When we left here in 2013, there were three churches–all had issues and only one had gone to share their faith with another village. But over the years the gospel gained momentum.
We began telling the story of the church from the book of Acts. The original Mahafaly churches began saying, “If this is what God’s people do then this is what we will do.” From the model of Acts 2:37-47 they began meeting together for prayer, teaching, giving money for needs, appointing leaders, remembering what Jesus did for them through the Lord’s Supper, Baptizing new believers, and continually telling their wider community.
Eventually, a church was started in the one new village which had been evangelized. Then the other two churches caught the vision. More churches were started. By 2016 there were over 30 churches and more groups meeting. Then, through BGR (the relief arm of the Southern Baptists) the Mahafaly churches handed out many seeds to stave of the terrible famine that is ravaging Southern Madagascar. That was last October. Now that the dust has settled, there are over 100 churches . . . and they are still spreading. This movement has already crossed a river and spread into a neighboring (and enemy) tribe.
The simple idea that it was, and is, their responsibility to not only share the gospel with their friends and family but also teach them how to conduct themselves as a Christian and as Christians living together (church), revolutionized the Mahafaly–and their culture. The custom of sacrifice is one of the strongest Mahafaly indicators. And yet, at a recent meeting, we heard leaders testifying that because of their conversion to Jesus as their final sacrifice and Savior, sacrifice and worship of the ancestors is nearly non-existent in their villages.
Wow! You are talking about people that have sacrificed as long as they can remember. But the powerful good news of God dying on their behalf to save their lives is transforming their culture. And because these people are learning to live in service to God together as a church, this is a change that will continue transforming them.
Now, as we drive down the winding, bumpy bush road that leads to the Mahafaly, the majority of the towns we used to pass and pray that God would save have a small band of believers meeting as a church. Slowly, like a small, insignificant seed growing large over time, these churches are changing everything.