First Pres is committed to creating sustainable partnerships in Madagascar. One of our strategic mission partners, the Madagascar Initiative is comprised of two important connections: The Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar (FJKM) and the Biblical Entrepreneurship Initiative.
This page highlighted the team as they traveled to Madagascar during the summer of 2013.
SUMMER MADAGASCAR TEAM
Thank you so much for your prayers! Our Madagascar Team is back home safely and will be sharing more photos and reflections about their experience in the future, as well as ways you can be part of our growing partnership with the church in Madagascar.
In spite of a few more travel delays and a bit of readjusting to sleep patterns, we are beginning to look back, seeing with new perspective, and giving God all the glory for the ways He used us in Madagascar.
Celebration time! As a way to joyfully celebrate their identity as daughters of the King and greatly loved children of the Father, the team put together a surprise banquet for the girls and their teachers the last evening we were with them. The tables were set, the music was playing, the candles were lit, the was food ready, the cake was on display.
Each guest was wrapped in a pashmina, crowned with a tiara, and escorted to her seat by Kent and Rob. We served the three courses of the meal and singing and dancing broke out following dessert. There were tears and hugs and love enough to go around the room as well as thank yous and prayers and goodbyes. At the close of the banquet, each girl was presented with a Bible in the Malagasy language, a gift from FPCO. Tucked inside were the handmade bookmarks filled with Scripture and love from the spring ServeDay team.
Toamasina was the site for the retreat with 80 girls and their teachers. The gifts of the group were evident as God began to work in the hearts of these girls.
George and Donna Snow led the teachings about God the Father’s love, Rebecca brought to life the Book of Ruth and the girls clapped with joy when she said, “So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife.” Michelle taught the girls a beautiful dance to accompany the song “Lord, I’m Amazed by You.” Other team members prayed with the girls, wiped their tears, hugged them close.
We took the girls to the Indian Ocean shoreline and it didn’t matter at all that it was cool and rainy. The sand, the sea, and the girls made a joyful mix.
Worship in Toamasina, worship like none other in an open-air church with a thatched roof. A new building is going up next to the temporary one and is a testament to the focus and conviction of these Christians in spite of the difficult political and economic climate. Men, women, and children walk up during the service and place their offerings in boxes which are designated for various ministries. Deacons circulate with clipboards and ask for special help with the building project: a sack of concrete, a load of bricks, other specific building supplies. There are also seven special love offering baskets that circulate among the families and are brought back each week to be passed on again. Condolences and gifts are brought up to a couple who had lost a family member that week. In the past that would have been rice and food, today it is an envelope to help with expenses.
And then there is the singing. We joined our voices, in English and Malagasy, singing “Blessed Assurance, Jesus is Mine.” There are no hymnbooks with notes, just words and voices that know the harmonies and echoing parts, and it is loud and joyous! In an open-air church you can imagine that the surrounding neighborhoods heard the gospel in song that morning.
Finally, we have connected with the 80 or so young ladies and their leaders and the retreat has begun! Although the previous days have been so enriching and packed with God's provision, today we began the heart of our service here and God blessed the activities and interactions with the girls.
As a team, our morning was consumed with planning the details for the next three days and the afternoon included some icebreakers, a first teaching lesson with George and Donna Snow, wonderful singing, crafts, and a first look at Michelle's praise dance. Many girls raised their hands when she asked who would like to learn the dance with her. After a showing of the Magdalena movie in the Malagasy language, many girls came up for prayer.
It is a blessed experience to pray with these girls who are living under very unsettled and critical situations. Many of them are concerned about their families and futures. Tomorrow we move from the hotel to the guest house of a local church.
We have seen the Indian Ocean from the van and we all are anticipating at least dipping our toes in the water sometime soon. Please pray for the logistics and details, for the mix-ups that occur in translation and cross-cultural communication, and that we will blessed and be a blessing at worship tomorrow. We've had a taste of the choral singing here and it is glorious!
This may be the last update for awhile as we're moving and probably won't have Internet available.
Just bits and pieces and impressions and snapshots of an amazing day that was surrounded by God's presence and protection:
- Eight hours in a van over twisty mountain roads
- Laughter and rubbing elbows as the van careened around innumerable curves
- Unbelievable topography and vegetation
- Roadside homes, fruit stands and moving humanity
- Touring a FJKM dispensary and fruit tree nursery in Moramanga
- Sharing a meal with church leaders at Akany Gazela Girls' Boarding School, which FPCO women helped to build (18 girls this first year and 40 enrolled for next year)
- The Christian School at Moramanga, 1000 students grades 1-12, one of 500 Christian school associated with FJKM
For the last days of our trip we were without internet connection having traveled in a van for about 10 hours over the only road from Antananarivo to Toamasina on the east coast. We saw the lush countryside, the vegetation and villages, and admired the nerve and courage of our driver. Prayer was a constant as we swerved and curved around banana plantations and people walking with huge bundles and baskets on their heads, even as the dark descended. There is no dusk in Madagascar, night comes very quickly and the air chills.
