Friday, July 23, 2010
I head to the local arboretum, not as an avid botanist, but as a girl in a fishbowl. There is not a person in the towns of Ranomafana, Ifanadiana, Kelilalina, or Morafeno who has not heard of us – an untold number of villages, as well. As the average Malagasy does not have enough money to get into the park and there are few tourists around, I figure it would be a good place to get alone with God.
Handing the equivalent of fifty cents to the responsible of the park, he says, “You’re living in Kelilalina, aren’t you? Renting the house of Madame Lilia’s while the other family is gone? I’ve seen you driving around in their truck. You’re that girl, right?” Yup, that’s me, mister. Would I like the guided tour? No, but thanks for showing me the chameleon anyway.
Wandering through the trees, I take breaks on benches along the way to journal. I come to a stone gazebo with a thatch roof surrounded by lush, green grass and plants galore. Settling in and clicking my pen to “on,” the point is an inch away from the page when I see him.
Back stooped with years of hard labor, holey straw hat perched on his wizened head, a spade in hand: the gardener. “Hello sir,” I smile at him. Shocked at the Malagasy greeting, he pipes up, “You know my language?” I am studying it, yes. “You must be the girl who played soccer with the kids in the field at Ranomafana a few weeks ago!” No, that was my friend Heather, I reply. “Then you are the one who was watching on the side practicing your Malagasy with people.” Yes, that was me. “It’s SO good that you are learning Malagasy,” he says excitedly. “I will help you learn by telling you a story!”
Did he ever! Quizzing me to make sure I understand everything he says, he spends the next forty-five minutes telling me of Abraham’s wanderings all the way to Jesus’ birth. He relates a tale that any story-er would have been proud of. Hand motions, inflection, passion. Eyes twinkling, his face grins as he draws his finger across the scraggly beard on his neck. “Sliced the throats of the infant boys, the Egyptians did!”
Chatting with him after this impressive display of knowledge, I realize that, for all the stories this man knows, He doesn’t know God. He laughed when I told him that I was here praying. Pointing upwards he said, “But God is so far away!” Oh, my new friend, He is not!
“…He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
Acts 17:26-27 (Jeremiah 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-8, Isaiah 50:7-9)
I met two strangers today. Both knew many things about me. It appears that whatever I do outside my own home will be the talk of the town! And pray that the Malagasy would come to know that not only do they desperately need His salvation, but they, too, can talk with God.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
We sit on in the dusty ground with fifty curious Tanala villagers surrounding us. Continuing our assessment we ask, “What do you eat?” “Vazaha,” they chuckle. Vazaha means foreigners! Heather and I glance at each other and then at our friend Mirana, who looks at us and says, “They said they like to eat cassava.” Woohoo! We are NOT on the menu tonight! :P
Thank you so much for your prayers. On our last overnight hike out we were able to see that God had prepared the way before us, our message was well received, many who still need to know the Truth, and hiked crazy, yet beautiful, trails!
The leader of one of the villages we went to scoffed, “We sacrifice, but the ancestors have never given me anything!” Quickly yelled at for his impertinence, he backtracked, but that statement of doubt in the ancestors’ power was huge. They also let us pitch our tents on the place where they burn the zebu for sacrifices. Please continue to pray that the Lord would go before us to prepare the way!
Our Malagasy friend Rivo, came with us and taught the first lesson of a twelve-part series in the village of Ambodivoahangy. After hearing about who God is, creation, and God’s Word, the villagers reminded me of the Bereans in Acts with all the questions they had. It was wonderful! At the end without an “alter call” or anything, two men exclaimed, “We are convinced that this is true!”
Please pray for continued language learning for Heather and me. The dialect here is very similar to the one that we studied, but we still need to improve!
We have been going on some intense hikes as of late. Our last one was 60km round trip up and down the mountains. In hiking Colorado I used to groan at the countless switchbacks on the trail thinking, “Surely this would go so much faster if we just went straight up the mountain!” Well, I know now that the Colorado trail-makers were brilliant! Ha ha ha. God has been so faithful to give us the strength that we need, but please continue to pray for strength and endurance! Sometimes I have to chuckle when we are struggling up the longest uphill stretch ever, and a man carrying a billion pounds of bananas on his shoulders or a woman nursing her baby while hiking passes us by. These people are amazing.
The LORD will be awesome to them, for He will reduce to nothing all the gods of this earth; people shall worship Him, each one from His place, indeed all the shores of the nations.” Zephaniah 2:11
You all are such a blessing to me and I love you dearly,
P.S. Here’s a project for all you homeschoolers (and those of you who wish you were). Since the Malagasy hike barefoot, there are times that the trails we hike on are only four inches wide, with tangled vines sometimes obstructing our view beneath us. To feel what it’s like, measure out four inches, and try to walk up and down a hill without stepping outside the zone. Then try without looking at your feet. Did you get wobbly? I did!
Thursday, July 1, 2010
10 – If, at age four, your teacher has to have a chat with your parents to let them know you will never be a gymnast, permayhaps you shouldn’t attempt to cross a slippery log bridge in the rain.
9 – The top four shameful things in this area are: nakedness, women wearing pants, having a dirty yard (which I don’t completely understand since they are all mud!), and not greeting your elders.
8 – A good sleeping bag and hiking shoes are vital to survival.
7 – Most people around here don’t know what happens when you die. Answers we got included: heaven, the sky, paradise, wherever they want to go, they just walk around somewhere, to your dreams.
6 – Ponchos are not flattering on anyone.
5 – You same gender twins are fine, but since brothers and sisters are not supposed to sleep in the same bed, if you have boy-girl twins, you must put those twins in the stomach of a newly-slaughtered cow.
4 – The people here have decided that Heather comes from a cold place in America and I from a warm place because she has brown hair and I am a blond.
3 – Don’t let your Malagasy friend, Fred, translate. I said, “Please tell the people thank you for answering our questions and they may ask us any questions if they have them.” Fred translates, “They (Heather and I) say thank you for answering their questions and you may ask any questions if you have them; for example: would you like to be my wife?” NOT OKAY!
2 – It’s a hard hike through the mud and rain for many kilometers to get to people, but when you get there they are VERY interested to hear what you have to say, for why would someone come this whole way unless they had something amazing to tell?!
1 – All the momentary discomforts are completely worth it!
Thank you so much for your prayers. There’s more info below if you’re interested, and as always, feel free to ask any questions!
I love you all!
Our friend Mirana found a house and we have moved her in. Our relationship with her is developing well. She is such a sweet girl.
God has also blessed us with some insights on certain villages. The people in Bevahazo were very receptive to learning about Jesus. They really don’t know much (if anything) about the Bible and the Truth therein, so I think it would be great if we stayed there for a longer period of time to really teach what it’s all about. The trail to get there is quite difficult, and when the rainy season comes they are pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. We also saw quite a few medical opportunities in another village, so praise the Lord for His guidance!
That God would continue to make clear the path set before us.
For continued unity and growing friendship for our team.
And a few Malagasy proverbs for the road...
Cross the river among a crowd and the crocodile won't eat you.
However little food we have, we'll share it even if it's only one locust.
Other people's children cause your nostrils to flare.