Let's be honest: when I say "Madagascar" you immediately think of dancing lemurs or fast-talking penguins. And when "I like to move it, move it" has finally stopped playing on repeat in your head, you are left with a vague notion of lush jungles, exotic animals and beautiful beaches.
And, when I say "missionary," I imagine there are a host of images and ideas that pop into your head, which vary greatly depending on how old you are and how you grew up. Maybe you envision families wearing matching Hawaiian t-shirts + socks & sandals living in huts; maybe you see pictures in your mind of single women holding orphaned babies; maybe it's just a vague notion of some unattainable level of 'super-Christianity' that you kind of wish you understood.
This week, I want to introduce you to some "real" missionaries, who just so happen to be flying home today to begin a 6-month stateside assignment, after spending the past 3 years (in a hut, ironically) in the heart of Southern Madagascar.
Todd and Deborah have been living in an area called Beroroha (pronounced "bay-roo-uh"), spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ among those who otherwise wouldn't hear it. They are focused on the Bara People, a nomadic group of about 900,000 considered to be unreached with the gospel. There were very few jungles, beaches or lemurs involved in getting to where this people live. In fact, the reason they have historically had no access to the gospel is because of what it takes to find them. The terrain is tough - with roads that you have to build as you go, rivers to cross and often miles and miles to go on foot. And once they got there, Todd and Deborah spent 3 months in a 2-man camping tent, meeting locals and trying to learn the Bara dialect, while working towards a more permanent living option.
The goal of all this seems simple enough, right? Fulfill the great commission! Make disciples and plant churches! After you...
- Figure out how to live in the desert
- Avoid all the various diseases
- Find the Bara
- Learn their language
- Gain their trust
- Translate simple Bible stories
This work is hard. So, clearly, only the best and most experienced Christians can do it, right? I mean, these must be REAL missionaries.
Todd and Deborah will tell you, they were some of the least likely people to end up doing this work, and regularly feel ill-equipped and overwhelmed. Deborah was (is) a homebody, who loves nothing more than spending time with her family in Northwest Georgia. Todd was a Social Work major, dreamed of working as a character at Disney World, and really loves building with Legos. So, why them? What did they bring to the table? What qualifies them to serve as missionaries to the Bara People of Madagascar?
OBEDIENCE. Regardless of talents or training, preferences or plans, it all comes down to obedience. [[ side note: I happen to think the Hoskins are very smart, talented and amazing people who God has blessed with a variety of gifts and talents He is using in their current work. But that wasn't really the point ]]
Here's the thing: we are all commanded to make disciples of all nations. The difference is in calling, or, where and how to live in obedience to the command. So, the question is not, "am I called to mission" but, "where and how am I called to mission?"
To be a missionary, then, is to be a follower of Jesus, living in obedience and intentionally sharing the gospel in whatever context God has called you to. When we understand this, some of us will realize we are living on the wrong continent, and others of us will realize we are not living obediently on this continent. Either way, when we understand this, the gospel will go forward; the Kingdom will advance.
That being said, we cannot pretend that living on mission in Southern Madagascar is the same as doing it in Watkinsville or Athens, Georgia. Todd and Deborah gave up a lot to live where they do. Life is hard, painful, and sometimes dangerous. They lack community, fellowship and most of the comforts we take for granted. They have no local church to worship or be fed at, because the very reason they are there is to see such a church planted. The work IS hard, and they are normal followers of Jesus, with the same needs, desires and struggles that you and I have.
SO LET'S PRAY FOR THEM - as they adjust back to life in America for the next 6 months, let's commit to pray for this couple. Here's a few ways to do that:
- Pray for a restful, refreshing time in the States
- Pray for good and joyful visits with family and friends
- Pray for their marriage to continue to be strong and healthy
- Pray for the seeds they have planted and the few disciples they have made in Madagascar to stay strong and faithful in their absence
- Pray for their reverse-culture-shock (yes, that's a real thing) as they integrate back into American society for a time. Remember, they've been living at a much slower pace, with much different daily activities, priorities and problems.
- Pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send more workers, specifically to work with Todd and Deborah among the Bara