Four very different activities filled our day. We started at Adrianne Press Room where Biblical Entrepreneur graduate Iva and her husband live, work, minister to couples, hold Bible studies, host Christian ministry workers and struggle in a time of social unrest and political corruptness to run a business because they want to make money to further God's Kingdom work. Their home has a beautiful view of the hills and fertile farmland surrounding Antananarivo. Their vision is that with a newer, larger press, Bibles could be printed in Madagascar for the first time.
Our second stop was back at the girls' school where we met the young ladies who will be on the retreat with us the next five days. They were so appreciative of the gifts we brought for them and spread out their beautiful handwork for us to examine and admire. They are hoping that their handcrafted items will give them some financial stability and we discussed their needs and just what it would take to get their enterprise off the ground.
Stop three was at a marketplace where handcrafted items are sold. We spent just enough time there to find a few gifts for the grandkids and friends back home. We were grateful to our Malagasy chauffeurs and translators for bringing us to a market that was clean and friendly with beautiful merchandise.
Our last stop of the day was at the Topaza Orphanage. Their old dormitory building collapsed a little over a year ago but they do not have the funds to replace it. The facilities they do have are clean and well organized, though very crowded with inadequate bathroom facilities for the 43 children who live there. As we have found in all our visits to FJKM ministries, their one aim is to glorify God and serve His Kingdom. Alexa presented Bibles from FPCO to the children and in a typical Malagasy manner they came up one at a time to receive their Bible and a blessing from Pastor Kent. Thank you and merci from innocent lips blessed our hearts and surely the Lord's. One of the team members complimented Tantely, the director at the orphanage, on the sweet and quiet behavior of the children. Her response was priceless. "We plan carefully: study time, play time, bath time. We take the children on holiday to teach them how to behave in public. We do things well and the best we can, because this is the future church of Jesus Christ!" The children will take a little holiday soon, when the school year has an extended break, and the care givers were delighted that the little girls will be wearing their pretty new dresses from the sewing ladies at FPCO. "It is just what they needed!"
George and Donna Snow are an amazing couple who led us today, along with the leaders of the girl's school, Behoririka, in a teaching about the Father heart of God. The teaching was in preparation for the retreat which will include 78 girls from the school. Our translator, Miriam, an incredible woman of faith and language skill, was seamlessly synchronized with the Snows from the beginning and expressively brought the message to life for the Malagasy staff. Michelle Sterchi taught the signing for a retreat song and brought the song to life with her interpretive dance which she will teach to some girls at the retreat. The day ended with prayer and each participant received a handmade ballpoint pen from the Snows because they are to be "a tiny pen in the hand of a writing God, who is writing his love letter to the world."
An hour and a half through narrow crowded streets and down red rutted roads, we traveled today to where a spring, some PVC pipe and 5 spigots have made a huge difference for the health and nutrition of three rural villages. Kent, Rob, Carol and Gayle helped agronomist Dan Turk plant a palm tree by each spigot. We walked from village to village past rice paddies, fish ponds and farm land, laughing and learning from the families, making friends with well-behaved children, finding a rare beauty in the terraces and small gardens.
The paddies produce two things, rice and bricks, and because clean water is now nearby and accessible, the families are healthier, have more food options, and can more easily build brick homes. Twelve new homes have been built since the cistern was installed. In a quiet and respectful ceremony, we presented each family with a tree and gave balls and frisbees to the children. In return, the families hosted us for a dinner in which all the food came from their fields - except the Coca Cola! We were impressed by their dignity and godly pride as they prayed and thanked God for the food and our visit.
For the second day we recognize, as we interact with the Malagasy Christians, that we are walking among spiritual giants.
The final three team members arrived last night, tired but in good spirits. We are finally a complete team!
