leadership and beginning to lead distinct groups of their own (without our direct participation). Pray that the "path" would remain open for us to continue discipling those in Antanamazava, even with the coronavirus in our area now. And pray especially that all of us would be careful and not be responsible for any spread of the disease, either within our group or outside it. God can protect us and we want our ears and hearts to remain open to his leading in this area, and to also model to the disciples there appropriate caution and effective love for our neighbors. ... See MoreSee Less
We have our first confirmed covid-19 cases in our town now (Ambilobe). Just two confirmed cases so far, but we know that Madagascar's capacity to do testing and contact tracing is now far below the spread of infection, so there's likely more. All the other towns/cities in our region are also experiencing a number of new cases (quite a bit more than Ambilobe so far).
Madagascar initially did a great job limiting the spread of the virus here in country and within a month had it down to just a couple new cases a day. Then there was a breakout in one city that wasn't following orders (the second-largest city in the country) and many people left that city to go to other parts of the country (also violating the restrictions on transport) - bringing the virus with them to a number of other areas. From there it returned to the capital city where it started to become a huge breakout (comparatively speaking), and, again people violated the transport restrictions - even when faced with arrest and confiscation of their vehicles. So now they've spread the virus basically everywhere in the country, including here where we are. So, it took quite a few months to get here, but it's here now. 😢
Our region has quickly responded to this with strong restrictions on transport (not even allowing passengers to travel between counties within the region), curfews on public life, no more meetings of any sort, and requiring everyone to wear masks anywhere outside their home. Now they're even patrolling neighborhoods to find anyone gathering in groups or not wearing masks. So they're working hard at it. I hope the new efforts will be successful in the long run. But in the short-term it's here and we really have to concern ourselves with it. Hospital care here is completely inadequate, so the only realistic response is trying to prevent it from spreading further.
We know that most of you reading this have already been living a long time now with the reality of coronavirus there in your communities. But for us here, it's just now beginning. Coupled with the understanding that no real treatment or supportive care is available here at all. But, we've long known there are risks from every angle as we've chosen to come and continue to live here in Madagascar, to be faithful to what God has asked of us. We know that he's also faithful to us, even more so than we are to him. Our lives are in his hands, which is the best place to be no matter the outcome. Please pray though for all the vulnerable people here in Madagascar - that God in his compassion would protect those who need his help most. ... See MoreSee Less
We had a good time again with the discipleship group in Antanamazava today. Everyone put together some money as a gift to the man who had been injured last week (a relative of several of the members of our group). We visited him and presented the gift - he's been healing well but still badly injured. It was nice to see the group begin to demonstrate generosity for others, and a couple of the group members (relatives of the man) mentioned how much it meant to them that the group did that.
The coronavirus has also finally spread to our region of the country with a handful of cases. Our region is thus putting in place some very restrictive measures to try to prevent its further spread (mainly related to local transport). In the interests of the discipleship group, today we also brought a lot of cloth masks from town to give to the members of the group, and we taught them how to wear them appropriately and encouraged them to use them regularly. Since there are currently very few confirmed cases in our region (none yet in our town), and we meet in a small group outside, then if we all wear masks while we meet, the risk of spreading the disease through our group meeting time should be very low, and we hope to keep it that way.
The story today (John baptizing Jesus) went well also and was very well received, though the group dwindled a bit by the end. The discussion time went on much longer than usual and people had some very personal considerations to work through. People were amazed to see that Jesus asked John to baptize him, even though John was still "dirty" and Jesus was not. It encouraged them that God makes all people equal in his sight, and that no one needs to feel like they're too "unworthy" to approach God or to do what God asks them to do. At the end, everyone mentioned some very specific ways in which they want to see further growth in their lives, some poor habits they want to leave behind, etc.
And when asked who else they could share the story with, nearly everyone mentioned someone outside their families this time, which was the first time for most of them! So they're beginning to think on a broader scale of who else God wants to impact with what they've been receiving from him. There were also a number of regulars not there this time (almost the opposite group from last week), and those there this week brought up how they could easily start another meeting themselves to share the story with those absent, and even lead the group discussion and all the rest. So we hope that they're starting to take on leadership roles and that soon we'll see those currently more distant from the Gospel being reached by the efforts of the Holy Spirit through them! ... See MoreSee Less
One of the villagers in Antanamazava (the father of one of the members of our discipleship group) had a serious run-in yesterday. In the evening, he was riding his bike back from another more populous village area, transporting some sugarcane he'd cut down. Then a guy ran up behind him on the road and struck him in the head several times with a machete. Then the criminal stole the man's bicycle and rode off quickly and hasn't been identified or captured yet.
Thankfully the criminal missed the man's neck but he damaged both sides of the man's head pretty badly. Thankfully someone else found the injured man on the side of the road and took him to get some first aid, and thankfully the blood loss wasn't too serious. We visited him in Antanamazava together with many other community members and we had the opportunity to pray for him before he went to town to get further medical treatment and file a report.
So, that was a big distraction for the discipleship group today, as a couple of the most dedicated members of the group are part of his family and they were occupied with helping take care of him, and the rest of us certainly had that tragic event on our minds. There were several other distractions today as well, and also several first-time participants. Thank God though that despite the distractions we were able to move forward.
About halfway through the group we were able to have a really great personal conversation where each person shared about the personal things in their lives in which they really felt the need for a "Savior". This helped a lot of people (especially the new participants) open up much more than they had so far. By the end many people shared a very personal "action step", based on what they learned from the Bible story today, that they would make efforts towards as a way to see their lives changed moving forward. We pray that God would empower them to live out these commitments in their lives, and to share what they're learning with many others!
We also committed as a group to gather some money or other help (such as rice or other harvested goods) to give to the man who had been attacked yesterday, to help him during his recovery. We'll gather it together and give it to him next week. This would be a first opportunity for this group to practice giving together, and together to help another member of their community. We pray this would become a regular practice of generosity for them, that they would be able to respond in transformative ways to the needs of their community and would be known and recognized for their loving generosity towards all those in need. Thank you for praying with us! ... See MoreSee Less