Friday, October 29, 2010
“The vaza are here!” I hear the cry with my ears and then it hits my heart. The foreigners! Could this be about last week? I had to find out. My fields are far from the village, so I was up in my little house in the mountains for planting season. When I heard that cry, I left my fields and started running…but I was too late.
Huffing and puffing, I walked into the school room as their lesson ended. One of the vaza asked me if I wanted some Tylenol. “No. I mean, yes,” I said, dazed. I have nothing to give my children when the fever hits them, so Tylenol is a welcome gift, but that’s not all I want. I came because I know the vaza have something more precious than medicine.
“Last week I was sick and felt God tell me that I need to know Him, but I don’t know how,” I explain. “I have questions about becoming a believer.” The face of the vaza and her Malagasy friend, Mirana, light up. Mirana takes me aside and explains what it means to be a follower of God. What she is saying sounds nice, but I don’t know. I’m messed up. I don’t do those things she says a follower of God should do. And I am depressed – again. This happens each time after I have a baby. The others think I’ve gone crazy, but the sadness in my heart just makes me want to go away. I need to deal with all this before I can be worthy to be a follower of God.
“No,” Mirana says. “You don’t have to get your life all sorted out before you follow Him. You need to believe in God first. After you believe in Him then you start to see your circumstances in a different light.” Come to Him as I am? I doubt God would want that. There are too many things to think about. I cannot become a follower tonight.
The next morning I make the trek again down to the village. I have been thinking all night long. I ask again if it is true that I don’t have to get rid of all the problems in my life before I can follow God. I am once again led through what it is all about. This time I understand. This time I decide to accept the forgiveness and freedom that is offered. This time, just as I am, I become a follower of my Lord!
This is the story of Lolo, a woman of the village of Ankazotsara where we visited this week. My dear prayer partners, THANK YOU for praying that God would raise up Malagasy leaders. A young man in our church named Mik went out hiking with us last time. This time he came again and taught a lesson! For me you can pray that I stay close to God and be readily obedient to WHATEVER He wants me to do. I am amazed at what He is doing here, and have no earthly way to keep up with it all. And so I am overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by the goodness and grace of our heavenly Father. Praise be to His name!
“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?...Likewise I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:4, 10
Saturday, October 16, 2010
The wizened old man, hunched over with age, crouches beside me to eat the scrumptious meal of rice and beans. The beans were a treat – we brought them from town. It’s not the season for them up in the mountains. “Dada be likes the beans!” His daughter announces happily. Dada be is the general term for grandfather. I am caught up in a conversation with her until movement on my right catches my eye.
It’s Dada be. He has discovered my flashlight, but can’t for the life of him figure out how to turn it on! I lean towards him and show him the trick. Suddenly beams of light off and on, off and on, illuminate his daughters face. *chuckle* Turning to talk with him, his daughter informs me that he is nearly deaf. We have somewhat of a conversation with me repeating things multiple times until I am loud enough, but always he returns my efforts with an infectious, nearly-toothless grin. :D
His sweet daughter cooked for us last time we came to this village, to assess it. This time we ate at their home again in order to continue the relationship. After our meal, on the way back to the tent, I tell Heather, “I really like Dada be – he’s adorable!”
The next morning we sit in front of the fire eating the cassava prepared for us. Hanging over the pot is a piece of zebu fat. Others have told us that they keep it there to season their rice with, but Dada be has another reason. “He uses it to heal broken bones,” his daughter informs us. “Dada be knows ahead of time when people are on their way for healing. He gets a fever, has to stay in bed, and sees them coming.” Answering my query about how he heals them when they get there, “He puts saliva and zebu fat on the area and then holds it over the fire and prays to God and the ancestors. He got this tradition from his father, and he will pass it to another before he dies. The power of the healer is passed down by prayer.”
In another village, a man stops me before I have finished the first part of my teaching. “You say that some things can harm the baby in utero (such as the mother drinking alcohol), but the father can harm the baby, too.” How so, I ask him. “You see, if a man with a pregnant wife is in the field and his hoe gets split down the middle and he continues to use it, his child will be born with a hairlip. And if he has certain things in his pockets and he puts his hands down in them, the baby will have twelve fingers.”
These mountains are filled with superstitions, taboos, and belief in the ancestors’ power in daily activities. Their eyes have been blinded to the truth. And they are hungry for spiritual teaching. A couple days ago a chief asked us to please always teach spiritual lessons with our medical ones, as we have been doing, for that is what they need. We pray that God will open their eyes to discern the Truth of God’s Word. We pray that as they learn about Who God is, they will accept Him and worship Him alone!
