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. 

Carol Hafer, Director of Mission, heads out to Madagascar beginning Monday, May 19. We'll post updates, journal entries, photos and videos of her travels as we get them. Check back for updates! 

June 10

Here is a video of the girls singing "This Little Light of Mine" in English and Malagasy. There is a few second delay at the beginning, but it is worth the wait! Looking forward to more time with these girls and our 2015 FPCO summer team next year.

These children love to sing! This is one of the songs they've learned at church, complete with actions.

June 9

I had a wonderful visit to Behorika Girl's School.  Many of the girls our FPCO team spent a week with last year came up to greet me.  It's hard to put into words how that experience impacted them (and us).  They recounted many of the learnings from last year's retreat, in particular, "I am special to God."  Knowing some of their stories, one cannot overestimate the importance of learning this truth!  

I'm thankful for Pastor Hanitra, the full-time pastor that is now working with the girls and the staff.  She has been doing Bible Study weekly with the girls as part of their studies.  Since the retreat, they have been much more open, and Pastor Hanitra and Pastor Helivao realize how critical it is to begin to take in some of the girls overnight.  They can identify 30 girls that could use safe shelter immediately, and hope to be able to provide this by the opening of the new school year in September.  

Thanks to our FPCO women for their funds that fixed the showers and toilets.  And, I was reminded again how important the lunch is as it is the only meal many of these girls receive each day.  The "Consider Yourself Loved" buttons I got to deliver on behalf of Women Engaged along with the other donated items were a wonderful reminder to the girls of the truth of God's love and a reminder of our commitment to them.

A highlight of  trip was visiting the new building at Topaza orphanage almost finished thanks in part to the generosity of you all in December during Wil Brown's album release!  It was wonderful to share the CD, We Will Rise, which features the children singing at the end of the "Holy, Holy, Holy" track.  As soon as they saw me, the children started singing it again - it is one of their favorites! 

After two years of all the children (infants through 19) sleeping all in one room (mostly on the floor), they will finally be moving into the new building after the dedication on June 27. As I toured the building, my highlight was seeing indoor toilets and showers!  They will no longer have to take cold bucket baths in a muddy area outside on the grounds!  The children are so excited!  They will also be able to take in 7 more children as a result!

The teens painted a large "Thank You" Banner for us (see below)!  These are very special children.  And I'm so thankful for Tantely (the director) and all the staff.  They share God's love with these children every day.  

If you haven't gotten Wil's wonderful album yet, it's not too late.  All proceeds still go to the Topaza to help furnish the building with the basics...mattresses, beds, dressers, etc.

Spending time with Topaza Director, Tantely and Topaza friend and our translator Ranto.  Seeing the list of all the children and getting updates on how they are doing.  It was especially fun  hearing about those that have finished secondary school. There are five who are living here as they prepare for the next steps in their lives. Two of the guys are working as auto mechanics and saving money, one girl just finished cosmetology school and is has started working at a salon, another girl is in her third year of her social work degree in the university and another guy is in his first year studying management at the university.

Spending time with Topaza Director, Tantely and Topaza friend and our translator Ranto.  Seeing the list of all the children and getting updates on how they are doing.  It was especially fun  hearing about those that have finished secondary school. There are five who are living here as they prepare for the next steps in their lives. Two of the guys are working as auto mechanics and saving money, one girl just finished cosmetology school and is has started working at a salon, another girl is in her third year of her social work degree in the university and another guy is in his first year studying management at the university.

SHINE Vitamin Donation Update: Thanks to our SHINE Children's ministry, we brought down a 2 year supply of vitamins last year. Tantely has made sure each child gets their vitamins each day and enthusiastically told me that she's seen an increase in the children's appetites and a decrease in the children getting sick!  Great news!

June 4

Hi all, I thought I'd focus this post on some special times of worship with our Malagasy friends. My first Sunday morning, I finally got to worship with Malanto and Lanto in their church. Some of our previous teams have rightly called it "The First Pres of Antananarivo."  The size of the congregation is even the same, 3000. I felt very much at home.

In one of the pictures you can see me bringing Greetings from all of you. It was a special treat, since the head of the Ivato Seminary (and one of our BE Madagascar trainers), Pastor Juliette, preached. You can see her giving the blessing in the service.  This church is on the site where four martyrs were burned in 1847 at the stake for professing their faith as Christians.  One of them was a young pregnant woman.  

BE Worship

BE Worship

On Sunday, May 18, the BE Madagascar team held a t worship service for all BE graduates. It happened to fall on Malagasy Mother's Day so we didn't know if anyone would come, but we had a great turnout with graduates from a variety of classes.  More importantly, was the worship, testimony and prayer time.  All agreed that this would be the first of many.

As the Madagascar BE Leadership team gathered with their families to celebrate Acension Day, May 29 (a National Holiday here) one of the highlights was being able to deliver a special prayer shawl from the FPCO "Holy Stitches" group, and pray for Naddy. She was deeply touched and wore the shawl the rest of the day. Naddy has been fighting breast cancer. She is the wife of Manitra, who is a one of the key EB Trainers. Together they have 2 beautiful children ages 2 and 4.  As a result of Biblical Entrepreneurship they launched a business in essential oils, including Vanilla. She has gone through three months of chemotherapy and is having her surgery tomorrow morning (1:30a.m. EST). Please pray for her. I was able to visit them tonight in the hospital and deliver our church's love and prayers.

Just because they are so precious!  Some of the Malagasy children...