It was an amazing, life-changing day for the united Madagascar team. We are all here safely now (minus a few pieces of luggage and many hours of sleep), but God came so very close to all of us today as we interacted with the Malagasy Christians. We joined the leadership of FJKM (Presbyterian Church of Madagascar) at their Monday morning worship time. These men and women are pastors and leaders of 3,000 congregations and 5 million people and their love for the Lord and His work in their country is overwhelmingly precious and strong. From there, we visited various offices of the ministry departments and listened to the leaders describe the work they are doing and how God is leading them to restore a very broken and challenged land. In each office, we lifted them up in prayer for specific needs, daily courage, and God's strength. Next stop was lunch with Biblical Entrepreneurship graduates and leaders. First, they sang Psalm 122 in rich and harmonized voices, then they shared the plans and projects through which they are making a difference in their country and giving all the glory to God. From there, a ride through Antananarivo to visit two of the business projects and we were all just blown away by their faith and focus on God's work.
We'll share all our stories more fully when we return to Orlando, but know that your prayers for this country and our time here are being answered by a God who is surprising us at every turn and has been demonstrating to each of us His purpose for our being here.
Amazed to be with these Faithful, Courageous brothers and sisters. Tomorrow we go with Dan Turk to visit one of the clean water (well) projects.
From Gayle Bosscher: While Carol, Karen, Rob and Gayle had a layover in Mauritius, some Presbyterian pastors made some connections and sent a kindly chauffeur to give them a taste of the island and bring them to church in Port Louis. Led by the youth singing familiar songs in French and English about the fruit of the spirit, the congregation of this almost 100-year-old church welcomed us with joy and the Body of Christ took on another cross-cultural dimension. We spoke briefly with two of the pastors about their work in Mauritius. Pour toute beaute, merci!
After a two hour flight to Antananarivo, we joined the rest of the team already there for dinner. Please pray for a quick reunion with our missing 7 suitcases that didn't arrive in Madagascar with us. Four of them contain the supplies and materials for the orphanage and girls' school retreat. Pray also that Rebecca, Caren and Kim arrive safely later tonight...with their luggage!
Six members of the team arrived in Madagascar (Kent and Michelle Sterchi, George and Donna Snow, Erin Stanley, and Alexa Rossi) and ministering at Topaza today. They were greeted by over 8 of our Malagasy friends, and will spend some time at Topaza orphanage today attending the first Madagascar BE II Class: Practices of Biblical Entrepreneurship to bring our greetings and encouragement!
From Kent Sterchi: We have awakened to a beautiful day, shared in prayer and the Word! We are going to the Orphanage this afternoon and an early evening back in the hotel as all are a bit weary after 20 flight hours! The Spirit is present and we are thankful to be here as a representative of our church family back home!
Please pray for their adjustment to the new time zone and culture!
Carol, Karen, Gayle and Rob are taking their third flight today to Maritius, where they'll have an 8 hour layover and then take a short flight to Madagscar, arriving at 3:15 (God willing) Madagascar time! Pray for rest on this next overnight flight!
Thank you for your prayers! We feel them and it is a great joy to know you are with us in Spirit!
God's providence moves us in mysterious ways, and Thursday evening it didn't move us at all for a while. Our second try at standby finally got us in the air to Paris at midnight. We had a smooth flight over the Atlantic and are now in a hotel near the Charles DeGaulle Airport. We fly out Saturday afternoon to Mauritius and then on to Antananarivo, Madagascar. We will arrive at 3:10pm and then - finally! - begin our much anticipated time with the church, orphanage, and young women.
The signs are correct. Carol at the help desk trying to find seats for 4 across the Atlantic. Storms slowed us - missed it by that much! We will keep you posted.
10 of us leave tomorrow, Thursday, June 27! The other three leave Saturday. We have a 26 hour trip in front of us. We fly to a variety of locations in the U.S. to catch flights to Paris, and then from Paris we all get on the same flight to Madagascar. We'd appreciate your prayers for safety, good health, that each person makes all their connecting flights, and that each of our suitcases and every item in them makes it to Madagascar with us.
Thanks to all of you who played a part in helping us fill our extra bags to capacity (50 lbs each) with supplies and gifts to communicate God's love!
We are bringing vitamins and hand made girl's dresses to Topaza orphanage. We are also bringing toiletry items for the girls and workers at the school, a fleece for each girl (it is Winter there and in the 40s at night), art materials, sewing patterns, pens, medical supplies, handmade bookmarks for each Malagasy Bible we'll be giving the girls (made by our Spring Serve Day Team) and more...
Please pray that each communicates the Father's Heart for each person! We thank the Lord that your hearts and prayers go with us! We spent our last night together praying over each member of the team. Please pray for God's perfect working in and through us; that we would be open and receptive to His plans for us!