Shifting to get comfortable on the wooden bench outside the chief’s house, I ask Heather what time it is. “Five thirty,” she announces. Perfect. Half an hour after the villagers of Kianjanomby said they would be back from the rice fields and ready to listen, they had assembled and it was time to get started!
Gathering up my lesson papers, I glance around. A lot of people are huddled in a corner. There’s plenty of space for people to sit down around me, so I smile broadly at the wary group and motion while saying in Malagasy, “Please, sit!”
Pandemonium ensues. Wide-eyes and people turning to run quickly turns into laughter as they realize that I have no idea what I had just done. The word that means “please sit” in the dialect of Malagasy that I learned is a bad word here that means “you are all dead,” they inform me.
Remember when we went around and assessed the villages? We asked about shameful things in this area. Stealing a zebu, women wearing pants, and saying bad words came out the top three. Oops. Thankfully, much grace was given to this crazy foreigner by the villagers of Kianjanomby. :0)
Permayhaps this story is to illustrate the fact that even though I have officially been on board for a year (can you believe it’s half way over?!), I am by NO means an expert. :P True, it’s not every day that I mess up that badly in language and tell people they’re dead, but there are still struggles in the language area, for sure. I feel like I can fairly easily now discern cultural jokes and expectations, but it wasn’t until the third time we ate in a home that I figured out it was the home of the witch doctor (story to come)! All that to say, THANK YOU for the prayers you have been so faithful to lift up on my behalf and the emails, letters, and boxes you have sent to encourage me. Please carry on! You all are a continual blessing to my heart. Pray that I would stay close to God and live out the love He has bestowed upon me.
The rest of our trip was eventful and great. There were some HARD hills to climb, but our Lord graciously gave the strength needed. We were able to give out a lot of medicine.
“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. I John 4:10-11
I love you all,
P.S. The attached pictures are of a boy who was just too adorable in his sagging drawers and Mirana, Heather, and I while out on one of our medical hikes. :D
Friday, October 1, 2010
Entering the village of Bevoahazo, it is evident that the village is in mourning. Everything comes to a halt when someone dies. The men do not work in the fields. The women do not shell coffee beans. The children do not sing or play games. Last week a mother and her newborn baby died and were buried. This week, a woman with “abdominal pain and high blood pressure.” The time of mourning lasts for three days. Family and friends sit continuously with the body, fanning it to keep the flies away. We do not teach our village study this night, but instead visit in the home of the deceased woman to mourn with her family. The next afternoon, the corpse, wrapped in cloths and placed in a wooden coffin, is taken to her tomb. That evening, over 220 people listen as Rivo taught and showed them the movie. While the deaths of the villagers were heartrending, they were definitely used by God (Gen 50:20). You better believe that place got quiet when, in the film, Jesus raised up a body, wrapped in cloths, from the dead. They gasped when the snake came to tempt Jesus, were bewildered at the mountains of sand with no trees, and horrified when our Lord was beaten and nailed to a cross. Relief and joy were evident at His resurrection. Praise the Lord!
“Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is also to be feared above all gods… let them say among the nations, The LORD reigns.”
I Chronicles 16:23-25, 31b
And the wedding?
MY SISTER IS GETTING MARRIED! :D I am quite delighted that God has brought Cali & Nyk together in such a beautiful way and am very excited to be able to make a quick trip back to the good ol’ USA to celebrate this day with them in November.
Praise report! We had many neat opportunities on Market Day and one young man recognized the truth! Another woman shared with us how she was in a coma for three years and, during that time, Satan tried to get her to take his hand. She said she did not, and that is why her right hand does not work right to this day. She has not yet become a follower of God, but heard the Truth and we were able to pray for her and her two-year-old son.
Prayer requests! For the new believers in Bevoahazo to be strengthened in their faith. For Heather and I: wisdom wisdom wisdom! The ability to see situations and people from GOD’S point of view. Please lift us up this week as we prepare medical lessons, study Malagasy, and spend quality time with God! As this is October (!), we are already halfway through our term. Pray that we would be faithful to serve our amazing Lord and rely on Him for everything.
I thank you all for your thoughts and prayers. You are a constant encouragement to me.
[pic above is villagers waiting as we set up the film]