Madagascar Recap: Two Unexpected Takeaways
by Alexa Rossi, Mission Coordinator
In October of 2018, I spent seven days with our many mission partners in Madagascar. It was humbling for me to visit, pray with, and encourage them in their ministry because truly, the Lord has taken seeds our church family has planted over the last six years and grown them exponentially. Two things, in particular, impacted me deeply, especially as First Pres continues in our re-visioning process and considers where we might be headed in the future:
LOOKING AHEAD WITH FOCUS
The Fiangonan'i Jesoa Kristy eto Madagasikara (FJKM for short, which stands for Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar in their native Malagasy language) is in a season of church planting, and they continue to relentlessly pursue their goal of planting an FJKM church in every commune (which is like our equivalent of a city) in Madagascar. There are 407 remaining communes without an FJKM church, and they plan to reach their goal by their general assembly in April 2019. You read that correctly—in six months. To clarify, in Madagascar, that doesn’t mean they will have church buildings by then, but they will have house churches established in those places.
In the midst of our own re-visioning process, it is encouraging to watch the FJKM laser-focus their resources on such an enormous calling for this season of their ministry. What struck me is how easy it could be for the FJKM to be pulled in many directions. According to the World Bank, 70.7% of the population in Madagascar live below the poverty line. Rather than the Church trying to answer every problem that their people face, they have chosen a simple path of order. The churches they plant will be the foundation for the rest of their ministry, which includes caring for the impoverished. This is the kind of focus and drive that our re-visioning process aspires to. My prayer is that we too would be able to seek the Lord for clarity and vision, and then pursue it wholeheartedly.
LIVING IN OVERFLOW
We were invited to our dear friend Myriame’s home for tea. (Some of you have met Myriame on visits here because she often travels to translate for various partners.) As she often does, she also invited the children from her neighborhood that she feeds every Saturday to join us. What is remarkable about Myriame is the way she lives missionally, right in her own home.
I was overwhelmed with joy as 90+ children sang and chuckled over hearing themselves greet us in English. They clapped and praised together with their generous matriarch loud enough that neighbors stopped what they were doing to peer at the curious gathering. Myriame then gently lead us into her tiny kitchen to show us where she invites the children to eat around the table—twenty at a time, lining the walls and sitting with Myriame until they each finish their meal, and the next shift of children can partake. Myriame knows each one of them by name. She pays their school fees when they cannot. She celebrates with them in joy and grieves with them in their sorrow. She learns about their families and visits their homes. She is wholly theirs.
I have never met anyone like Myriame. I am convinced that one day I will feast as a guest at Myriame’s table in heaven, along with countless others who will say they came to know the living Christ through Myriame’s ministry on this earth. She lives on a small percentage of her income (certainly less than half) and quite simply gives the rest to those around her. Even though Myriame has suffered and had difficult and dark days in her life, she counts them as an opportunity for fellowship with the suffering Servant who redeemed her life. The only explanation I could find for the way she chooses to live is Jesus. I felt like I was standing on hallowed ground as I watched her serve, knowing that Myriame’s home is a place children can freely come and encounter the generosity of the Lord.
Myriame would probably admonish me for speaking so highly of her in this public way because she lives to glorify Jesus as King and refuses any credit in the way she lives her life. I like that about her. But I share this piece of her story because as I encounter the overflow of her heart, I am personally challenged and even convicted at my own ideas of living missionally. How would our families, neighborhoods, and our workplaces be different if we attended to the smallest details of our daily lives with unending generosity and great love as Myriame, with the conviction that Christ has done it for me? Orlando would change.
We, the Church, are uniquely equipped to move into these spaces, and like Myriame, it starts with Jesus captivating our hearts and making us new. Only then will we see it overflow to our families, our neighborhoods, our coworkers.
That’s the story I want for us.