May 31

I am coming up for air, and finally getting off a post to my FPCO family.  Please forgive me for going silent.  I have wanted to better take you along on my journey.  You will be hearing from me more frequently this last week. 

Over the last 8 days, Patrice Tsague, Head of Nehemiah Project International Ministries and the author of the Biblical Entrepreneurship (BE) Curriculum and I have been training, coaching, and planning with the many individuals involved in BE Madagascar.  

It has been amazing see what has happened in the last 2 years since we held the first Business Plan Competition and certified our first group of trainers, especially in light of the tremendous political, economic, and social crisis they have been experiencing.  As we observed, discussed, and trained, I was looking for 3 thing (3 "S's"):

  1. Did they SPREAD it?  I am amazed to say that over 600 individuals have gone through the BE training! Not only have they taught many in the capital city of Antananarivo, but they have shared it in 4 other cities across the country, one over a 15 hour drive away.  In the classes have been current business owners, pastors, men, women, young, old, and many who have business ideas.  All want to be able to care for their families.  At the end of the training, they have a vision to employ others, give to the work of the church, and a desire to transform their country.
  2. Are they maintaining the appropriate STANDARD of excellence in their training?  As we sat in one of the BE I classes being taught by the training team, Patrice said it best, "This is as professional, and effective as I've seen anywhere in the world."  Perhaps what was more encouraging is as we joined the group for lunch and they shared what they have been learning.  Not only had the key principles been transferred, but they also described the mind and heart transformation we see with BE.  As one woman put it, "I have been reading my bible and doing bible study for years, but only now do I know how to really put it in action in my daily life.  I was a hearer of the word, and now I am a doer of the word."
  3. Is it SUSTAINABLE?  While they still have a lot of framework to put in place and need our on-going support, they have taken HUGE steps to put in place an extremely forward thinking model that is allowing them to break even on their classes, and even give a small stipend to their teachers.  
  • They are charging 120,000 AR for the 3 day class, an equivalent of $60. This means that many people make very real sacrifices to take the class, and, as we heard in the lunchtime feedback, initially they feel it is very expensive. Yet, once they have gone through the class they feel it is a very wise investment and an invaluable learning experience that has changed them. They know they need to have different pricing for the rural areas, and have already put in place a scholarship fund.  Many of the teachers, and our long-time translator Myriame have sponsored individuals who could not pay to attend.
  • Another sign of sustainability is the leadership support from Pastor Lala, head of FJKM and the Board. There is obviously a lot of bureaucracy that exists within a church of 6 million, yet the leaders are doing all they can to ensure that BE Madagascar is able to function free of hindrance while maintaining accountability. 
  • Finally, the trainers, all of whom are volunteers, have invested hours and hours to help build the foundation for a sustainable movement.  The team interviewed and selected 18 new trainers prior to our arrival,  who Patrice and I trained Monday - Wednesday of this week.  There background and skill level is excellent and they will add much value to the next phase of the BE rollout here. They are reproducing without our intervention.  They took the lead the entire week, and we simply played a support role.  They made the final decisions and evaluations as the new trainers did their 10 minute "teach backs.
  • They realize that the training is not the goal, but helping to establish sustainable Kingdom Businesses.  There are already success stories!  However, they are looking at how to put in place the coaching and support needed to see many more.

Please pray for them.  They are pioneers, especially in this culture.  They face many obstacles, poverty, lack of resources and capital, incredible corruption within industries, needs for mentoring, yet they are already bringing great light into the darkness.  They are convinced that despite the great difficulties, now is the time and BE is a key way for God to transform their country.

I wish you could experience the gratitude they have for your investment and support in them.  They are so grateful for our partnership and for sharing BE with them. FPCO family, all glory to God for our opportunity to bless these individuals, this church, and this nation.  I hope many of you will be involved going forward as we help them launch many Kingdom Businesses.  


May 20

After 3 flights, 4 airports (Orlando, JFK New York, Johannesburg, Antananarivo), and almost 24 hours of travel,  I've arrived in Madagascar!  It was an evening of celebration.  Malanto, who won the first Madagascar Business Competition a couple years ago and her husband picked me up.  It is her birthday so I got to celebrate it with her family and this delicious chocolate cake!  

But first, we stopped by Ivato Seminary to congratulate the head of the seminary, Pastor Juliette on 20 years of ministry.  Although we missed the traditional worship service and reception in her honor last Saturday, it was wonderful to see her in person, pray for her, and catch up on all the improvements she is making in the lives and preparation of these future pastors and their families.

Then it was on to the Turk's house to meet the 4 new kittens and catch up briefly with Dan, Elizabeth and their two teenagers Robert and Francis.  Robert graduates from high school on June 6 so I was able to congratulate him!  More on the Turks in a later post (along with pictures). 

My first few hours here remind me of what the Body of Christ is all about, family.  Sisters and Brothers in Orlando and around the world who enter into covenant relationship and join together in partnership to advance His Kingdom in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). 

Looking forward to a good night's sleep and a visit to our sister denomination, FJKM's headquarters tomorrow.

Thanks for all your prayers!  Malanto, Lanto, and Pastor Juliette told me tonight that our prayers sustain them.  It's still a very difficult place to live, but their faith is stronger than ever.  Praise the Lord!


Our Fall Madagascar Team posted a great journal, including lots of videos and photos. Retrace their steps here.

Our Summer Madagascar Team posted a great online journal along the way. Retrace their steps here.