It has been a little over a month the rains have not fallen in Southern Madagascar. Corn, beans, and peanuts have been planted since then, and since then those crops have withered and failed–now food for the cattle. The rains only come one season every year, from November to February, and the lives of the Mahafaly are dependent on it.
Last Tuesday, me and a mpamaraky (young man) from our church here in Toliara were sharing the gospel with a group at the market near our house. Asking about Jesus, one man said, “If that’s true, why doesn’t Jesus help people today? Why doesn’t he send the rains?” We had told the story of Jesus calling the disciples, the story that ends with Peter begging Jesus to get away from him. He knows he doesn’t deserve the boatload (pun!) of fish Jesus brought after all their efforts, as professional fishermen, all night long have not provided one single fish. And so we explained to him. Jesus was saying two things: He is our good God (he commanded those fish to get in Peter’s net) and he cares about us. But we have to recognize, like Peter, that all our efforts are worthless without him. We are bad; He is good. And though we do not deserve even to stand in his presence, Jesus gives us good things and calls us to greater things.
We probably don’t give it much thought, but here it is a significant statement about God: He sends rain. In fact, if I reflect, I would say the biggest way God reveals himself to the Mahafaly may be through the rain. I cannot tell you how many stories there are of Christians begging for rain and the rains come as they are praying. Or it has not rained and on the day we come to share the gospel, or do baptisms, it rains.
We prayed last Tuesday for Jesus to show us that he is God and to send the rain for which many here have been begging. In the bush, one of our churches was meeting and people were getting desperate. “If we don’t get rain our crops are going to die and then we’re going to die!” Emora, the leader there, gathered everyone to pray and ask God for what they needed.
It rained Saturday and Sunday. But listen, this rain was even different.
Scientifically, there should be less rain down here. We just spoke over our meeting with a community developer who has been here before. “The only way they will get more rain is if they plant more trees,” he said. The deforestation of the south is cutting off their rains. No forest, no rain. The Mahafaly have already damaged their land too much. Except that He sends rain. This rain didn’t come from Madagascar. A large storm system swept through southern Africa and slowly made its way to Madagascar.
It is incredible to think that as the man in our group prayed for rain, God reached across to Africa and swept the rains toward Madagascar. As a church in the bush begged for rain, God made a way for life where, if you look at the human damage, life should be impossible. But that’s Jesus. Jesus can do something about our problems because he is God, and he is listening to you because he cares. In spite of reasonable science, in spite of all our efforts, in spite of our mistakes and destructiveness . . . he sends rain.